Vandals have snapped four young trees which were planted by volunteers just a year ago.
The damage at the Community Orchard at the Blows Down Nature Reserve was discovered last week.
The trees, all local Bedfordshire heritage varieties, had been donated by the council and planted by locals as part of the Dunstable in Bloom project.
Wildlife Trust Reserves Officer Esther Clarke said: “The orchard is looked after by local volunteers who have worked hard to improve the site – cutting the grass, clearing up litter and dog mess, watering the trees etc.
“So it was a real shame to discover last week that four of the trees had been deliberately snapped off. We hope that the trees will recover with some judicious pruning but it is so sad to see such pointless damage to a community asset. When the trees mature and fruit, the fruit will be available for anyone to pick – pears, apples and the Aylesbury prune. The damage has been reported to the police.”
The community orchard was created after plans to build a roundabout there for the Dunstable eastern bypass were defeated.
“It is wonderful that we now have this lovely oasis of green space so close to the heart of the town which can be enjoyed by all and which provides a rich grassland habitat for flowers, birds, butterflies and bees,” said Ms Clarke.
“ It is such a shame therefore when a minority of people cause damage, drop litter and fail to clean up after their dogs. Everyone can do their bit help to keep the area nice.
A supporter of the orchard, David Turner, said: “Volunteers have given up their time to maintain the area, cutting the grass, clearing dog mess etc. and the area gradually transformed from a scrubby corner to somewhere that was a credit to the locality.
“Cynics stated that the orchard wouldn’t survive and that it would soon be vandalised but, over the ensuing months, it seemed as though they were wrong as the trees started to flourish. Tragically, they were proved right because on Monday someone came along and snapped the trunks of four of the trees. One of the trees was an extremely rare apple called Hambling’s Seedling which had been originally propagated by a Dunstable schoolmaster in the 18th century.
“It is heartbreaking that something that takes so long to create can be destroyed in a few mindless minutes, by someone who never bothers to create anything other than misery.
“Let’s hope that the perpetrator comes to realise that the community they hurt with their action actually includes them.”
The Paddocks, where the orchard is, is leased by The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire from Central Beds Council. There are Red Poll cattle and Dartmoor ponies grazing the fields and paths all around which the public can use.