A veteran pre-school manager had the heartbreaking job last week of telling her tiny charges that vandals had destroyed their toys and gardening tools.

Evelyn Williamson, who has worked for Old Windsor pre-school for 27 years received the call on Wednesday evening that the children's little shed and plastic greenhouse behind the Memorial Hall in Straight Road had been destroyed by fire, taking the toys and tools with it.

Vandals are believed to have been responsible.

Mrs Williamson, 67, of Church Road, Old Windsor, said: "It was difficult to explain to the children next morning what had happened. They are only three or four. But I had to tell them their toys had been lost."

But she has been overwhelmed by the response after she put what had happened on the village's Facebook page.

"The village has been wonderful. People have rallied round, knocking on the door offering help."

She said: "It could have been much worse. People in Straight Road saw the blaze and called the fire brigade. There are a lot of conifers between the shed and the Stanley House flats next door. If they had caught fire it could easily have spread there or to the Memorial Hall."

The pre-school has been in operation since 1964 and has seen generations of villagers passing through its doors with toddlers who used to use it bringing their own children.