GROUNDS staff were stunned to discover 60 young trees planted at Royal Wootton Bassett Rugby Club had been dug up and stolen.

Volunteer Brian Smith made the heartbreaking discovery when he went to water the beech saplings.

“Myself and a couple other volunteers planted these trees last autumn and on Saturday it was hot so I went to go water them,” he said.

“When I arrived it was like when you get that feeling when you walk into a room and something’s missing and then I realised the trees were gone.

“I was so shocked, we planted them when it was cold and miserable and we were out there for hours. I don’t understand why anyone would do this."

Brian, 69, has been a member of the club since 1974 and has been caring for the grounds for the past seven years.

“What we do is a big job, there’s five pitches to cover and we look after all of it, so it’s such a shame they were taken,” he said.

The saplings were planted as a carbon offset scheme and were donated to the club by IT and consulting firm the CGI Group.

Club chairman, Chris Elias was angry when he learned of the theft.

He said: “CGI have a major carbon footprint investment scheme so when they heard we were looking for tree saplings to create a hedgerow they wanted to give us some.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to take that many trees, once they lifted them there was no chance they could replant them again so they would have just died.

“It’s just ominous but every cloud has a silver lining. People have been really good and supportive, they’ve offered to donate some trees to us to replace the ones that were taken.”

CGI was one of many who offered to replace the saplings after they heard about the incident.

A spokeswoman for Wiltshire Police said: “We’ve received a report regarding the theft of 60 saplings from a boundary line of Royal Wootton Bassett Rugby Club sometime between May 27 and May 30. The saplings had been recently planted as part of a carbon offset scheme and were worth approximately £300.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.