CHEPSTOW faces a race against time to rid its town centre of fresh graffiti to avoid losing marks in the annual Wales in Bloom competition.

Town council staff at The Gatehouse found the word ‘Polo’ and swear words daubed on a wall under the adjacent town arch and the same scrawled on the side of the Palmer Community Centre.

The Boatman sculpture was subject to a third attack around the same time, when parts of his body were covered in white paint. The figure was constructed by artist and competition winner Andre Wallace as part of a major regeneration scheme in the town in 2004.

Town council clerk Sandra Bushell said she and the town councillors were devastated and angry such an incident could occur, and in the weeks leading up to such a prestigious competition.

In 2011, Chepstow won first prize in the Best Small Town category, after three years of finishing as runnersup.

Mrs Bushell said the arch wall could be resprayed without much damage, as it was intentionally covered with a special anti-graffiti paint in 2008.

But she said the council was now faced with an urgent clean-up operation as they bid to retain the title.

Wales in Bloom judges are due to visit Chepstow on July 20.

“I think it is very upsetting when everybody is trying to make the town look good,” she said.

Cllr Peter Farley, who represents St Mary’s Ward, said he too was disappointed.

“I think it’s a shame that people do this on public buildings. Wales in Bloom is very important and I hope everyone will want the town to look its best for then,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Gwent Police said the incident was reported on June 25 and officers were investigating.

Anyone with information should call 101.