An historic painting of a white horse which was etched onto rocks more than one hundred years ago has been vandalised by 'mindless' yobs.
Over the years, the picture, which is believed to date back to at least 1887, has been regularly repainted and cared for by the local people.
But now yobs have used black spray-paint to vandalise the horse, writing the word 'flame' in block capitals across the white painting.
Teaching assistant June McLeod spotted the vandalism last week when she was walking her dog near the site - at the end of Cleadon Hills in Marsden Old Quarry.
The 52-year-old, who lives nearby, said: "I was out with the dog and a woman came over to me and asked for directions to the White Horse.
"She was with her daughter and they weren’t from round here, so they must have heard of it and wanted to have a look.
"I told her where it was and then the next day it made me think about it so I went to have a look.
"At first I saw the sign which had graffiti all over it and when I wandered up and saw the horse I couldn't believe it.
"The horse has been there for so long and lots of people talk about it, and to think that someone was mindless enough to graffiti all over it is really sad.
"The woman who came to see it would have seen it looking like that, and it is such a shame.
"It does have a history of being vandalised. It has been painted black and white and red and white from time to time but I just think it is so sad that people would do that."
Coun Tracey Dixon, councillor for the Whitburn and Marsden ward, said: "This is something that’s been there for many, many years, and it’s quite important to people.
"It is so sad that mindless people think it is fine to totally destroy it. Hopefully, if someone knows who has done this, they’ll come forward."
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: "We are aware of this recent graffiti incident and are monitoring the situation.
"We are investigating funding opportunities for a project to restore the white horse and the surrounding cliffs, which will include the removal of graffiti and old paint.
"This will not only improve the look of the area, but will benefit local wildlife."
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