Bristol farmer’s shock after arsonists descend on Yew Tree Farm setting fencing and hedgerows alight

Fencing and hedgerows were ‘deliberately’ set on fire
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A Bristol farmer has described the moment she frantically tried to put out several fires with a sweater after a field close to where her flock of sheep were grazing was targeted by arsonists.

Fencing and hedgerows were set ablaze in the attack which happened on Bridgwater Road near Yew Tree Farm in Bedminster Down on Sunday (April 3) at around 4.30pm.

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Farmer Catherine Withers was alerted to the fires when she looked out of the window of her home and noticed her sheep had ‘lifted her heads’ as if they’d ‘noticed someone coming towards them’.

She told BristolWorld: “Unfortunately, I was already on high alert because one of our sheep was involved in a dog attack recently.

Farmer Catherine Withers shared footage of the moment she encountered the fires.Farmer Catherine Withers shared footage of the moment she encountered the fires.
Farmer Catherine Withers shared footage of the moment she encountered the fires.

“I went to the front of the house and even though I couldn’t see anyone, I heard voices and suddenly there was a ‘pop’.

“Then I saw all the smoke. I fetched my partner and we both ran off in opposite directions to try and tackle the fires.

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“I took off my sweater and tried to bash out the fires with it, but they kept relighting.

“I’m so glad that the grass was damp that day. If it hadn’t been, I imagine we’d have lost hundreds of trees. The fencing would definitely have been gone.”

Two crews from Bedminster Fire Station arrived shortly afterwards and extinguished the fires using a high pressure hose reel, three aquapacks and grass beaters.

A spokesperson for Avon Fire and Rescue confirmed: “The cause of the fire is thought to be deliberate.”

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Yew Tree Farm is Bristol’s oldest working farm and currently at the centre of a planning battle after the site was earmarked for 200 new homes by developers.

The fires were set off right on the edge of the greenfield site where the proposed houses could be built.

Ms Withers, whose grandfather bought the farm in the 1960s, is keen to protect the farm at all costs.

She said: “I find it tragic and sad that someone has done this, but at the moment I have to appear fearless.”

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It is understood that Avon and Somerset Police are investigating the incident.

It is not known if it is linked to a spate of arson attacks that happened in Bristol on the same day, which saw dozens of vehicles set alight in areas of north Bristol including Bradley Stoke, Stoke Gifford and Filton.

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