A TRACTOR with a specially designed trailer which provided tours for elderly care home residents and people with disabilities has been stolen from Moors Valley Country Park.
The green John Deere tractor was taken along with its trailer around 11.55am last Thursday, Dorset Police said.
While the trailer was later found in the Wimborne area very badly damaged, the tractor was nowhere to be seen.
The theft has shocked members of Wimborne-based charity East Dorset Heritage Trust, which used the vehicle as part of its tractor and trailer project, taking elderly residents from local nursing homes on day trips around the park near Ringwood.
Trust manager Sarah Evans said: “It was such a blow for us when we received the news that both the trailer and tractor had been stolen by heartless thieves.
“We have been running the project, which is funded through donations and carried out by our wonderful trained volunteers, for 25 years, and we have now been forced to put the scheme on hold.
“The service has benefited hundreds of people over the years who have struggled to get out and enjoy the countryside – it really makes a difference to the quality of their lives.”
It was initially thought the charity would have to cancel all its trips for the summer but, thanks to Dorset council, a replacement tractor will be loaned to the group so it can continue its tours once the trailer has been repaired.
Mrs Evans said: “We have been thrilled to receive so much overwhelming support from the public and many local organisations, and we feel so lucky to have been offered a temporary replacement tractor by the council.
“Once we get out of this limbo stage of waiting to see if the insurance for the trailer will be paid out, we can get it fixed and returned to working order so we can get the project up and running again.”
A police spokesperson said enquiries were ongoing, and no arrests had yet been made.
Those with information should call Dorset Police on 101, quoting crime reference number 55190093222.