Villagers in Stonehaugh say they were left outraged after totem poles on a popular picnic site were chopped down by the Forestry Commission.

A distinctive landmark in the village, the three totem poles had been in place at the Warksburn picnic site since 1982.

Villagers were dismayed after they were cut down and were left questioning whether they would be replaced.

Local resident, Graham Murfin, said: “From my house I had a clear view of the totem poles. I was shocked when I looked out my window and saw they had been chopped down. I was talking to a lot of people in the village and they were too.”

After being cut down before Christmas, the totem poles were then shortened to remove the rotten parts and re-erected behind Stonehaugh Community Hall last Sunday by local tradesman Jimmy Murray.

Mr Murfin added: “I would like to see them back in their original location.”

But the Forestry Commission, which owned the totem poles, said it had planned to chop down the poles for some time. Alex MacLennan from the commission explained: “It might have come as a shock to residents, but we have been in discussions with the community about taking down the poles for around a year.

“This is the second set of totem poles in the village and due to old age it was necessary that they came down before Christmas as they were rotting. We want to work with the village in a collaborative process and will happily supply three new poles.

“However, we do not have the means to pay for the replacements. We’re now waiting for the village to come back to us with ideas for the poles and establishing fund-raising that will help with the artistic work to design the poles.”

It is thought around £5,000 will need to be raised for the new designs.

Chairwoman of Wark Parish Council, Anne Hutchinson, said; “Unfortunately, the parish council does not have the resources to fund the new poles. Funding will need to be residents’ responsibility. There are a number of funding options that can be approached for help and will be possible to explore in the near future.”