A substantial rise in people lighting barbecues in the countryside as lockdown eases is increasing the risk of wildfires after a dry spring.
National Trust rangers said they have seen an increase in litter and people making fires or using disposable barbecues as rules are relaxed.
But despite some recent rainfall, the record-breaking sunny spring has left many landscapes dry and at risk of fires starting and spreading quickly.
Now, the National Trust is urging visitors not to bring a barbecue or light a campfire and to take their litter home with them from its land.
The trust has seen several large blazes since the start of April, including one at Froward Point, Devon, on May 24 which was started by a barbecue and took six fire engines and a police helicopter to extinguish.
Other recent blazes, with unknown causes, include a large fire at Thurstaston Common, the Wirral, on May 28, burning heathland that is home to lizards and tiger beetles, and a large fire on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire, on April 6, after which burnt curlew eggs were found.
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Fire crews put out 30 unattended barbecues in one night at Studland Beach, in Dorset, which the trust said is at extreme risk of wildfire,.
Many sites have also seen more litter, which the National Trust said is unsightly and a threat to wildlife, and can increase the risk of wildfires.
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. 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.”
Mr McCarthy added the issue of litter had also increased, warning: “We absolutely want people to experience the beautiful natural places we look after and enjoy a picnic in the outdoors – but it’s not OK to drop rubbish and expect someone else to pick it up for you.”
People should hold on to rubbish until they find a bin, or better still, take it home with them, he said.