HOLLY trees butchered so that sprigs can be sold commercially could take four or five years to recover.
The Parks Trust revealed on Tuesday that 50 bushes at Caldecotte Lake South had been completely stripped, pruned or topped by ‘holly thieves’ who are likely to sell them at Christmas markets around the country.
It is the second such incident to happen in Milton Keynes this month and will leave many birds and insects without a home or food during the winter.
Walkers hoping to enjoy the quintessential Christmas sight of the bushes in full bloom, with their famous red berries, will also be denied.
And Parks Trust head of operations Rob Riekie said the slow growing holly could take up to five years to return to the heights it was at before being culled.
The bushes, located beside the Ouzel Valley footpath that goes from Caldecotte Lake South to the north lake under the H10 Bletcham Way, will now have to be pruned by about six to eight inches in the hope they will grow back properly at all.
Mr Riekie, who dubbed the ‘holly thieves’ as “Bah Humbugs” simply after money, said: “These holly bushes are being cut for commercial gain. They have cut all the foliage off and just left a totem pole stump.
“For the amount they have cut there must have been a van involved and they must be selling it to markets.
“There was a case recently where we were losing some dogwood. That was going to markets in London.
“The holly is very slow growing, it takes a long time to establish. They offer a lot of colour in what is sometimes a barren winter landscape with their green glossy leaves and red berries.
“They also provide a micro-climate for birds and insects, as well as a food source.
“We have seen a Firecrest, which is very rare, next to holly recently.
“Holly is associated with the winter season and it is totally the wrong to just cut it down.
“There is no chance of spotting them this Christmas now, and it will be another four or five years before they reach the heights they are now.
“These bushes have been lost for seasons to come. That is sad and not something that can be fixed easily.”
Anyone with information should call Thames Valley Police on 101.