North Walsham rallies to support guerrilla gardener after vandal attack
North Walsham has rallied to support the town's 'guerrilla gardener' after vandals destroyed a key piece of his work.
Teacher Simon Weal has spent countless hours of his free time litter-picking, digging, weeding and planting some of the town's most unloved, scruffy patches.
But he was horrified when he arrived at an area where he has lavished particular care to find much of his hard work had been wrecked.
The site is an alleyway linking New Road and Hall Lane which was completely overgrown, choked with litter and brambles, until Mr Weal set to work there earlier this year.
'Three apple trees I had planted had been pulled up, and other plants,' said Mr Weal, 51, of Church Street, North Walsham.
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'I won't be beaten though - I put them all back in.
When something like that happens, you take it personally. I was full of absolute rage.'
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He posted a message about the attack on the Facebook page of the Regenerate North Walsham group and was overwhelmed by the response.
'It completely cheered me up - there was so much support,' he said.
'One man said he wanted to snap the vandals' necks and people were suggesting putting cameras there,' he added.
Page users began keeping an unofficial vigil, posting the times they had walked past the alleyway and reporting their findings. A PCSO also said they would keep an eye on it.
Mr Weal, who is a geography and languages teacher at North Walsham High School, collected and removed 20 bags of rubbish from the alleyway, whose ownership is unknown, before he dug over land beside the rough pathway and planted it.
The rubbish had included a syringe and half-empty paint pots which made him think the alleyway was used as a dumping ground by all generations.
Mr Weal spends most mornings during the school holidays, and spare hours during term-time, on his gardening projects in the town and said people were constantly thanking and congratulating him on the difference he was making.
One woman had told him that, for the first time, she felt safe walking along the alleyway.
He also often receives donations of plants, money and gardening equipment from strangers and local businesses impressed by his efforts.
These had included two van loads of bark chippings from R Bell Tree Services, about £300 worth of plants from North Walsham Garden Centre, plus several generous cash donations from individuals.
Mr Weal has also dug and planted a number of areas in the high school grounds and, with the permission of Norfolk County Council's highways department, outside its entrance.
Fiona Turner, chairman of Regenerate North Walsham, said Mr Weal represented: 'the true nature of what it is to be community minded, that is, not just talking about things but actually doing something for the town.'
His work created a 'feel-good factor' for town residents.
Dr Turner added: 'There can be a lot of bad news in the world but selfless acts of altruism remind everyone that the world has good people in it.'