VANDALS smashed play equipment, stole toys and gardening tools, and smeared dog muck in a nursery’s play area.

The ‘disgraceful’ attack on Humpty Dumpties Nursery left youngsters unable to play outside yesterday.

The offenders climbed over high wooden fence to gain access to the padlocked area where toys were stored.

Staff said they were devasted when they discovered the damage at 7.45am yesterday when they arrived at work.

Debbie Humphrey, the owner of the Darwen nursery, said: “It seems as though they’ve pulled a park bench up against the side of the fence and jumped over into the yard.

“They’ve gone through our little outdoor cupboard that we keep all our gardening and play equipment in and have thrown some of it around, smashed some of it up and stolen a couple of things.

“It just makes no sense.

“I don’t know if it was kids messing about, but I sort of hope it was because if it was someone being nasty or targeting us on purpose, it’s very worrying.

“We’ve opened as normal but the children won’t be able to play out until I’ve been able to clean everything up.”

Amongst the items stolen were the children’s large wooden building blocks which would have been difficult to lift over the fence at the nursey which is based at Darwen Access Point, in Duckworth Street.

Debbie said she drove past her nursery on Saturday night but did not see anything suspicious.

She said: “Often when I pass by, I pop in for something but I had no need to that night.

“I really wish I had now.”

Police are investigating the scene of the incident which they believe to have happened any time between 6pm on Friday and 7.30am on Monday.

A police spokeswoman said: “It would appear that the offenders have gained entry to the rear yard and have taken toys from the shed and thrown them about the yard.

“Dog excrement has also been smeared across the rear door. They have also stolen some of the children’s gardening tools and toys.”

PC Mohammed Jogee said: “This is absolutely disgraceful, and we are very keen to trace the people responsible.”

The vandalism has taken place just as the nursery is getting ready to move to new premisis in Darwen Valley Community Centre, Sudellside Street, after it was announced the Access Point was to be closed and sold off due to budget cuts by the borough council.

Debbie said: “This really couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

“Some of the wooden building blocks and plastic tubes they have stolen or broken may not seem like much but some of them cost up to about £400.

“I don’t have much money as it is and with the move coming up, it’s really going to be a struggle to replace everything.

“More than anything, this is just so sad for the children.

“I feel so sorry for them that they will have to go without when they’ve done nothing wrong.”

Anyone who may have information or think they could help with police enquiries is urged to contact 101 and quote log number LC-20131007-0176.