HEARTLESS thieves have stolen the centre piece for an open day showcasing work by Mickleton's young gardeners group less than 24 hours after it was installed.

Two huge hanging baskets filled with plants were stolen from a display in the Stratford Road allotments overnight on Friday before the youngsters had a chance to even see them in bloom.

A smaller wicker basket, planted by the children, was also taken from the front of a shed.

The hanging baskets had been put in place ready to be carefully tended by members of the young gardeners group and for the open day on September 14.

Barry Metcalfe, who runs the group, condemned the theft of the flowers which were going to hang in pride of place in the marquee area for visitors to see.

"It was just so disappointing," he said. "We were looking forward to letting the children see the baskets in place and watching them grow. It's all disappeared before they had a chance to see them hanging.

"Luckily I had taken the photo on Friday. At least they may have some idea of what it may have looked like. It's the sort of thing you would normally see in a town centre.

"It took four of us to put the baskets on they were really heavy. We had them up by 2.30pm on Friday and by 2.30pm on Saturday they were gone."

Mr Metcalfe said the theft was a real blow to the young gardeners efforts who have been working hard on their allotments with their parents in preparation for the event in September.

"A few years ago we had a RHS open allotment day and about 300 people came down," he said. "Our youngsters said they would like to have another one. We've had a lot of support from people in the village for the young gardeners.

"Really it's just a day to let them see what's going on and thank them for their support. It was just to make something different, something we haven't done before.

"We had devised a watering system and we were going to demonstrate all this to them on Monday. It was something we were going to keep going. We had the pole donated to us."

The incident has been reported to the police who are investigating.