A prize-winning garden praised for helping wildlife thrive has been destroyed in error by council contractors.
The scenic patch of wildflowers at the Butts Community Garden – which took the best part of a day to plant – was mistakenly cut by a contractor for East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) despite deterring signs.
The garden is part of an initiative by Hampshire's Alton Climate Action Network’s nature group to encourage locals to care for their own garden in more environmentally-friendly ways.
The initiative was started by conservation charity Plantlife to encourage gardeners to stop cutting their grass to help wild flowers and pollinators grow.
Last year, the meadow won the Pollin-8 award from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust as the meadow helps butterflies, voles and toads thrive off the plants' leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds.
Gareth Hurd, who lives right next to the patch of land in Alton, had the idea of turning the space into a meadow and voluntarily planted all the British wildflowers last year.
But when he returned from work as a nature conservation worker, he found his hard work had been destroyed.
Mr Hurd said he does not yet know the extent of the damage to the meadow but estimates it has set back the progress made by around five years.
He said: "The space is intended to act as a display to people of what you can do in your garden which is more environmentally friendly in various ways.
"But the side that is good for the environment was flattened.”
Mr Hurd said the contractor’s mistake was “understandable”, but added: “It is very disappointing.
“We spent ages going through all the paperwork, done the licensing and signage. I thought lots of wooden posts would have given them a clue.”
"It will regrow. I'm trying to avoid having to replant. Autumn will tell how much has survived, but I've lost a fair proportion, I might have to do a small portion again.
Rick Luke, Mr Hurd's neighbour, described the destruction of the garden “disappointing”, especially as the bank of rough grass and weeds were left alone.
He said: "There were beautiful flowers and on the other side of the road, the bank is full of dandelions, rough grass, ivy and brambles and they haven't mowed that.
"They've gone and mowed this nice little garden. One side now looks like a complete and utter eyesore – they've left a clump of weeds.”
The council has apologised for the blunder and launched an investigation.
A spokesman said: "We are deeply upset to hear that this Community Garden was cut in error. We will be investigating this and taking the necessary steps to prevent it happening again.
"In the meantime, we are writing to the group to apologise and to offer to re-seed the land with wild-flowers ourselves.”