A ST AUSTELL nursery has been left with no other option but to fundraise to replace play equipment snatched by callous thieves, damaged and then dumped.
Heartbroken children and angry staff at Naturally Learning are still trying to understand why the nursery became a target for thieves early last week.
Nursery staff believe the trikes, scooters and bikes worth up to £500 were snatched from a shed in the grounds it shares with Poltair School over a three-day period.
Some of the items were discovered by a member of the nursery team dumped and damaged at Mount Charles Park on Wood Road.
Kate Maynard, who manages the nursery, which has up to 60 babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers attending each week, had to break the news to the youngsters.
"It was really hard to explain to the children what had happened. One of the children went to the shed and normally it is padlocked but this time it wasn't. He looked inside and there was nothing in it. What he wanted was gone."
The children were dealt a further blow when some of the items that were found were too damaged to use.
Mrs Maynard said: "The children are very upset. The items that came back were not fit to be used anymore. The children love their outdoor play, which is very important to their physical development. "
"It is a very selfish act of vandalism. Not only have they stopped the children's education because this was part of their education but they have also stopped the children's fun.
"They have been affected by this and I am quite angry that they should be exposed to the callous nature of some people at such an early age."
Mrs Maynard said although similar things have happened at the nursery in the past it has never been to this extent.
"It's a real shame, these are quite expensive items and it's not a case of getting the Argos catalogue and buying some more. We can't buy them for £20, they are designed especially."
Each item is estimated to have cost around £150.
"We're looking at a total of £500 so we'll have to get on and fundraise," she added.
St Austell police are appealing for witnesses or anyone who might have seen anything suspicious; call them on 101 quoting the crime reference GA/12/3319.
If you can help the nursery replace its play equipment call Cornish Guardian reporter Caroline Chick on 01726 76815 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org