JOYRIDERS have destroyed a much-loved bridleway for the third time in recent weeks, despite measures being taken to block their access.

Rayne Parish Council chairman Ann Hooks said vandals in a speeding car smashed three wooden gates, cut padlocks and damaged a metal fence on the Flitch Way near Braintree in two separate incidents on August 12 and 14.

Essex Highways then installed a pair of large concrete blocks on the bridleway to stop cars accessing it, only to see joyriders slip past these on mopeds over the bank holiday weekend.

It is unclear how many people were involved or whether it is the same offenders each time.

According to Ann, the destruction and misuse of the bridleway has shocked residents.

She said: “We’ve tried to protect the village in case of any further incidents. When you get these kinds of incidents word gets around and people think the Flitch Way is a place for joyriding.

“The blocks are unsightly, we don’t want them there permanently but we’ve got to protect people. Lots of people use the Flitch.

“It’s not a road and nobody should be driving a car down it. There are two gates that are completely beyond repair and another one will need a new post. People are saddened it’s happening, and they’re concerned about safety in the village.”

Ann also noted CCTV cameras were tampered with at the nearby Booking Hall Café, leading her to suspect the joyriding was premeditated.

A spokesperson for Essex Highways said: “We are aware of recent vandalism on the Flitch Way and the team who manage the area have been working to limit the opportunities for further damage.

“We are very grateful for the residents who are supporting us in our efforts.

“Much of the country park is designated as a public bridleway and it is therefore necessary to manage the need to prevent people who wish to cause damage to the area, while still allowing safe access for pedestrians, cyclists and for horse riding.

“Any unauthorised vehicle is committing a traffic offence and anyone witnessing this is asked to report it to Essex Police immediately.”