Ban on Ham Hill barbecues

SOUTH Somerset rangers are encouraging people to have picnics at Ham Hill rather than barbecues, which are now banned due to the high fire risk and damage they cause at the Iron Age hillfort.

For the last 15 years, barbecues have been catered for at Ham Hill, with stone plinths erected near the rangers centre. Disposable barbecues have grown in popularity over the last ten years and the barbecue area cannot cater for more than two or three groups at a time. This has led to more and more barbecues being used throughout the country park on sensitive grassland and near tinder dry meadows and woodlands, damaging the fragile plants and wildflowers and putting the site at risk of a large fire.

The last few summers have been so dry that the countryside team have had to ban barbecues at Ham Hill, so this year the decision has been taken to make this move a permanent one, all year round to protect the environment.

Countryside Ranger Paul McNeill says “Disposable barbecues are not good for the environment in many ways. They scorch the grass below them, damaging the plants & wildflowers.

“When people have finished their barbecues, in our experience, they are often left hot and unsupervised for several hours after they have been used. With so much dry grass and standing dead trees due to ash dieback, this puts the site at risk of a large uncontrolled fire, like the fires we have seen at Wareham Forest over the last couple of years. The hot barbecues are also a burn risk to children and dogs, who may not see them on the ground before it’s too late.”

The permanent stone barbecue plinths near the rangers centre have already been removed, and No BBQ signs are in place, so please remember to just take picnics, and not barbecues to Ham Hill.

Barbecues have always been banned at Chard Reservoir and campfires are not allowed at Yeovil Country Park, but barbecues are allowed at the designated area at Ninesprings opposite the café, where the grassland is not as fragile as Ham Hill and there is very little dead wood, that could be a fire hazard.

Picture: After the barbecue