A BIRD watching hide has been destroyed after mindless vandals decided to set it on fire at a popular beauty spot.

The fierce fire was spotted by keen photographer Marie Bull who was out with her husband trying to capture the sunset at Two Tree Island, Leigh.

Marie, 48, who calls the nature reserve one of her favourite spots, said: “I often visit the nature reserve at Two Tree Island to photograph the beautiful sunsets as they drop behind the water and wildlife on the estuary.

“At around 7.30pm on Sunday evening, my husband and I were heading down one of the gravel footpaths on the western side of the island towards the wildlife lagoon.

“At that point we noticed smoke coming from an area where I know there is a bird watching hide.

“As we got closer, the smoke became thicker but as the hides are tucked into the bushes, it wasn’t until we got much closer that we noticed flames.

“My husband called the emergency services as, although it was clear there was little anyone could do to save the hut itself, and we didn’t believe anyone was still inside, we were worried the fire might spread to the surrounding bushes and trees.

“It soon engulfed the entire wooden structure which later collapsed.

“Three fireman quickly arrived on foot and assured us that an off road vehicle with water supply, was on its way.

“I left the sad sight in the capable hands of the emergency services and headed home.”

Another woman, who lives nearby and has asked not to be named, said she saw the smoke from miles away.

The 42-year-old woman added: “I saw this thick black smoke billowing into the sky and then realised there were lost of blue lights nearby.

“It’s a shame someone has done that but it doesn’t surprise me. It used to be such a nice area to visit.”

Two fire crews from Essex fire service attended and worked to stop the fire from spreading.

The firefighters determined the blaze had been started deliberately.

The hide is maintained by the Essex Wildlife Trust and is one of only a handful in the area.

Marie added: “I think that particular hut had only recently had a new roof fitted.

“It is heart-breaking that Essex Wildlife Trust fund the maintenance of these facilities in an effort to allow everyone the opportunity to learn about and enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the wildlife, nature and surrounding shrub lands, only for the mindless few to ruin it.”

Essex Wildlife Trust has been contacted for comment but did not respond by the time the Echo went to print.