Volunteers of an Andover charity are set to camp out in the woods to protect their building project following an attempted break-in last week.

Andover Trees United (ATU) is soon to begin work on ‘The Cabin’ in Harmony Woods, which will provide classrooms and volunteering space for the community. With thousands of pounds of tools and materials to be on site for the build, volunteers are concerned they could be the target of criminals after an attempted burglary of their storage container.

“While the construction is going on we want to have a rota and take it in turns so that the carpenters or volunteers will be camping up there so the tools, logs and milled timbers will be protected,” said Wendy Davis, ATU’s operations manager. “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”

The attempted burglary took place on Thursday last week, when three supporters of the charity noticed two men actin strangely near the charity’s shipping container, where they store equipment.

“They worked out they were up to no good,” said Wendy. “They immediately got on the phone and the police must have been close by because they immediately responded and were there within minutes.

“They walked down and the guys realised they’d been rumbled and legged it through the wood onto Anton Lane leaving us with a trail of disruption to mop up. It was in broad daylight, it was brazen cheek.”

Wendy said that it capped a “trying” week for the charity, with one of the contractors for The Cabin having pulled out of the project. However, she still took the time to thank the members of the public who called in the crime, who she called “the guardians of the wood”.

Following the incident, volunteers found that the men had broken into the fencing around part of the site, and used scrap metal that was about to be moved to try and wrench the padlock off the door and open the container. Fortunately, they were stopped before they could get it open, but the remains of the padlock prevented the door opening.

“We spent the weekend trying to deal with this, because we had volunteers, a local councillor and others due to be working there but we weren’t able to get into the container,” said Wendy. “In the end, we hired a generator and one of our volunteers brought an angle grinder along with two new heavy duty padlocks. You lose four days of time and £200 later we’re back where we were.”

Wendy says that she is now concerned about the build itself, which has impacted her view of the project.

“It’s such a horrible thing to say but when I first started on this road over a decade ago, what I really wanted was to create open space as the land around us is beautiful but privately owned, and I wanted young people to experience wondering through land as though it’s your own.

“Now, we’re in a position where we might have to lock gates and put up fences and now I understand why private landowners don’t want people to walk on their land, because the few idiots damaging property and threatening wildlife are spoiling it for everyone else. That upsets me as much as anything.”

However, Wendy is determined that things will work out, and is considering the installation of a permanent security system once The Cabin is built.

“Once we have a roofed cabin, we might be able to get solar panels and batteries to power a security system,” she said. “There will then be lighting and CCTV but that’s not something we can do at the moment, because we’ve spent £500 on portable cameras before but they’ve all been stolen.

“Once we have a proper system then people will stop chancing it.”

If you are interested in helping the charity with one of the aspects of building The Cabin, please contact: volunteers@andovertrees.org.uk

Hampshire Constabulary were contacted for comment.