Published: 11:58, 22 February 2021
| Updated: 17:55, 22 February 2021
A popular beauty spot for walkers and nature lovers has suffered its third arson attack in a year, destroying what remained of a boardwalk.
The fire was deliberately started in the early hours of Sunday morning on the Hambrook Marshes in Canterbury, leaving volunteers in despair.
The site had previously been targeted twice in the weeks before the first national lockdown last spring.
Sian Pettman, a trustee of the Save Hambrook Marshes Group, said of the latest incident: "It's so deeply depressing that someone would go to such lengths as apparently using some sort of accelerant to start the fire, presumably just for a cheap thrill.
"This was the last remaining section of boardwalk left from the previous fires around the same time last year but was actually fulfilling a role as a viewing point for the newly-created pond."
Firefighters were quickly on the scene after the blaze started but could not prevent further damage to the structure.
Now, trustees say they cannot afford to replace the boardwalk, which cost £65,000 ten years ago. They say doing so would only risk it being set alight again.
They have also been left with the cost of cleaning up the debris, including removing contamination from the pond.
Mrs Pettman said: "It's such a tragedy because the area has become so popular with people wanting to get close to nature and for education."
Reports of the fire have prompted outrage on social media and messages of sympathy and support from well-wishers.
"We are also very grateful for them and for the generous offers of help," said Mrs Pettman.
"A proper clean-up will need to wait until the ground has dried out sufficiently, but more generally we would greatly welcome any help with looking after the marshes.
"If anyone can spare any time to help - helping with inspections to more regular maintenance tasks, once Covid allows – please email email@example.com with your name and phone number and we will be in touch.
"We would also appreciate any donations towards the clean-up costs and general care of the marshes, which can be made through www.justgiving.com/campaign/hambrookmarshes."