A FARMER who manages an estate near Basingstoke is speaking out of his terror after being plagued by incidents of vandalism and hare coursing.

Clive Hancock who manages the Moundsmere Estate – eight miles away from Basingstoke town centre – has reported 13 incidents of vandals breaking into his property in the middle of the night since November 1.

He said five of those incidents occurred in the fortnight before Christmas Day.

Basingstoke Gazette: Damage caused by hare coursersDamage caused by hare coursers (Image: Contributed)

The Hampshire Police Countrywatch team has identified the area including Moundsmere Estate as a hotspot for hare coursing reports in a presentation to the Hampshire County NFU (National Farmers Union) annual general meeting and the incidents have escalated since then.

Hare coursing is the pursuit of hares with greyhounds and poaching refers to illegal hunting of wild animals.

READ MORE: Residents urged to contact police after hare coursing rise

Calling the criminal activity “really horrible”, Mr Hancock said the accumulative damage of facing all vandalism incidents is enormous.

“This is by far the worst intensity of criminal activity we have seen and the other farm manager here says it is has not been this bad in his 40 years in the area,” Mr Hancock said.

“Every other night, in the early hours of the morning, they gain access to our fields by cutting our gates off and then drive across the fields, doing lots of damage.

“On December 19 at night, they pulled out an entire gate post, drove across our fields, and then went into our neighbour’s farm and destroyed his property.

“It’s not just our estate that is affected by them, all of the surrounding farms have experienced them as well, we just happen to be at the centre of it.”

Cases of illegal hare coursing and poaching across the South East are soaring, leading to a huge rise in damage to crops and farm property.

NFU members have said they have seen a significant rise over the past few months in vandals breaking into their properties, leaving gates broken and fields damaged following illegal hare coursing and poaching.

Mr Hancock said one particularly harrowing incident occurred one weekend at the estate where vandals entered a holiday cabin on his land in the early hours and woke up two women who were staying there.

He added: “They had head torches on and bizarrely said they were police before accusing the girls of trespassing and drinking.

“Thankfully, they left without any assault taking place but the girls’ car was parked about half a mile away and they took a gas bottle to their car and wrecked their doors and windows.

Basingstoke Gazette: The car damaged by the hare coursersThe car damaged by the hare coursers (Image: Contributed)

“We don’t know if it’s the same people doing it. We have CCTV footage from when they broke into the grounds of the property the other night but haven’t been able to identify them.”

Mr Hancock met with several officers from the Basingstoke Rural South police force who acknowledged hare-coursing is often a precursor to more serious crimes and that while they take the matter seriously, other crimes may require them to necessarily divert their resources.

SEE ALSO: Basingstoke man Jordan House charged as teenager assaulted

Hampshire County Adviser Ben Gibbons said: “Hare coursing is a serious crime which puts people, animals and property at risk, and the NFU has been campaigning on members' behalf for better protection for a number of years.

“We saw an increase in penalties and changes in legislation giving police further powers to deal with hare coursing, but it's ultimately intelligence which will help police make arrests.

“We urge members in Hampshire to continue reporting any suspicious activity to the police via 101 or DISC. If it is a ‘live’ incident, always dial 999.

“Providing a grid reference via what3words can also help with accurate information to the police.”

Hampshire Police have emphasised how challenging it is to catch these individuals in rural areas and urged members of the farming community to continue to report cases of hare coursing with a meeting to be held in January with NFU members to update them on activity in rural areas.