THE owner of a plot at allotments in Tranent has spoken of his disappointment after several incidents of vandalism and theft there.

Singer Steve Byrne took up a plot at the site near Muirpark a few months ago and, after all of his recent hard work, he saw a whole tree’s worth of apples stolen sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

Courgettes were also smashed and raspberries taken from other plots during the same period.

Steve, 43, said that while he “wouldn’t begrudge an apple or two being chored”, he had his whole James Grieve apple tree – which be had obtained from Smeaton Nursery in East Linton – stripped of all of its fruit, weeks before they were fully ripe, with some apples also taken from his other tree.

Three other plots have also been stripped of all their fruit.

East Lothian Courier: Steve's apple tree after it was prematurely stripped of all its fruitSteve's apple tree after it was prematurely stripped of all its fruit

The thefts follow vandalism to some edging boards, fruit and vegetables being taken from other plots, and other produce being deliberately smashed among other incidents over the past couple of weeks.

Rosanne Woods, chair of the association which oversees the allotment, said that a family was spotted climbing over the fence at the site at 5pm on Sunday and was seen “pillaging from lots of plots”.

Steve told the Courier: “It’s hard to understand what people gain by damaging a community asset like the allotments – certainly to come in and strip whole trees and bushes of their fruit sounds like more than just kids messing around.

“An occasional apple here or there, we wouldn’t miss, but an entire crop?

“Folk might also think ‘it’s just a few apples’ but the ones stolen were a Scottish heritage variety that was first raised in the Lothians in the late 19th century – couldn’t get more local!

“The allotments are used by a whole range of people from across the community, including families like mine with young children.

“Our six-year-old will be sad to learn someone has stolen the fruit they have helped to plant and look after.

READ MORE: Vandals cause irreparable damage to group's greenhouse

“If folk are in such need of fresh food to the extent that they feel the need to steal, then I’m sure the allotment association would welcome some dialogue on how we might be able to help those in need with surplus supplies.

“As a very new plotholder, it certainly has soured my enjoyment of an amazing community facility that, for me personally, has been a great help with my mental health during the pandemic.

“I hope we can find ways with the support of the community to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

The site has 34 plots in total: 22 in the main section, six in a second section and six community plots.

Rosanne is contacting all plotholders to find out if they are missing any other items.

Five have reported damage and thefts so far.

East Lothian Courier: Some of the damage to the allotment site in recent weeks includes smashed and stolen fruit and vegetables and damaged edging boardsSome of the damage to the allotment site in recent weeks includes smashed and stolen fruit and vegetables and damaged edging boards

There are currently four padlocked gates at the site in a bid to deter thieves.

Only plotholders have access, with the locks changed from keys to combinations a month ago.

Rosanne donates excess produce from her plot to Roots and Fruits in Elphinstone to use in the shop and donate for use in local schools.

She said: “There is nothing more demoralising.

“Steve has put so much work into his plot and got it looking lovely since he got it.

“Everyone works so hard on their plots and you just ask: ‘What’s the point?’

“It’s unfortunate, a shame and annoying for everyone.”

She has reported the incidents to the community warden and police, with hopes that increased patrols in the area will prevent further thefts.