A little girl has been left heartbroken after a giant straw man she designed and helped to make was burned down by callous vandals.
The 12-foot tall character was put together on the side of the road outside the North Perrott Farm Shop and Garden Centre and merrily greeted children on their way to Misterton First School.
It was the brainchild of Millie Dyer, 8, who decided she wanted to make a straw bale man of her own after seeing one on her way home from a holiday in Cornwall.
Her uncle Jonathan Hoskyns, owner of the centre, his two daughters Harriet and Isabel and other staff members dedicated an afternoon to making it last week.
But it was set ablaze after just a few days on Thursday, October 4, to the dismay of residents from many villages.
Mr Hoskyns said: “It was hit just before 11pm that night. After all the emergency services had left, I texted my brother-in-law, Mark, to let him know it had happened.
“He was trying to think of the best time to break the bad news to Millie.
“He held off doing it for the next morning, but when they went to Misterton First School it was brought up by some parents. All the kids were devastated when they heard.
“I think a good punishment for whoever did this would be to go to the school and see the looks on the kids’ faces.”
In addition to the straw bale man – which cost around £150 to make – the garden centre also suffered £200 worth of damage when the fire spread.
Mr Hoskyns said: “The fire service and police were there soon after it started and put it out, but it was still smouldering for a few days afterwards.
“I’m doubtful the people who did it will be caught, but I’d like to think people may keep an ear out in the pub or something. It seems like the sort of thing someone could brag about.
“Our CCTV isn’t good enough for identification but it shows a van pulling up after I’d left for the night. It waits there for about 30 seconds and then the fire starts. It was a really wet night and when I got a text off a friend about it I thought he was joking.
“The police and I are convinced some sort of incendiary device was used because straw isn’t that easy to set fire to.”
Mr Hoskyns said the garden centre does plan on building a new straw man and holding a village celebration when it is completed.
He said: “We’ve had so many people come into the centre and post on our Facebook page, especially mums of young kids who are distraught.
“It’s such a shame that someone has decided to do it.
“We might have to put an electric fence around the next one, or make it out of less flammable material.”
The straw bale man was put up to help promote the apple days being held at the centre over the weekend.
They run from 11am until 4.30pm and give visitors the chance to taste juice, enjoy tractor rides and have a go at some arts and crafts.