A selfless gardener who dedicated her allotment to help feed the community in a cost-of-living crisis has opened her heart to vandals who destroyed it. Carly Burd, from Harlow in Essex, suffers from multiple sclerosis and lupus, but has spent her time growing food to give to those who are struggling to make ends meet. But her world was turned upside down last week when 5kg of salt was sprinkled over the soil, stunting the growth of the crops.
The 43-year-old posted a teary video to TikTok where donations subsequently flooded in to rebuild the hard work she had started, with one generous pledge coming from footballing star Gary Lineker.
But in the days that have passed, the mum has invited the culprits to come forward, not to face the consequences, but to talk.
She explained: “I’ve never felt such hate. I get on with everyone in my community. I want to say to whoever did it, I’m here if you want to talk to me. No aggression intended, that’s not my style.
“It won’t leave my lips and it won’t go out to anyone, but come and talk to me. I’m not a threat to anyone. I’ll be there and support you, and I’ll do everything I can to support you.
“I can’t understand why somebody would do something so hurtful, but I’m here for a chat.”
Ms Burd transformed her garden into an allotment in July 2022 to provide those struggling with the cost of living crisis with free organic fruit and vegetables alongside other essentials.
The project, which she called A Meal On Me With Love, quickly took off and saw Ms Burd feeding with her allotment, which included planters created from old wood.
After discovering the vandalism, Ms Burd said: “What made it worse is that yesterday, the children that helped me plant it actually turned up, and it just broke me. They were so lovely they said ‘it’s okay, we can replant it’.
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“They’ve worked so hard. They’ve put the effort in and we’re trying to make a change – it’s upsetting.”
Taking to her TikTok account, Ms Burd was in tears as she showed her allotment salted by vandals, whose doing destroyed everything she had planted and ruined the soil.
Traces of salt could be seen on the ground as Ms Burd asked, “How could you do that? I hope it makes you happy, I really do”.
She then pledged to carry on, saying this behaviour won’t stop her.
Ms Burd’s story touched the heart of many up and down the country, with several people taking to her Go Fund Me page after the incident to help her restore the allotment.
The Essex resident raised more than £246,000 from more than 14,700 people, including Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker and Entrepreneur and BBC Dragon Steven Bartlett.
In an update shared on the funding page, Ms Burd thanked everyone for the “continuous support” she has been receiving in recent days.
Officers from Essex Police have opened an investigation to find the culprits and have asked witnesses or anyone with information including CCTV or doorbell footage of the incident to come forward.
The incident is understood to have taken place between 2pm on April 7 and 9am on April 8.
Chief Inspector Paul Austin, district commander for Harlow, said: “Carly is naturally devastated about this mindless act, which has caused real harm to her efforts to help those most in need in Harlow.
“However, it is striking how determined she is to ensure this act does not stop her good work.
“The support she has received both here in the community and from across the country has been truly heart-warming.
“We take all matters of criminal damage seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation.”