A Doncaster wildlife haven has been closed after an ancient bridge protected by Act of Parliament was wrecked.
It is not known if the brick bridge at the entrance to Fen Carr nature reserve, near Fishlake, was deliberately vandalised by a mechanical digger or if it was caused accidentally but not reported.
The damage occurred some time between Sunday afternoon and when it was discovered at 3pm on Wednesday.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust estimates it will cost at least £500 to repair the bridge, off Carr Head Lane.
The owners of Fen Carr are required by the 1825 Hatfield, Thorne and Fishlake Enclosure Award to maintain the two little brick bridges at the entrances.
A YWT spokesman said: “We have recently been informed of damage to the access route into our Fen Carr Nature Reserve and this has been reported to the police.
“The site, which is important for wildflowers, has also recently suffered from illegal grazing by ponies. While the ponies have now been removed it is essential to understand that habitats such as these require very careful management.
“Fen Carr is home to over 70 species of plants, many of which are locally rare and others that are in decline nationally. To ensure their survival a strict grazing and cutting regime is incredibly important, so interference of any kind can hinder this work.
“Also, as a charitable organisation, any damage or illegal activity on our land hits the funds that are kindly donated by the public to enable us to carry out our work to care and protect wildlife around Doncaster.”
Fen Carr is described by YWT as a ‘hidden gem’ surrounded by a traditional farming landscape of small hedgerow-bounded fields which contain about 70 rare wildflowers.
Sympathetically farmed for nearly half a century by a tenant farmer, Fen Carr comprises two traditional hay meadows that support a healthy population of butterflies and moths including a number of browns, blues, coppers, hairstreaks, and occasional skippers.