AN historic fortress is under attack from a modern-day foe.
Yobs have attacked the walls of Hylton Castle with fire, stones and even golf balls as reports of crime and antisocial behaviour around the heritage site increase.
In the latest of a series of incidents, a bin and stack of plastic picnic chairs was set alight at the rear of the 14th Century gatehouse leaving scorch marks up the stonework.
Other reported incidents in recent weeks include:
l Vandals smashing golf balls off the castle’s centuries-old walls;
l A mountain bike used to damage flower beds before being dumped in the castle grounds;
l Locks cut from gates and stolen, and barriers which had been welded-shut were forced open;
l What is believed to be human excrement found in the castle’s neighbouring ruined chapel.
The increase in vandalism comes as a partnership of community groups, Sunderland City Council, the Durham Wildlife Trust, English Heritage and others are working to develop the castle as a community facility and visitor centre.
Keith Younghusband, chairman of Friends of Hylton Dene, said: “It’s really upsetting that people can’t leave the castle to remain as it is without damaging it.
“It is after all their history and their community as well, and it’s very sad.”
Teenage drinkers and drug users have also been spotted appearing more regularly in the grounds.
Mr Younghusband said there had been a meeting to discuss the problems and police had pledged to take action.
He added: “In the summer months, you do see an increase, but when you’ve got people using it to take pot shots for golf practice, it’s terrible.”
Police have asked residents to ensure they report problems and asked any witnesses to the recent vandalism to come forward.
Neighbourhood Inspector Lisa Musgrove said: “Regular patrols are carried out in the area and we are working with schools to raise awareness of the consequences of antisocial behaviour.
“I’d urge anyone who knows who is responsible to contact police so we can take action against them.”
Anyone with any information should contact Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043 ext 69191 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
THE vandalism attacks come after campaigners suffered a funding blow in their efforts to bring the fortress back into use.
Proposals are in place to make the castle a working building once more, with everything from youth clubs to wedding ceremonies taking place within its historic walls.
A business plan was drawn up to make the castle a self-funding concern, but initial funding is needed to get the project off the ground.
A bid was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), but the cash pot was oversubscribed and Hylton Castle was one of the projects to lose out when grants were announced last month.