The National Trust is urging people not to bring a barbecue or light a campfire when they visit the coast and countryside, following a spate of wildfires during lockdown.
Despite recent rainfall, a record-breaking spring of sunshine has left many landscapes dry and created the perfect conditions for fires to ignite and quickly spread.
Since the start of April, several large blazes have broken out on the Trust’s land, including one near the Devon coast that was started by a barbecue and required six fire engines and a police helicopter to extinguish; one at a heathland site on the Wirral that is home to lizards and tiger beetles; and a 2km moorland blaze in West Yorkshire that tore through the nests of rare ground-nesting birds.
Rangers at the Trust have reported a rise in people bringing barbecues to the countryside, as extended spells of good weather have coincided with the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The late May bank holiday saw beauty spots including Formby Beach in Merseyside, Birling Gap in East Sussex and the North York Moors recording their busiest day ever for visitor numbers.
At Studland Beach, where the risk of wildfire was extreme, fire crews extinguished 30 unattended barbecues in a single night.
Many sites have also noticed an increase in litter – which not only blights the landscape and poses a threat to wildlife but can fuel wildfires.
With drier weather set to return this weekend, the charity is calling on those making trips to the coast and countryside not to bring a barbecue or leave litter behind.
Ben McCarthy, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: “We know that people have missed the outdoors and open spaces these past few months – and we’re really pleased to be welcoming them back. But we’re urging people not to bring barbecues to the countryside or the coast. They can lead to real problems, particularly after such little rain in April and May. Many areas of land are still very dry and all it takes is a single spark from a barbecue or a dropped cigarette to cause a serious fire. Fires like these undermine our work to care for nature and respond to the climate emergency, which are priorities for the National Trust. Our local teams and the fire services are working hard to keep the countryside and coast safe for everyone, but resources are stretched. Please think of others; think of the wildlife; think of our emergency services; and don’t bring barbecues to the beach or countryside.”