NOT a lot that happens in East Lancashire comes as a total surprise these days.

But part of what occurred at Darwen Tower a couple of weeks ago was unexpected.

It wasn’t the fact that the tower dome was damaged by vandals – just two months after it had been made by apprentices at the local metal fabrication firm WEC to replace the one blown off in gales a year earlier.

Neither was it particularly unusual that the yobs involved had been stupid enough to write their own first names on windows below the scratched top – albeit in individual letters since our education system doesn’t seem to have given them the ability to do joined-up writing.

It was the startling revelation that the no-goods responsible had got themselves together enough to trek all the way up to this corner of the West Pennine Moors and then scale the tower in the dark!

Such organisation and physical exertion isn’t what you would expect from the kind of louts who normally limit themselves to hanging around outside corner shops waiting for the chance to steal cigarettes or booze.

What a pity such organisational talents cannot be put to constructive use. These skills are the sort that you can get a badge for in the scouts and guides!

Surely when they have been caught and properly punished there is some way these youngsters’ enthusiasm for the challenge of orienteering at night can be channelled in a useful direction.

I agree with Darwen council’s reward and the hope that the offenders and their families should actually be made to pay to rectify the damage too.

There’s even some merit in the suggestion that the vandals should be named and shamed – not in an attempt to embarrass them (it probably won’t) but because it will infuriate their parents who are likely to have the same weird moral values as those mums and dads we saw on TV a few months ago making excuses for sons and daughters who had joined in the mass looting during last year’s riots.

The best idea I’ve heard to protect the tower in future came from the Telegraph reader who suggested a camera and fence should be put up which could be automatically locked if anyone was messing about after dark.

Miscreants would then be forced to sit the night out and shiver until breakfast-time when they could be released. On second thoughts there’s probably a law against doing that!