A popular park was targeted by arsonists just days before one of the town’s biggest events of the year.

Fire crews were called to Halstead Public Gardens, off Trinity Street, amid reports bushes had been set on fire.

The blaze quickly spread to a rubbish bin before being put out by firefighters.

Essex Police has launched an investigation into the incident and is appealing for witnesses.

The fire comes just days before May Day celebrations will take place in the public gardens.

Linda Hilton, of Friends of Halstead Public Gardens which organises the annual event, said: “I think when the weather gets nice it starts to attract these people to the gardens.

“It’s sad to hear this kind of thing has happened again but we’re hopeful the gardens will look their best.

“We’ve told the police about the problems there so they are aware.”

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “We were called with reports of a fire in Kings Road, Halstead at around 6pm on Tuesday, May 1.

“It was reported the fire had been started deliberately in some bushes and had spread to a rubbish bin.

“If you have any information please call us on 101.”

Essex Fire and Rescue Service confirmed the fire had been started deliberately and was “quickly extinguished”.

It is not known what damage was caused by the blaze.

A man in his twenites was also reported to have suffered a head injury in the park around the same time as the incident. It is unclear if this was linked to the fire.

A spokesman for East England Ambulance Service said: “We dispatched an ambulance to the scene where they treated a man in his twenties for a head injury.

“The patient refused transport to the hospital and was discharged at the scene.”

The incident comes 12 months after vandals started a fire and covered the gardens in paint on the eve of the May Day event.

They broke into the gardeners’ shed and started a fire with a leftover Guy Fawkes, before covering the bandstand and benches in paint.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact 101 quoting incident 926 of 01/05.