Malice in Wonderland – sculpture attacked

The tree sculpture in the Spa Gardens, with the decapitated Caterpillar, left, and damaged White Rabbit, right.
The tree sculpture in the Spa Gardens, with the decapitated Caterpillar, left, and damaged White Rabbit, right.

“Mindless vandals” have attacked the new Alice in Wonderland tree carvings in Ripon’s Spa Gardens – decapitating the Caterpillar and sawing the nose off the White Rabbit.

The carvings, which were created out of the thinned-out trunks of cypress trees, are believed to have been butchered on the night of Saturday, December 28, in what is being described as a “premeditated” attack.

“This mindless vandalism just beggars belief,” said Patrick Kilburn, head of Harrogate Borough Council’s parks and open spaces department which commissioned the work costing around £900.

“Someone went there with the clear intention of damaging these sculptures as they were prepared with the right tools.

“This wasn’t just a result of high jinks down to having had too much to drink. It was pre-mediated, which makes it worse to take.”

As well as featuring Caterpillar and the White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland, the sculpture also includes a carving of the title character which was left unharmed.

Legend has it that the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came from the time Carroll – real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – spent at Ripon Cathedral, where his father became a residentiary canon in 1852.

Mr Kilburn said: “These are beautiful carvings, intended to give a longer life to a natural resource and, of course, bring pleasure to all visitors but particularly small children who are enjoying reading about Alice in Wonderland and learning about Lewis Carroll’s links to Ripon.”

The borough council has been in touch with the artist who believes repairs can be made to the Caterpillar to re-carve and replace the head, which will be “secured by resin and a steel rod for good measure”.

The attack on the carvings has prompted the offer of a reward to catch the culprit or culprits.

PC Matt Scott, of Ripon police, said: “Two local businessmen, who wish to remain anonymous, have put up a reward totalling £500 for any information leading to a successful prosecution of whoever is responsible.”

He added that the head of the caterpillar was still missing and police would like information if anyone knows its whereabouts.

In a separate incident, minor damage was caused to the bandstand in December when plastic bottles were set alight. A youth is helping police with their enquiries.

– Contact PC 1801 Matt Scott on 101 quoting number 12140000982 if you have information. Or you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.