Blundering gravediggers using a JCB dug up an ancient green space by mistake, a council has admitted.
Three learner contractors wrecked the “unspoilt gem” in Frome, Somerset, after being told to dig a practice grave.
They managed to dig up a green space next to the cemetery.
It happened in Easthill Cemetery, Mendip District Council said.
The beauty spot has been the subject of a dispute over its future, and campaigners recently managed to convince the council to pause plans to build 77
affordable homes on the site.
A formal public meeting is now to be held before a decision is made about its future.
Mark Player, of the Friends of Easthill Field campaign group, said he was horrified to find men in high-vis jackets on the field with a mechanical digger on Jan 28.
He said his fellow activists were “intensely upset” about damage done to the field, which he claimed has been left looking “really untidy”.
“We feel passionately about this field because it’s not just a bit of agricultural land that has been intensively farmed; it hasn’t been touched by human development at all,” he told BBC Somerset.
The field has been described as “a peerless, unspoilt gem in Frome’s natural crown” by campaigners, and it is home to wildlife including endangered dormice.
A spokesman for Mendip District Council said the field was “our only available location” for gravedigging practice in light of funeral services that were taking place at the cemetery.
He said: “Having reviewed the situation and discussed the matter with all parties involved, I am satisfied this was simply a communication error with no malintent, albeit with significant consequences.”