A group of gipsies have moved on to parkland next to an historic abbey which is set to be the centre of a country town's VE Day celebrations.

The travellers have set up camp on Abbey Park, in the shadow of Pershore Abbey in Pershore, Worcestershire, as a protest against being evicted from land at nearby Eckington.

Wychavon District Council has served the group, who arrived at the site on Sunday, with an order to leave the park by 4pm today.

A celebration for the 60th anniversary of VE Day is due to be held there next week.

Jack Hegarty, the local authority's managing director, said: "This is a well-planned trespass of the council's land at Abbey Park in the setting of the abbey and close to the children's playground.

"The park is surrounded by residential properties. We are liaising with West Mercia Police and legal action is being taken."

The dispute dates back to May Bank Holiday weekend last year when the families moved on to land at Eckington, near Bredon Hill, south Worcestershire, on the fringes of the Cotswolds.

The gipsies bought the land but the council immediately served them with an injunction to prevent any work being carried out without planning permission and order them off the site.

There has been a lengthy legal process since then, including a planning inquiry last October which found in favour of the council and its view that the site was unsuitable for development.

The families moved out on April 15 after unsuccessfully appealing for an extended period in which to comply with the order for them to leave.

One of the group, Mark Birmingham, aged 36, said they only wanted to stay on the Eckington site until September when the appeal against the injunction is heard.

"We've moved on to Abbey Park as a protest against the council. We have done everything by the book. We've asked them to find us somewhere but they won't."

Ian Marshall, Wychavon's head of legal and support services, served the dispersal notice on Monday.

He described the move on to the site at Eckington as "very well orchestrated" and did not rule out possible arrests if the gipsies did not move.

But he defended the council against claims that there was not enough provision for gipsies in the district.

Mr Marshall said they had made "extensive provision" for gipsies with preference being given to local families.

The Eckington families appeared to have "migrated" from the south of England and were therefore at the bottom of the list, he added.