PAINTED stones laid in tribute to NHS heroes are being stolen by disrespectful visitors.

The artistic 'shrine' at Avon Beach in Mudeford was started by local residents at the very start of the pandemic.

Over the past year it has grown to hundreds of stones and rocks, many painstakingly decorated by families, children and even artists.

The site has become something of an attraction.

Now some of the more elaborate artwork has been taken, with the peak of the problem being over last week's half term.

Mudeford resident Gaynor Dervan who is the unofficial curator of the tribute said it was "disappointing and disrespectful".

She told the Echo: "A number of people, including local artists have contacted me to say their stones have been taken and that is incredibly sad and upsetting.

"I think it's more likely to be visitors to the area because the issue was more apparent during half term and in any event, local people have been very supportive of the project. They are very proud of it. It is our tribute to the amazing dedication of NHS staff and other key workers in the pandemic."

Bournemouth Echo:

She appealed for the stones to be left alone, added to not taken away.

Gaynor added: "This shows how important it is to get a permanent display for this, so it can be protected.

Mudeford and Friars Cliff ward councillor Lesley Dedman said she and colleague Cllr Paul Hilliard had been working with officers in the past few month and had now identified a suitable site.

"The plan was to move the stones to the permanent location in the autumn ahead of the winter weather, but if some of them are being taken we may need to move more quickly.

"This is a sad state of affairs. All the stones should be there for everyone to enjoy. It's awful that some people seem to think it's okay to take them as though they were just souvenirs of the seaside."

Cllr Dedman said the installation would being funded by the local community with help from Christchurch Town Council.