Thieves are stealing plants from the Remembrance Garden in Blackpool’s Stanley Park – just days after a memorial to a resort terror attack victim was unveiled there.
Volunteers at the park said a number of flowers have been swiped recently, and believe the green-fingered crooks know what they are doing.
“Specific plants have been taken,” Elaine Smith, chairman of the historic park’s Friends group said.
“Lavenders, euonymus and showpiece dahlias – complete with wooden stakes.
“Whoever has been taking them has covered their tracks, leaving neat and tidy gaps.”
The thefts are perhaps made worse by the fact that, not only does the idyllic garden contain a new memorial to Jane Tweddle, who was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing two years ago, it was designed as a place to honour and remember the Fylde coast’s First and Second World War dead.
Elaine said: “We are all absolutely furious that anyone could stoop so low as to steal from a memorial garden. It’s just beyond belief.
“We are getting such a lot of wonderful comments about the way the garden looks, but now it has gaps where there should be any.
“It’s disgusting and disheartening.”
Several lavender plants were stolen last summer, but the thefts have ramped up dramatically this year, Elaine added.
And she is concerned the pilfering will cost the peaceful attraction big in the coming weeks, adding: “These plants were so lovely last year – tall, bright scarlet with dark leaves – a real showstopper.
“We have no more of these plants, so the garden will be the poorer, as will our display for the Blackpool in Bloom competition.
“Other dahlia have also been taken, as well as a hosta and several other plants – in total, 18 plants.
“Our volunteer gardening team has worked so very hard on the Memorial Garden and this is just soul destroying for them.
“They have put in so much time, energy, and effort. They donated plants, grew them from seed, and have been to collect plants donated by other people.
“The Friends has also spent money buying plants.
“This is not vandalism – it is theft. It would have taken several visits to remove the plants, as well as a carrier bag, and a trowel will have been used to dig them up and fill in the gaps.
“We are asking the many people who walk in the park to be vigilant, to keep a look-out, and to report any suspicious activity to the police.”
John and Christine Cookson are members of the volunteer gardening team, which is led by Graham Gaulter, who has spent 12 months restoring the garden.
John said: “These thefts are very sad but we won’t be beaten. We won’t let it get in the way of what is a truly positive experience.”
He said restoring the gardens was bringing much pleasure and they were grateful for the support and advice of the park’s full-time gardeners.
The Gazette asked Lancashire Police how often patrols take place in the park.
The force did not provide a comment.
Coun Maria Kirkland, the council’s parks boss, said: “Acts of theft are of course despicable. However, it is particularly disgusting that flowers have been stolen from a remembrance garden which is dedicated to the many people who gave up their lives in the two world wars, and is a place where the new sculpture has been located to remember Jane Tweddle who tragically lost her life in the Manchester Arena bombing.
“The thief or thieves obviously have no conscience at all and don’t care about those who go to the remembrance garden to reflect in a lovely and peaceful spot.
“They also have no regard for the many visitors who enjoy Stanley Park and the team that work so hard to make it such a wonderful park.
“We are currently reviewing our CCTV operations in conjunction with the police with a view to potentially integrating it into the town centre system.
“We are also looking at options to enhance community policing visibility.”
The Remembrance Garden was designed as part of the original Thomas Mawson plans for Stanley Park, though early pictures show it was not built until some time later.
Eventually, a sensory garden for blind people was built.
It later became a place to remember the war dead.
It is found just off Cocker Walk – the stretch of pavement from the clock tower to the Italian Gardens – and offers a quiet corner of what can be a heaving park.
The Garden was restored in 2007 as part of a £5.1 million Heritage Lottery-funded project.
Special place to remember Jane
Two years to the day since Jane Tweddle was stolen from her family by an act of terrorism, they unveiled a permanent memorial to her in the Remembrance Gardens.
The 51-year-old, who was a receptionist at South Shore Academy, was one of 22 people murdered by suicide bomber Salman Abedi on the night of pop star Ariana Grande’s concert at the Manchester Arena on Monday, May 22, 2017.
Shortly afterwards, as the world continued to feel the shockwaves of such a violent act, her devastated daughters said their mum “never gave up on smiling and being happy”.
At a private ceremony, they gathered to reflect poignantly on the second anniversary of the atrocity.
Harriet, Lily, and Isabelle said: “To finally have something so special for mum and to have it at Stanley Park, where she spent a lot of time with her friends at the bandstand and taking our dog Marley on walks, means the world. The one thing that everyone seems to think of when they think of mum is lilies, so it just seemed like the perfect design.”
The stone statue, designed in partnership with the council, is inscribed with the words, We love you to the moon and miss you beyond the stars’.
Other Lancashire victims of the attack included Georgina Callander, 18, who was in her second year at Runshaw College in Leyland, near her home in Whittle-le-Woods.
Michelle Kiss, 45, a mum-of-three from Whalley, died when she went to pick up her then 12-year-old daughter Millie, who survived.
Saffie Roussos, eight, from Leyland, was the youngest to die. Her mum Lisa and her oldest sister Ashlee Bromwich were injured but survived.
Saffie’s family was reportedly offered just £11,000 in compensation by the Government.
Last June, on the third anniversary of the Sousse atrocity in Tunisia, a memorial was unveiled on the North Promenade in Blackpool for resort couple Denis and Elaine Thwaites, who were murdered.
Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui had opened fire at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel, killing 38 tourists including 30 Britons.
Their daughter Lindsey said: “It never gets easier - you just learn to live with the loss.”