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Community stone painting group warns Grantown vandals: 'We won't be defeated!'

By Alasdair Fraser

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Deliberate damage to some of the colourful creations at Anagach Woods
Deliberate damage to some of the colourful creations at Anagach Woods

A creative community group that brought colourful artwork and children’s attractions to woodlands near Grantown on Spey is vowing it won’t be beaten by callous vandals trashing the work.

Grantown Rocks was the brainchild of Debbie Mackie, who started a social media page on rock painting with husband Stewart and kids Sara and Robert at the start of lockdown.

The Mackies and some of a fast-growing Facebook following of over 400 members then delighted local children and families by laying down the fun creations through Anagach Woods.

Star attractions include The Fairy Tree, Angus the Adder, Old Macdonald's Barn, The Hope Tree, with many other inventively painted stones helping lift community spirits during lockdown.

Given the size of the group and the popularity and of the woodland venture, there have also been plenty of visitors from further afield.

But a recent wave of vandalism locally didn’t spare Grantown Rocks! with young culprits maliciously wrecking displays on repeated occasions and even starting fires within the woodland.

Earlier this week, there was a worrying attempt to set fire to the Fairy Tree, which is decorated by painted slates representing doors.

The incidents came as two local schools were also targeted with vandalism costing hundreds of pounds.

For the Mackies and their artistic helpers, the damage has been heartbreaking, but there is a determination to stand up to the mindless vandals.

“It is so disheartening and it is also getting dangerous, which is an even bigger worry,” Mrs Mackie said.

“We've been in touch with the community policeman in the hope of having some surveillance done and we’ve had a lot of support from people in the community who say they will patrol the woods in the evenings.

Woodland wonders at Anagach.
Woodland wonders at Anagach.

“Never fear, we will not be so disheartened as to give up on a project that gives so many people such pleasure in a difficult time.

“We've even had people in waders going into the water to salvage some of the work that's been trashed. We won't give in to the vandals.”

The popularity of Grantown Rocks has taken the Mackies by surprise but the family and fellow artists are only stepping up their efforts to protect Anagach and keep it special.

“We have grown so rapidly as a group, in a way we never anticipated, and it has been amazing to see so many people get behind it and join in,” Mrs Mackie said.

“The group has spent many hours painting beautiful artwork to place all over the woods. We have set up a few little projects over the last few weeks and they initially seemed to be working well.

“But they now seem to be getting repeatedly damaged and vandalised.

“This wasn't a huge issue to begin with as we were prepared for some vandalism, but it is now escalating at an alarming rate, particularly with evidence of fire damage.

“That is obviously extremely dangerous in a woodland area so we are asking everyone who uses the woods to keep their eyes peeled and stay vigilant.”

Both Grantown Grammar and Grantown Primary schools have reported vandalism within school grounds in the past fortnight in incidents that could be linked to those in Anagach Woods

More on this story in tomorrow's Strathy.

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