DETERMINED members of The Friends of Gorse Hall have vowed to carry on despite suffering a fourth break-in during the last six months at its Portakabin in Stalybridge which stored their equipment.
The small group of members – there are only four active volunteers – had considered disbanding following the latest incident.
A new lawnmower, which had yet to be used, new strimmer and three chain saws, tools and a wheelbarrow, worth about £1,500, were taken.
Friends’ chairman Alan Pickles said: “We are only a small group of active members – all in their 70s or have a disability – and don’t have the money to keep replacing stolen equipment and keep making the container safe.
“It is disheartening and I don’t know where we go from here as a group. I contacted the members and raised the question about disbanding the group or do we carry on.
“Over the coming months, we will assess how the site is maintained long term.
“In the short term we still have tools to carry out restoration of some of the walls and foundations of the historic features on Gorse Hall that is normally done over the winter period.
“Some of the tools and equipment was donated since the last break in and other larger items had been bought with a winter discount only a few weeks ago.”
Alan added another option may be to move the container from near the entrance to Quarry Street to a spot visible from High Street.
After a spate of break-ins last autumn, new state-of-the-art locks were fitted at a cost of £240.
But Alan added the thieves came prepared with battery powered cutting equipment power to remove the locks.
He believes the break-ins are not related as last time gloves, safety helmets and petrol cans were taken but they were left this time as the thieves went for equipment which is uninsured as the small group is unable to afford the premium.
He revealed they need public liability insurance at a cost of almost £500 as they are maintaining a public open space, but they do not have any further funds.
Alan added that if the Friends disband the 35 acres of woodland and meadow that form Gorse Hall Country Park, which is used to leisure and educational purposes, will quickly fall into a state of disrepair.
He added: “Without the special tools bought for the volunteers, maintenance of the site can’t be carried out.
“Now with the constant worry of paying out to make the container more secure and trying to replacing necessary tools which could be stolen again over the summer, the voluntary group has to consider what can be done without any tools, to stop nature covering the paths and the historic features with brambles, weeds, bushes and grass.
“If no maintenance can be carried out there will be no paths or open space for people to enjoy after a couple of years.
“The maintenance team often clears a feature on the 35-acre site each year for visitors and within a few years without constant clearing, it looks like nothing was ever done there.”
The Friends, which last year celebrated their 20th birthday, remain committed to try to keep Gorse Hall accessible.
Their main project was to uncover the site of the New Gorse Hall which was demolished in 1910 after the brutal murder of George Harry Storrs, a local builder. Last year was the 110th anniversary of the murder.
The previous occupants of the hall were local mill owner John Leech and his wife Jane. They were the grandparents to Beatrix Potter who visited Gorse Hall.
• In the wake of the recent incident, The Friends of Gorse Hall received help from Pete Garcia Fabrications, Clarendon Road, Hyde, who welded the damaged door to make the container more secure.
The Friends are also appealing for people with spare time to help maintain the historic site.
If anyone is interested in helping, wishes to give money to buy essential tools, the Friends can be contacted online www.gorse-hall.co.uk or call Bernard 07739 039032, Christine 0161 666 0639 or Alan 07790 006345. Their bank details are Lloyds sort code 30-98-90 account number 15547968.