Thieves have left a local wildlife charity struggling with a hole in their roof and a deeper hole in their pockets after they struck at one of its nature reserves.

Staff at Devon Wildlife Trust’s Meeth Quarry nature reserve, near Hatherleigh, arrived at work last week to find that thieves had smashed their way through the roof of their workshop and then proceeded to loot its contents.

The burglars stole a quad bike belonging to the charity, along with three chainsaws and other equipment.

They then escaped using the quad bike, driving it along the Tarka Trail, which runs through the reserve, to Petrockstowe.

In all, Devon Wildlife Trust estimates around £7,000 of equipment was taken, while the cost of repairing the roof of its building could run to many thousands of pounds.

Speaking for the charity which cares for 50 nature reserves in Devon, Stuart Hodgkiss said: “It was an upsetting day for our staff.

“In the short term the lengthy clean-up and repair operation has been disruptive taking them away from their work for wildlife.

“However, more troubling is the longer term theft of equipment.

“Our nature reserves are entering their busiest period, when vital autumn and winter works are scheduled.

“The loss of a quad bike and chainsaws means that this work will suffer both at Meeth Quarry and at the other North Devon reserves staff cover.”

Meeth Quarry was once a massive clay extraction quarry with open pits and even its own railway.

But production at the quarry ceased in the 1990s. In 2012 its 150 hectares were made a nature haven by Devon Wildlife Trust.

In the years since it has become a popular local place to visit by people eager to explore its network of paths and cycle tracks.

The reserve is also home to some special wildlife including species such as the rare wood white butterfly, strawberry spider and hundreds of migrating birds.

Anyone with information on the theft which took place on the night of Wednesday 12 September should contact the police by calling 101 quoting crime reference number CR084233/18.