POLICE have stepped up patrols at a popular nature reserve because a campaign of vandalism is threatening its beauty.
The Neighbourhood Policing Team and Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council are now working together to stop vandals who have caused damage to Mardley Heath Woods, near Woolmer Green, and its picnic area which has also been victim to fly-tipping.
The damage is believed to have started in June with the theft of five fence panels.
Since then graffiti has been sprayed around the area, numerous fires lit and a bench and table top destroyed - possibly used to fuel the fires.
Now the team is carrying out extra patrols and officers have worked with the borough council to clear the damage and make it more difficult for the area to be mis-used.
PC Claire Parfitt, from Welwyn Garden City Neighbourhood Team, said: "We will be continuing increased patrols in the area and working with other agencies to prevent these types of incidents.
"This is a beautiful area for the public to enjoy and we will be working together to catch those responsible.
"I would also remind people not to tempt car thieves by leaving valuables in their vehicles."
Chris James, landscape and ecology officer at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, added: "What a great pity that a minority want to spoil it for others.
"The police and council won't hesitate to take appropriate action against anyone found to be damaging the area."
The site is managed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council in partnership with the Friends of Mardley Heath, who voluntarily maintain the reserve.