'Mindless' arsonist targets Sheffield farm which helps disadvantaged children

Farm manager Ash Malia in front of the burning animal fodder at Whirlow Hall Farm Trust
Farm manager Ash Malia in front of the burning animal fodder at Whirlow Hall Farm Trust
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A 'mindless' arsonist has struck at a farm in Sheffield which helps disadvantaged children, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Bosses at Whirlow Hall Farm Trust have appealed for information after a huge stack of haylage bales, which could have fed its entire livestock for two months, went up in smoke last night.

The charity estimates the animal food will cost more than 2,000 to replace

The charity estimates the animal food will cost more than 2,000 to replace

They are determined to track down the culprit or culprits and show them the harm they have done in an effort to stop them causing further destruction elsewhere.

Ben Davies, chief executive of the charity, said: "The animal fodder will probably cost just over £2,000 to replace, and it's not like you can just go down to the supermarket and buy more.

"The real disappointment is that this is such a mindless, pointless act. Whoever has done this probably has no idea of the impact it's going to have on a charity which is trying to help as many young people as possible.

"We would really like to find out who's done this and get them up here so they can see the impact of their actions and we can maybe stop their harmful behaviour from escalating."

The working farm runs school visits to educate children about where their food comes from. It also provides opportunities for young people with autism and disadvantaged youths who have been, or are at risk of being, suspended or expelled from school.

No humans or animals were harmed in the blaze, and no buildings were damaged.

The fire was spotted by university students taking part in a charity walk, who raised the alarm after seeing smoke billowing into the sky.

They had stopped at the farm for refreshments having reached the halfway point at about 8pm.

"That's the flip side to this story. On the one hand you have some mindless cretins going around setting fire to things, and on the other you have hundreds of young people trying to do something good," said Mr Davies.

The charity's supporters have expressed their outrage online, with Rachel Asquith branding the culprit's actions 'disgusting' and Shauna Robinson asking 'how can some one do this?'.

A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said it was called just after 8pm and firefighters remained at the scene for about an hour. She added that around 60 bales had been set alight, and the fire is believed to have been started deliberately.

Haylage, for those wondering, is similar to hay but is not completely dried and provides more nutrition for animals.

Anyone with information is asked to call South Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting the incident number 1115 of November 2.

For more information about the charity and how to show your support, visit www.whirlowhallfarm.org.