When volunteers created a nature reserve on a derelict piece of land, they hoped it would end up being a much-loved resource for everyone in the community.
But unfortunately that was not the case. Wild Cat Wilderness, the haven of quiet and greenery off Riverview Park, Catford, which was visited by hundreds of schoolchildren a week, as well as animals and bees, was broken into on July 1.
Pupils from a local nursery school discovered the damage the following day and alerted Phillippe Granger, the chief executive of Rushey Green Time Bank [RGTB], the charity which runs it.
But there was more to come. The centre was broken into a second time on July 3. WCW project co-ordinator Maria Devereaux was first on site the next morning, and discovered three hives had been attacked the night before.
One colony of bees was completely destroyed, with all the bees drowned, and other hives flooded with water. Increased security was installed, including barbed wire, and the damage tidied up. But still, the centre’s ordeal was not over.
Ms Devereaux discovered a third break-in the following day. This time the hives were attacked again and the pond damaged. volunteers spent the next three days repairing the damage, staying late to complete the work which included increased security such as security cameras. But still, there was more to come.
On July 9, staff found that again the centre had been attacked. This time, the shed had been broken into, and the outdoor classroom. Water butts were slashed with knives and the pond destroyed again.
This time the alleged vandals were caught on camera. That day, the hives were removed off site until the security increased and an apiary cage built over them. The latest clear-up on Monday was done by 20 volunteers from the Lewisham Good Gym. Ms Devereaux said: “This is a major setback for us. These attacks have been particularly malicious. “We had to remove the hives for the safety of the bees until we can construct an apiary cage over them.
“One hive was destroyed and we do not yet know whether the other two will survive because we do not know if the queens are still living – it will take a few days before we know.
“Many bees have been killed and we have damaged hives and equipment. “It was very sad to see the destruction of our pond, shed and everything the community has lovingly created.”
The founders have now launched a £2,500 appeal to secure the site and update the haven and to launch a project to engage the community more in its projects and products. This would be spent on:
£250 for a new hive l £100 for a new colony of bees
£850 for an apiary cage to keep them safe and
£400 for increased security on site.
£900 will pay for the launch of Project Buzz to get local youths in beekeeping, plus making bee-related products to sell as part of a social enterprise. This would pay for beekeeping suits, equipment and training.
Ms Devereaux said “Despite improving our security we now need to do more to make them safe and replace the damage so that everyone can benefit from learning about these remarkable and important insects.”
To contribute, go to https://localgiving.org/appeal/beeappeal/
A Met spokesman said: “The incidents are being investigated, and the local Safer Neighbourhoods team (SNT) have visited the affected venue.
“Any witnesses, or anyone with any information about these incidents, is asked to contact Bellingham SNT on 020 8721 2489, or to give information anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org.