A disposable barbecue among rubbish left by visitors to the Peak District. Photo: PDNPA

A disposable barbecue among rubbish left by visitors to the Peak District. Photo: PDNPA

Groups across the Peak District have come together to emphasise the message that barbecues are not allowed on open countryside across the national park.

The campaign, co-ordinated by the park authority, follows three major wildfires across the area.

The Peak District National Park Authority all the fires within the past week, at Bamford Edge, Dovestone and Swineshaw are believed to have started from discarded or unattended barbecues.

Open fires or barbecues are only allowed with the landowner’s permission, and all major owners in the national park have united to say they are not allowed. The authority as also asked retailers across the area voluntarily to remove disposable barbecues from sale.

A period of hot, dry weather and prolonged sunshine, combined with strong winds, created perfect conditions for fires to start in open countryside.

Teams from the fire and rescue services, national park rangers, the Peak District Moorland Group, farmers and gamekeepers, water companies and conservation charities have all been involved in both tackling the fires and speaking with the public having barbecues.

Major landowners, including the national park authority, have now come together to highlight the dangers of open fires in the landscape and impress upon the public that items such as barbecues may not be used on access land or on footpaths in the Peak District.

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “We’ve all had a really tough few months under Covid-19 restrictions. As lockdown has eased getting back into the outdoors and seeking sanctuary in nature is a natural and vital response to support our own recovery.

“Sadly, in recent weeks we have seen an unacceptable increase in discarded and unattended disposable barbecues and fires in open areas and have seen multiple large fires as a result.

“As we return to the countryside we must do so with care, and not damage the very fabric of why we choose to venture into these special places.

“We have welcomed the move by at least a dozen businesses to already remove disposable barbecue units from sale.

“I would like to leave the public in no doubt that having a barbecue or fire in the open countryside of the Peak District national park puts some of our most loved and treasured landscapes at risk, and is not permitted.”

In response to the recent fires, the Peak District National Park Foundation charity has launched a ‘Fire Fund’ aimed at supporting activities that help in the prevention of fires in the open countryside and those who are involved in tackling them and is seeking donations to the appeal.

A fire and rescue service spokesperson said: “Over recent months Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service have dealt with a significant number of wildfires in the Peak District. Many of these fires have caused significant damage to moorland and required multi-agency response.

“Response to wildfires can be consuming, tying up valuable firefighting resources from across the county and neighbouring services, over numerous days and weeks to extinguish.”

Sarah Fowler welcomed retailers decision on barbecues

Sarah Fowler welcomed retailers decision on barbecues

General manager Steve Wells added: “Barbecues and open fires are known to be the main cause of moorland wildfires. The fire service have been working hard to educate and inform the public about the dangers of having barbecues and camp fires on moorland when the ground is dry. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service fully supports the initiative to prevent the use of disposable barbecues, to protect our precious moorland from devastating fires.”

Jon Stewart general manager for the National Trust Peak District said: “We know that in current circumstances people want and need to get back out and enjoy the countryside again – it is so good for our health and wellbeing.

“We want that too, but please think of others; think of the environment and our precious wildlife; and don’t bring barbecues into the Peak District. It isn’t safe and they lead to huge problems.

“Enjoy a picnic instead and it is so much easier at the end of the day to tidy up your rubbish and take it home to dispose of properly.”

Alastair Harvey, lead countryside and woodland advisor at Yorkshire Water, said: “Barbecues are not permitted on Yorkshire Water land as they can have devastating impacts on local wildlife and peatland if they get out of control. We’ve had several issues over the past few weeks with barbecues, including a fire that damaged a bird’s nest in woodland adjacent to our Digley reservoir. Please enjoy your barbecues at home and help us protect our wonderful countryside.”

Nineteen organisations and bodies have backed the no-barbecues campaign, including the Chatsworth Estate, Moors for the Future Partnership, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Tissington Estate, United Utilities and local authorities.

Amanda Anderson from the Moorland Association, which represents owners and managers of commercial moors, said: “It has always been illegal to have a campfire or barbecue on any open access land without landowner permission.

“Privately funded Peak District moorland managers and gamekeepers have fought several fires shoulder-to-shoulder with the fire service in recent days. It is not acceptable that emergency services be drawn away to deal with avoidable incidents, let alone the damage that uncontrolled fires can have on the important habitats of our Peak District uplands.

“Enjoying your access with care for the wildlife and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods and call this place home has never been more important.”

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