AROUND £20,000-worth of damage has been inflicted on a Valleys church after intruders went after gardening equipment kept inside.

The 800-year-old St Sannan's Church in Bedwellty was ransacked last week when the thieves kicked down an oak door frame, smashed windows and daubed swear words on the walls of the bell-ringing room.

They even threw a book of the names of the dead onto the floor.

The aim appears to have been lawn mowers and leaf blowers stored in the church's cellar, said Peter Jones, 67, husband of Reverend Brenda Jones, 66.

The church was previous targeted by thieves who went after lead flashing on the roof.

A dog walker reported the break-in to the police, said Mr Jones, who married his wife at St Sannan's 45 years ago.

"They broke into the tower through an old oak door, and into the main bit of the church," said Mr Jones. "They completely broke the next door down and there was damage in the ringing room where the ropes are, obscenities written on the wall and the office desk.

"It had to be scratched and scrubbed off."

Next the vandals tipped over a memorial cabinet and book containing the names of the dead buried in the churchyard, threw hymn books and pushed over chairs, said Mr Jones.

Candlestick holders were used to smash intruder alarms on the walls and, upon finding that they could not get into the vestry, the burglars smashed a 200-year-old leaded glass window, said Mr Jones.

Once inside the intruders found the keys to the cellar where gardening equipment - bought following a previous break-in - was kept for the pensioners who tend the churchyard and graves.

The machinery was recovered by Gwent Police, said Mr Jones, who praised the officers as "outstanding".

"It will be an extensive job to repair the glass," said Mr Jones of the internal lead window.

"A rough estimate made last Wednesday night came to around £20,000 to repair everything. The door itself will come to thousands because it's oak. The insurance company will carry the cost but we will have to pay the excess and we do struggle to maintain the building.

"There was no need for the vandalism when they were just after the keys to the cellar," he said.

The Rector of Bedwellty, Reverend Rosie Dymond said Mr Jones and others have worked hard to clean up and get the church ready for this week's art exhibition, which runs all week as part of Caerphilly Arts Week.

"The church is there for everybody, we want it to be open for people and we are there to help people, we run a food bank and want people to feel they can ask for help," she said. "But you can't keep repairing a building at this kind of cost."

GWENT Police are appealing for information about the burglary which they believed happened between 9.55am last Monday, August 11, and 10.15pm on Wednesday, August 13.

Three boys, one aged 15 and two aged 16, and two 16 year old girls, all local, were arrested on suspicion of burglary and have been bailed pending further enquiries.

If you have any information that could help call Gwent Police on 101 quoting log 525 of 13/8/2014.