A resident has been left “shocked” and upset after vandals trashed a community space created by volunteers.

Serena Johnson started the Harpers Lane Community Garden in Smithills, with a couple of friends two years ago after starting to litter pick in the area.

Through the hard work of local volunteers, it became a garden used, enjoyed, and respected by young and old, until the area was vandalised.

The mud kitchen, willow tunnel, and a teepee were all damaged, including a bench that was destroyed.

Serena said: “It feels very upsetting because of all the hard work that has been put in over the past two and a half years, and it’s very saddening really.

The Bolton News: Before and after damage to the willow tunnelBefore and after damage to the willow tunnel (Image: Harpers Lane Community Garden)

“There is a tiny percentage of users who don’t respect the garden when other groups of young people respect it and enjoy it.

“It’s not just sad for volunteers, but everybody who uses the garden.”

The willow teepee and tunnel were funded through a £500 grant from The Bolton Fund, which was a feature used by young children to sit and read books, borrowed from the community garden library box, and for imaginative and run around play.

The mud kitchen, which was popular for young children to pretend to cook, is now unusable and has current and further possible structural damage, which was built with community garden funds.

Serena said: “It’s changed my life in many ways because I go twice a day to check on it.

The Bolton News: Before and after damage to the mud kitchenBefore and after damage to the mud kitchen (Image: Harpers Lane Community Garden)“I have talked and become friends with people who I never to before simply because the garden is there, and people use it.

“It’s a beautiful place just to sit and it is used for so many different uses.

“Some people don’t have gardens themselves and it’s an important garden space for them.”

Ward councillor Cllr Roger Hayes said: “Vandalism is a problem we get in many areas, which is very difficult to combat.

“If residents share concern, either me or my colleagues will liaise with police.

“There is some limited funding we could possibly make available.”

Serena says that when looking to the future, the group behind the garden are hoping to create several small gardens in the wider community.

Police also met with volunteers to discuss the incident, and they have been approached for comment.

The group are able to keep going through fundraisers, which in the past has included a garden party, with a Halloween party also coming up at the end of the month.

Parents and carers in the area have shared with volunteers how important it is for families living nearby who have no gardens to have an 'on the doorstep' outdoor play area.

A childminder and mum in the area said: “I am a local childminder and mum of two and we visit the community garden on a regular basis.

“My group of children range from two to eight years old.

“We live in one of the many terraced houses in the area and we have only a paved yard at the back. “The community garden is an invaluable space to me and my family and gives us somewhere to run around and explore.

“I bring my pre-school children here during the day with a blanket, and we share story time under the willow arch before exploring the wild parts of the garden.

“We also often stop on our way home from school and everyone has a good run around together before going home.

“I am so grateful to the people who have worked to put this garden together for us to use.

“It has become a regular feature of our world.”

To help the group raise funds for replacements contact Heather by emailing info on how to baileyg1100@hotmail.co.uk.

If you have a story and something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at jasmine.jackson@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on Twitter @JournoJasmine.