A gardener has been left devastated after workmen left an 'horrific' scorch mark along the entire length of a near-century-old shrub which he's lovingly tended for the last two decades.
Chris Arter, 68, says his beautiful hawthorn hedge is a shadow of its former self after it was 'branded' with a perfect line by the exhaust of a workman's concrete cutting tool.
Brought up on a farm, Chris "likes hedges" and reckons it will take at least two years for his shrub, which is now littered with dead patches, to fully recover from the trauma.
Chris - known locally as 'Chris the Mole Man' for his job in mole catching - has regularly trimmed the hedge every month to keep it in good shape.
But he blames workmen installing broadband lines for the damage.
He says the red-hot exhaust of a concrete cutting disc inadvertently scalded a 20cm-wide line along his 23-foot0long hedge.
Chris claims the shrub - which dates back to the 1930s - was damaged as engineers sliced open the pavement outside his home in Halstead, Essex.
Ex-RAF man Chris said: "I was horrified when I saw the hedge. There was a brown line straight along it.
"It's a lovely hedge, it's been there since the house was built in the 1930s. I'm a country boy, I was brought up on a farm so I like hedges.
"I've been tending to that hedge for 20 odd years. I trim it once every month to keep it looking nice.
"It's going to get a long time to get that hedge back - couple of years I expect. The hedge is dying, it's covered in holes."
Chris claims engineering experts working on behalf of internet firm Gigaclear failed to apologise after causing the damage in May.
He said: "No one came around to apologise. They just cleared off. How could they leave a mess like that and not say anything?
"The company gave me a £4 box of bonemeal to make it grow back quicker. I was not impressed with that."
Chris, who's lived at the property with his wife for 23 years, is now demanding compensation for the hedge but says he hasn't heard from either company since June.
"If it was a brick wall there would be a cost. I don't know how much a hedge is worth.
"If they'd come around and said sorry I would have accepted it, but to be totally ignored."
A spokesperson for Gigaclear said the company tried to contact Chris after a story about his ordeal appeared in the local press on Friday (July 30).
They added: "We have apologised and look forward to reaching a mutually agreeable resolution.
"Delivering and installing this infrastructure is an enormous undertaking, which can sometimes be disruptive.
"Unfortunately, on this occasion, the machinery used by our contractors to dig and reinstate the pavement accidentally damaged a hedge.
"We have contacted the resident to apologise and are currently in discussions with him regarding a resolution.
"Gigaclear has been working hard to bring ultrafast full-fibre broadband to several homes and businesses in the Halstead area, to enable the community to benefit from fast, reliable broadband speeds."