Loughborough Echo

Urgent plea against lighting fires in county woodlands


- By DAVID OWEN News Reporter

THE Woodland Trust has issued an urgent plea for people not to light fires at its countrysid­e sites as the school summer holidays get into full swing.

The national woodland conservati­on charity cites a series of incidents which have damaged Martinshaw Wood, near Groby, earlier this year, as an example of the harm that can be done.

Martinshaw Wood sits in a “picturesqu­e” 254-acre area of the National Forest.

It features a “diverse range of habitats and wildlife”, according to the Woodland Trust website and has links to nearby woods and an extensive path network.

The wood - which is popular with walkers, cyclists and even horse riders - was one of nine sites managed by the trust damaged by fires, so far, in 2021.

The plea for visitors to Woodland Trust sites - including those across Leicesters­hire - behave responsibl­e comes three years on from a devastatin­g blaze which destroyed swathes of moorland and wildlife in Lancashire.

The trust is launching a national “love your woods” campaign which aims to encourage people visiting its woodlands and moorlands to “leave no trace” and help the protection of its special sites.

Barbecues and small fires on moorland and woodland - which can all too easily get out of hand and damage wildlife and habitats - as the prime culprits in a majority of incidents, it warns.

A spokespers­on for the Woodland Trust said: “In the summer of 2018, which also saw a drought, fire swept through the moorland at Smithills, near Bolton, damaging a third of the 1,700 hectare site, killing around 2,000 trees, wiping out habitats and displacing rare birds such as curlew.

“It took weeks for the fire service and the Woodland Trust to bring the fire under control and costs for the ongoing recovery are rising above £1 million.”

They added: “This year, a fire at Cave Hill in Northern Ireland damaged a large area of the site, while at Castle Hills in Northumber­land and Martinshaw in Leicesters­hire there have been a series of fires.”

Al Crosby, the Woodland Trust’s regional director for northern England, said it was vital that people enjoy themselves responsibl­y at its sites.

“They are wonderful places to visit, with so much diversity – from mountainou­s Ben Shieldaig in Scotland, and the moorlands of Smithills, to community woods and lowland forests towards the south of England, and everything in between,” he said.

“We, of course, want people to enjoy them but also to take care of them, which is why we have launched this campaign.

“It’s all about recognisin­g what’s special about these places, and how visitors can show their love for them and help us to keep them that way.” Mr Crosby added: “Our key message is to people – help us to protect the precious woods and wildlife near you – please don’t light fires, it poses untold risk to people and wildlife.

“Even if peop le think they are in control, one minute it can soon change and the affects can absolutely catastroph­ic.” At Smithills, the charity is rewetting the moorland to keep it in a more moist condition to boost a healthy habitat and the growth of sphagnum moss, while birds such as curlew, snipe and golden plover have started to make a return. The trust estimates it will take 10 to 15 years before the landscape will get back to how it was before the fire. It will continue to restore the site and plant more trees, it said.

 ??  ?? CAMPAIGN: Visitors to the countrysid­e are being encouraged to ‘love your woods’, protecting habitats and their wildlife
CAMPAIGN: Visitors to the countrysid­e are being encouraged to ‘love your woods’, protecting habitats and their wildlife
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