Marsden Moor and Dovestone - rangers and campaigners warn of increased fire and litter risk this half term

Date published: 01 June 2021

National Trust rangers are warning of a continuing risk of fires on Marsden Moor, after a busy Bank Holiday weekend.

Staff and volunteers patrolled key locations over the past few days and stopped a number of visitors taking BBQs onto the moors.

Yesterday (Monday), fire crews were called to extinguish a lit BBQ at Eastergate.

Two years ago, a BBQ in the same location caused a huge fire that destroyed 700 hectares of the moors.

BBQs and fires are banned on the moors all year round to protect the landscape and wildlife.

Visitors are reminded that defying the BBQ ban could result in a fine of up to £2,000.

In April this year, a major fire destroyed two square miles of moorland.

It took fire crews three days to extinguish the fire and the National Trust called in a specialist helicopter team to assist.

It’s estimated repairing the damage will cost around £200,000.

Rangers found burnt nests and eggs from ground nesting birds among the fire damage.

Countryside Manager for the National Trust, Craig Best, said: “It’s so frustrating that the message doesn’t seem to be getting through to the public.

"BBQs and fires are not allowed on Marsden Moor and can cause huge destruction.

“The recent fires have really taken their toll on our team, especially as we are doing everything we can to protect this precious landscape.

"It’s heart-breaking to see our work literally going up in smoke.”

Much of the work at Marsden involves improving the moor’s resilience to future fires.

Rangers have been planting sphagnum mosses and building small natural dams to ‘rewet’ 2,000 hectares of peat bogs which trap rainwater and carbon and help stop the spread of flames.

Along roadsides, where fires are likely to take hold, strips of vegetation have been mowed to reduce the amount of potential fuel.

Overflowing bins during the bank holiday weekend at Dovestone

Mr Best added: “Nearly all moorland fires are started by people; either by litter, dropped cigarettes, BBQs or deliberately.

"We need everyone to take responsibility to help us care for this landscape for generations to come.

“We’re grateful for help from the public, our volunteers, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and West Yorkshire Police.

"We’ll continue our moorland patrols but can’t be everywhere at once.

"If the public see a lit BBQ on the moors, they should call 999 and ask for the fire service.”

The ban on BBQs and fires on Marsden Moor runs all year round and is part of a PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order).

Meanwhile, local campaigners from the Oldham and Saddleworth Green Party are urging visitors at Dovestone to take home their litter after enjoying their time at the Saddleworth beauty spot..

Brian Banawich, who lives in Greenfield, said: "It's a beautiful place and we all need to take care of our green spaces.

"When the weather is warm the bins fill up instantly and people need to consider taking their litter home to dispose of.

"The litter left around overflowing bins poses a real danger to wildlife and any wind can scatter the litter over a wide area.

"The message needs to be, if you bring it take it away with you."

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