Hunt for bulb thieves

CONSERVATIONISTS are reeling today after thousands of bluebells bulbs were stolen from ancient woodland in Suffolk.Thieves took the protected plants from a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) on the edge of Ipswich and caused irreversible damage to the woodland.

CONSERVATIONISTS are reeling today after thousands of bluebells bulbs were stolen from ancient woodland in Suffolk.

Thieves took the protected plants from a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) on the edge of Ipswich and caused irreversible damage to the woodland.

The site, known as Spring Wood, is managed by the Greenways Project and is a popular route for walkers.

James Baker, Greenways co-ordinator, said: "Bluebells have the highest protection for plants in the UK and the maximum fine for taking them per plant is £2,500. Also since the Countryside and Right of Way Act was introduced the offence carries possible imprisonment."

The bulbs are believed to have been taken at the weekend and covered 50 square metres of the woodland.

Mr Baker added: "Bluebells are a priceless part of our natural heritage.

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"They take quite a while to spread and are an ancient woodland indicator. We can't replant them as we don't do that in LNRs.

"Because Spring Wood is an LNR it is expressly prohibited to pick or uproot any plant.

"The site has been looked after by local people for hundreds of years and now someone is ruining it."

Ray Sidaway, a volunteer with Greenways, first noticed the bulbs were missing on Monday when it became clear youngsters had started using the damaged area as a BMX jump.

The bulbs had recently started to shoot and would have been visible to people walking in the wood.

"Thieves dug up the bulbs and the children have carried on digging," Mr Baker added.

"The area is very well walked and if anyone has seen or knows anything we urge them to get in touch with the police.

"Because there are problems like this in nature reserves people should buy bluebells at reputable places which are licensed and not at car boot sales."

Police are currently investigating the theft which is thought to have taken place between 4pm on Friday and noon on Monday.

Anyone with information should call Pc Alice Robertson at Hadleigh police on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

What do you think about the bluebell thieves? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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