Welwyn walkers 'appalled and saddened' by swastika graffiti at nature reserve

PUBLISHED: 19:07 03 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:18 04 February 2019

Walkers were shocked to see the swastika graffiti scrawled at Danesbury Nature Reserve in Welwyn. Picture: Rowena Love

Walkers were shocked to see the swastika graffiti scrawled at Danesbury Nature Reserve in Welwyn. Picture: Rowena Love

Rowena Love

A family from Welwyn out walking at a popular nature reserve were shocked to discover swastikas scrawled all over boulders yesterday.

Walkers were shocked to see the swastika graffiti scrawled at Danesbury Nature Reserve in Welwyn. The image has been edited to obscure a name in case of a possible police investigation. Picture: Rowena LoveWalkers were shocked to see the swastika graffiti scrawled at Danesbury Nature Reserve in Welwyn. The image has been edited to obscure a name in case of a possible police investigation. Picture: Rowena Love

Welwyn mother Rowena Love said she was “appalled and saddened” when she saw vile Nazi-styled vandalism on the rockwork at the old Victorian fernery at Danesbury Local Nature Reserve.

Among the vandalism crudely scrawled in black spray paint are swastikas and the messages “hail Hitler” [sic] and “kill gays”.

Police have been contacted and the area has been cordoned off.

Reactions in the Welwyn Village News Facebook group were largely furious at the racist and homophobic sentiments.

Walkers were shocked to see the swastika graffiti scrawled at Danesbury Nature Reserve in Welwyn. The image has been edited to obscure a name in case of a possible police investigation. Picture: Rowena LoveWalkers were shocked to see the swastika graffiti scrawled at Danesbury Nature Reserve in Welwyn. The image has been edited to obscure a name in case of a possible police investigation. Picture: Rowena Love

Rowena said she had to explain to her nine-year-old daughter what the obscenities meant. “Having to talk about homophobic and racist drivel, not to mention the swastikas and the results of the Holocaust, was not how we envisaged spending our afternoon,” she told the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

“They are important things to talk about with youngsters but not as a result of criminal damage.

“She was very upset by the experience, as were we!”

Rowena’s family are regular visitors to the nature reserve, where since 2015, the Friends of Danesbury Local Nature Reserve and Fernery have been helping restore and maintain the area around the fenced-off Victorian fernery.

“It completely destroys the location,” said Rowena.

“They have been working so hard and it’s heartbreaking to see what mindless vandals have done to it.”

John Roper, chair of Friends of Danesbury, said: “This is a disgraceful and very damaging act.”

“The disgusting graffiti spray-painted on the Fernery rockwork includes mindless, but extreme racism, homophobia, and obscenities.”

The vandalised ‘rocks’ are actually 160-year-old Pulhamite, a type of artificial stonework, and John has asked well-wishing locals not to attempt to clean the surface themselves.

“It will eventually be cleaned off, but it might take considerable time and the employment of specialists, and expensive treatment,” he said. “If treated with the wrong cleaning agents and scrubbing brushes, it will deteriorate.”

But he was not to be deterred by the mindless hate of the vandals. “If we all thought that we should not bother to work on nature reserves as volunteers simply because some idiot might come along later and vandalise what we had achieved, then we would not get anything done.

“We shall press on with our work with greater determination to succeed despite such acts of vandalism.”

The Friends of Danesbury work in partnership with other volunteer groups as well as Welwyn Hatfield Council in their ongoing work to restore the nature reserve and the fernery, and John said council officers will assess the damage on Monday.

The group holds regular work parties every third Thursday of the month.

If you want to help, John invites people to join with the broader project’s efforts.

“Weather permitting, the volunteers will be out in force on February 21 when without doubt we will be concentrating our efforts on putting the site straight, before we address our usual task lists which include gardening and maintenance work,” he said.

“Those in the community who, like us, are appalled by such acts of vandalism, and want to help put things right, could do no better than to join our gang, and enjoy creating something out of nothing.”

Sergeant Ian Smith from the Welwyn Hatfield North Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “I am horrified and disappointed by not only the fact that this historic location has been vandalised, but by the content of this vandalism.

“We are following a number of enquiries into this incident to identify those responsible.

“Please be assured that we take any allegation of hate crime extremely seriously, and we will deal promptly and robustly with anyone found responsible for such offences.”

He asked any witnesses or people with information to call 101 with crime reference 41/10803/19, or to report at www.herts.police.uk/Report. To find out more about helping the Friends of Danesbury, see: www.danesburyfernery.org.uk

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