Mystery flower thieves are threatening to scupper a village’s hopes for floral glory.
Several incidents of plants being taken from displays have left volunteer organisers in Freckleton angry and frustrated and facing a race against time as they bid to make sure it looks its best when North West In Bloom judges arrive this afternoon.
In Bloom and Parish Council officials in the village, which will then be judged for Britain In Bloom early next month, have been horrified to find scores of key features in various locations go missing on numerous occasions in recent weeks.
“It is upsetting more than anything and has created a lot of extra work and expense for volunteers who work very hard already,” said Freckleton In Bloom chairman Sue Lee.
“It has been going on for weeks and we don’t think it is vandals who are responsible.
“If that was the case, we would have found the plants dumped somewhere nearby. These have deliberately dug up never to be seen again and it is very, very frustrating.
“We have reserve plants we can put in but there are only so many of those and once we get to this stage of the year, it is difficult to find the particular plants we need when replacements are required.”
The thefts, of a variety of plants including double begonias, petunias and cosmos, have mainly been concentrated on Memorial Park and an area of Preston old Road knows as Dibbs Pocket.
They are among seven areas of Freckleton where the main displays are located.
Freckleton’s In Bloom volunteers are aiming for a regional hat-trick this year after taking gold in its category in North West In Bloom for the last two years.
It is also a contender this year in the Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom competition and the national judges will run the rule over the village on the afternoon of Friday, August 2.
Freckleton Parish Council chairman St John Greenhough was involved with the village’s In Bloom effort when it started 18 years ago and said he has never known damage on such a scale as this year.
“It’s a big year for Freckleton and these thefts really undermine everything we are trying to achieve,” he said.
“There has always been a little vandalism and I don’t by any means think we are the only area affected.
“But these plants have been deliberately kicked out and taken by someone who appears to know what they are doing. It is so frustrating when everyone has been working so hard to make sure the village looks its best.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said they had been made aware of the situation and asked anyone with details to contact the Freckleton neighbourhood policing team by ringing 101.