A group of disabled people have been left devastated after vandals struck at a garden they have dedicated many hours to nurturing.

More than 50 people with learning difficulties and physical disabilities tend the gardens at the site of the former Bankfield Mansion on Newlands Lane, Workington.

But last week bosses arrived to find that vandals had been onto the site overnight, trashing plants that service-users had lovingly tended since January, and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Among the damage, a bird box which was being used by a nesting family was smashed to the ground, destroying its contents.

It was the third incident in a month, following break-ins at a building on the site over each of the May bank holiday weekends.

In the break-ins, hundreds of pounds worth of damage was caused to the door of a building on the rented site, which is owned by Allerdale council. Broken glass and nails were left scattered

And, while the monetary value of the latest damage was lower, the vandalism destroyed plants that were due to be sold to help support the continued operation of the gardens.

Andrew Birkett, senior support officer at the project, discovered the latest vandalism when he arrived at the site on Thursday.

He said: "They'd overturned tables with plants on. They'd caused an absolute mess.

"The service users were devastated because their hard work had been ruined. It's just senseless.

"We raise funds by growing and selling plants.

"Working in the gardens is therapeutic for the service-users. We keep the gardens tidy and we plant things.

"We make it a nice environment so people can visit and spend time relaxing.

"It allows the service-users to achieve something and gives them a sense of worth.

"It gives them so much pleasure out of people seeing them working hard and doing a good job. It's giving back to the community. We're doing this so people can enjoy the garden."

Service-users tend the gardens five days and week and they are open for the public to visit during those times.

Neighbouring Amathea Care Home also has a key to the site, enabling residents to benefit from the therapeutic environment.

If the service was not able to operate, Mr Birkett said, the gardens would probably fall into disrepair.

Now Allerdale Day Services are planning to install CCTV at the site to deter vandals.

But at a cost of several hundred pounds, the equipment will eat into the funds available to support the service and its users.

Mr Birkett said: "We'd like the people responsible to think of the impact on the service-users. It's them that suffer. With all the hard work they have put in it upsets them to see this happen."

Anyone with information about last week's vandalism, which happened between 4.30pm on Wednesday and 8.30am on Thursday, is asked to call Cumbria police on 101, quoting incident 63 of June 6. The same number can be used about the other incidents.