A FUNDRAISING campaign has been launched in a bid to get East Dorset Heritage Trust's specially-adapted tractor back on the road.

The charity's tractor and trailer, used to take elderly residents of nursing homes, youngsters with disabilities and others with mobility problems around Moors Valley Country Park was stolen last month.

While the adapted trailer was later discovered, vandalised and abandoned, the tractor has not been found.

Dorset Council has since agreed to lend the trust a tractor, and a number of local businesses came forward to offer their assistance in the aftermath.

Trust manager Sarah Evans said: "We are overwhelmed by the number of people who have come forward to offer their sympathies and help and many of them have asked us if we have a fund that they can contribute to.

"We have therefore set up a campaign page on Just Giving where every penny donated will help to get the scheme back up and running and keep it going for the future.

"We are so very grateful to everyone who has offered help and support for this wonderful scheme."

The initiative was started at the country park, near Ashley Heath, more than 20 years ago.

Since then, hundreds of people have benefited from the project.

Speaking to the Daily Echo in the aftermath of the theft, Mrs Evans said: "We are truly devastated. This project which is funded by donations and run by volunteers, makes such a difference to the lives of those who use it.

"We are now left having to disappoint the very people that benefit from this wonderful activity, it is just heartbreaking.

"We are very, very proud we've been able to maintain this over the years. These people we help aren't normally able to get out and enjoy the countryside.

"They cannot get under trees or feel the fresh air on their faces very often.

"So we give them that opportunity through the summer months to be taken to Moors Valley."

Meanwhile, Matthew Reeks, Dorset Council's community and open spaces manager, said: "We have pledged to provide the Trust with one of our tractors to allow the rides around the park to continue.

"We very much hope the stolen tractor is recovered, but until then, we’ll do all we can to help.”

Visit justgiving.com/campaign/savethetractor to support the campaign.