Cambridgeshire’s popular Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester has been met with an outpouring of love and support after vandals attacked their outdoor seating area.
Two tables, which had been specially built to combine a 120-year-old design with the ability to sanitise them in Covid times, along with six of the iconic deck chairs had been smashed.
Litter including nitrous oxide canisters were also found scattered around the picturesque tea garden, which has hosted famous faces including Rupert Brooke, Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing and, of course, Professor Stephen Hawking.
The 125-year-old treasure, which lies in the village of Grantchester, has remained closed in line with current Covid guidelines, but hopes to reopen for takeaway in the spring as soon as they can safely do so.
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The proprietor of the Tea Garden, Charles Bunker, explained: “This is a much-loved place, it’s about the 10th most popular tourist place to visit in Cambridge and we try and keep it old and treasured.
“Unfortunately, as has happened elsewhere in the village during lockdown, we suddenly have become a site for vandalism.”
Mr Bunker went on to explain how he thought it may be kids and young people involved, who are finding areas to meet during lockdown.
However, the popular destination has been met with an outpouring of sympathy and support on social media.
“When I looked last night there were 400 messages of sympathy on Facebook so the support for us has been just fantastic,” explained Mr Bunker.
“Whereas for my staff to find that, and for me, it’s a kick in the gut, but to see how many people have responded positively with love and affection for the place, I tell you, really lifted our hearts.”
In total, the vandals caused around £1,500 worth of damage, according to Mr Bunker.
“Those tables, we had them specially built here,” he said.
“They’re a 120-year-old design, they’re a feature of the Tea Garden. Two of them were completely smashed, plus all the deck chairs, half a dozen deck chairs just kicked in.
“It’s very sad.”
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Mr Bunker also explained that the incident had been reported to police, who reassured him they would be stepping up patrols, putting visible patrols of officers in the area to hopefully act as a deterrent for further vandalism.
A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire Police said: “We are aware of reports of criminal damage at The Orchard Tea Garden, Mill Way, Grantchester.
“A crime has been raised but the investigation is pending further lines of enquiry. Anyone with information is urged to contact police via their online web chat service or by calling 101 and quoting reference 35/12252/21.”
Like most of the hospitality sector, the Tea Garden has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Mr Bunker is confident that what he called a ‘mindless’ act of vandalism will not stop them from reopening to the public when allowed.
“Everything is manageable,” he said, “it’s just the mindlessness of it in a time when we’ve all got a lot on our minds.
The Orchard Tea Garden is hoping to reopen to takeaways in the spring, “any moment now”, according to Mr Bunker, so visitors can enjoy the food, drink, stunning views and abundance of walks around one of Cambridgeshire’s most magical and historic sites.