The founders of a charity have been left 'shocked and devastated' after callous burglars broke in and stole thousands of pounds of equipment.

Colin Oliphant and his wife Linda have been running the Sholing Valleys Study Centre for 40 years, recording local wildlife and educating people about the natural wonders on our doorstep.

They spent years saving up to buy equipment to improve their community events, which are run by volunteers.

Daily Echo: The window had been forced away from the wall and padlocks from the wooden shutters were found nearbyThe window had been forced away from the wall and padlocks from the wooden shutters were found nearby (Image: NQ)But this was wiped out when the criminals ripped the office window off the wall of the study centre in Station Road, Sholing, at around 6.30am on Easter Sunday.

They stole around £4,000 of equipment, including a laptop, a Cannon camera, the CCTV hard drive and system, four bat detectors – each costing £200 to £300 - and a box of keys.

The team were due to host a 10-hour activity day with talks, a bat walk and a snap survey of the flora and fauna of Miller's Pond just before they discovered what had happened.

Daily Echo: Broken padlocks were found nearby to the break-inColin, 71, said: “One of our volunteers got here at about nine o’clock on Sunday morning and he was in a panic after what he saw.

“The thieves had cut the locks off of the gates and shutters and pulled the entire window from its frame."

READ MORE: BMW motorbike and Cube mountain bike theft terrifies family

He added: “In that moment I felt shock, upset and disgust. We are volunteers and we give up our time because we love what we do here.

“It took us years to raise enough money to buy laptops and big cameras. It makes me feel sick that someone just pulled open the window and helped themselves.

“As the box of keys were also stolen we will have to get all the locks replaced on the building.”

Daily Echo: Finger prints could be seen on one of the gates at the centreDespite having no equipment, the show must go on - so the team rallied around and the event still went ahead.

Colin and Linda set up the study centre in 1983 to stop the council developing the Miller's Pond local nature reserve.

In their time, they have recorded more than 1,000 species at the reserve and counting - including otters, grizzled skippers, 37 species of spiders, 27 butterflies, 63 moths, and sightings of the white-tailed eagle.

Daily Echo: The Sholing Valleys Study Centre on station RoadThe centre gets most of its funding through donations and local community events such as their bird box making event - which makes a small profit from the sale of the boxes.

Colin said he will be investing in metal roller shutters to stop a repeat incident.

A spokesperson for Hampshire police said: “Officers are investigating following a burglary at Sholing Valleys Study Centre, Station Road.

“The offenders took a number of items including a laptop and radios.

“Anyone with information should contact us online or on 101 quoting 44240135625."