Livelihoods at risk as vandals strike at Little Dunmow farm


- Credit: Archant

An ongoing spate of destruction – which includes thousands of pheasants poached and hundreds killed on a farm in Little Dunmow – continues to threaten those who rely on the land for their livelihood.

In the past week alone vandals have driven through farmer John Kirby’s fields on a near-nightly basis, destroying freshly-planted crops, stealing bird feeders, and causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Back in August, 3,000 pheasants were poached from the Grange Lane farm, and three weeks ago, trespassers killed 40 of the birds and damaged a tractor.

Mr Kirby, who has run the farm for the past 50 years, told the Broadcast: “Over the past year or so there’s been intermittent vandalism, but it’s never been so concentrated as now.

“They are just driving around, ruining my crops. There’s a whole lot of tyre tracks. We didn’t start planting till last week, and since then they’ve been here almost every night.”

Mr Kirby, who lives on the site with his wife and his daughter’s family, reported six counts of night-time destruction to his crops from last Tuesday, September 23.

“It’s worrying for everyone concerned. We’re quite fed up with the whole thing, it’s just there the whole time.”

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It is not clear whether the recent crop destruction and pheasant crimes are linked. Surveillance is hard to enforce on the farm, which covers 800 acres, and encompasses a pheasant shoot.

“In the past we’ve hardly locked up, but now we have to be careful about everything. The police have suggested that we put some CCTV cameras in the fields, but there’s not a lot they can do. It’ll be pretty difficult,” he added.

The gamekeeper, who wished to remain anonymous, manages the pheasant shoot on the land he rents from Mr Kirby.

“Of course it’s going to affect your livelihood,” he said. “They’ve been out poaching and shooting birds at night time – it’s been going on for months.

“They smashed the windows of John’s daughter’s car, and catapulted the windows of my tractor. They’ve stolen diesel and now they’re doing this. All we can do is to rally on.

“For the help we need there aren’t enough police officers to keep them off the grounds. I’m a tax-payer but there’s not enough police officers protecting the innocent.”

Parish councillor Geoff Thomas believes the current crime levels in Dunmow have reached an all-time high.

“It’s a big concern – there’s so much local vandalism. Crime seems to have increased in the area over the last year, and it’s very noticeable,” he said.

Essex Police has asked anyone with any information to call them on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.