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Highland police share top tips to campers over fire fears


By Hector MacKenzie

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Advice is being offered over fires in the countryside.
Advice is being offered over fires in the countryside.

HIGHLAND police are urging visitors planning camping at beauty spots to heed some "really useful advice".

Concerns over the impact of "dirty camping" has sparked a number of complaints in recent days over visitors who have not followed established codes of conduct.

Police have shared advice give by the National Trust for Scotland's Glencoe team.

They said: "It is clear some well-meaning visitors have not realised the environmental impact of their visits."

Staff there have been engaging with visitors about a number of issues, amongst them the use of camp fires.

Staff wrote: "It is clear that some of us could do with a wee refresh of the law (and good practice) when it comes to lighting fires in the countryside - important wherever you go, but particularly somewhere as precious as Glencoe and Glen Etive.

"The law says 'where possible' use a stove. We say, if you love this landscape, always go with the stove option as it causes far less long term damage in areas with a high volume of campers and campervans.

The thoughtless use of camp fires has prompted appeals to visitors.
The thoughtless use of camp fires has prompted appeals to visitors.

"If you still wish to light a fire, choose your fire site carefully. Doing so under trees can damage tree root systems, avoid areas of dry vegetation or peaty soils, which will continue to burn (underground and hidden from sight) and can cause wild fires. If you are unsure, do not take the risk.

"Never cut or damage trees (or fences) to top up a fire. It's tempting if you run out of wood, but it is vandalism. Green or living timber will kill all but the hottest fires anyway. To reduce temptation, leave axes at home.

"Remember dead wood is fantastic for wildlife too, so burning it will be taking away a home for bugs and fungi, especially vital in upland areas with limited woodland habitat.

"The law says 'leave no trace'. This includes stone circles, charred logs, scorched earth and obviously litter or disposable BBQs. Burning your rubbish might seem a good idea at the time, but it just creates smaller and more damaging particles of pollution.

"Not clearing up because everything is still too hot is not a reasonable justification. It is essential to douse your smouldering embers as soon as the fire is done with. Be prepared with plenty of water - its surprising just how much your will need, even for a small fire."

They add: "From our chats, many people feel they are being helpful by leaving a stone circle for the next camper or using one that already exists. The reality is a patch of grass with one scorch mark usually breeds another two or three the following weekend, so if you do not remove yours, our Rangers have to spend time dismantling and repairing the area after you have left.

"Responsible campers will probably spend as long, if not longer, clearing their camp area and removing signs of their presence than it took to get their fire going. If you are not prepared to do this, please don't light a fire in the first place.

"We don't want to sound like your mum, but if you are cold while camping, you can also put on a jumper, hat, scarf or blanket."

The advice urges anyone needing to brush up their fire-making and removing skills to practice in their gardens, check out tutorials on YouTube or book a bushcraft course. They add: "Best not to use a national nature reserve for a trial run..."

The Trust says that if it observes illegal camping, damage to protected habitats or antisocial behaviour "we and our neighbours report it to the police, whose officers are making increasingly regular patrols on summer evenings and the morning after".

It says it is grateful to police for these patrols and advises visitors who may "have had a few too many and are considering driving home" to bear that in mind.

It also flags useful advice from a variety of agencies:

www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/practical-guide-all/camping

www.mountaineering.scot/activities/hillwalking/camping

Related: Respect plea over antisocial behaviour

Wester Ross communities make appeal over antisocial behaviour


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