EASTER visitors to the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District are being asked to be particular vigilant about fire risks this Easter as moorland fires already rage on the North York Moors.
The spring draught, the unseasonably high temperatures and the anticipated rush of holiday tourists to the countywide could spell disaster at a critical time of the year when many rare birds are nesting on open moorland.
In the past, fires caused by careless visitors have been known to last for days. If they penetrate deep into the peat in some areas, they can last for weeks, if not months, and cause long standing ecological damage.
The Duke of Westminster has already closed public access to some parts of his Abbeystead Estate on the edge of the Forest of Bowland for fear of damage to his famous grouse moors from carelessly discarded cigarettes, camp fires or barbecues. Douglas Chalmers, Regional Director of the Country Landowners' and Business Association, warns: "This is a very real threat. The fires already burning are just a hint of what may happen in the coming days. Easter weekend promises to bring a record number of visitors to the countryside, which combined with abnormally dry conditions is quite simply a disaster waiting to happen."