SCHOOL children have been left "devastated" after their woodland play area was trashed by vandals over the holiday.

Teachers and pupils returned from their May holiday to St James Primary School in Daisy Hill, only to find their school had been vandalised.

Significant damage was wrought on St James' forest school — an outdoor play and learning area in nearby woodland, currently used by the nursery children.

The damage was discovered just moments before nursery children were due to play on the site.

In list of items by the vandals, nursery teacher Ella Carroll said: "They moved the tree stumps from around the camp fire pit, they have broken the mud kitchen, kicked the legs it and smashed it. They have taken all of the mud kitchen equipment like pots and pans, cutlery. We've lost a part of out path."

"They have generally just trashed it."

The forest school had only be open for around six weeks, having just been finished by contractors. Children used the forest school to get creative in the mud kitchen, toast marshmallows and cook popcorn in the fire pit, and get exercise outside.

Ms Carroll said: "We were shocked that they had been in. We were upset, the children were devastated. They had been really loving going to the forest school.

"To find that people had been in and damaged it — they were very upset."

Teachers were also hoping to allow older children to use the forest school next year.

Ms Carroll added: "If it's going to keep being vandalised, then it's going to be quite tricky.

"We are really disappointed and really sad for the children that somebody, in their spare time, wants to come and damage the property.

"We're shocked they haven't got anything better to do."

The community has rallied around the school in an attempt to replace the lost and broken parts of the forest school.

Residents in Daisy Hill have donated spare wood and kitchenware to help the pupils start enjoying their woodland playtime again.

Ms Carroll said: ""We have managed to cobble together bits of wood and fix things and we have asked our community to help us get it back to how it should be.

"We have had lots of offers of support and free help, we're very grateful for that.

"We have asked the community to be vigilant and look out for the school too."