‘Have a picnic not a BBQ’ says Royal Parks ahead of scorching weekend 

As temperatures are set to reach highs of 19 degrees in London this weekend, The Royal Parks is reminding visitors that having a BBQ is not permitted in London’s parks.

The charity, which looks after eight of London’s finest open spaces including Kensington Gardens, Richmond Park and Bushy Park, is concerned about the impact fires would have on local wildlife.

The Met Office has put an amber wildfire warning in place for the week, which means that fires could spread quickly due to the weather conditions.

Tom Jarvis, director of parks at The Royal Parks, said: “The parks are brimming with wonderful wildlife and incredible landscapes and with this unseasonably warm, sunny weather it is a fantastic time to soak up nature and enjoy a picnic in this beautiful environment.

“But please remember that BBQs are not permitted in the parks and sadly there have been some awful occasions where we’ve seen centuries of biodiversity annihilated because of an accidental fire.

“Sadly, last year a grassland fire covering 100m2 in Richmond Park wiped out wildlife, destroying a number of lizards. Grass snakes, toads, frogs, newts and stag beetles were killed in other fires.

“We’ve lost veteran trees, with fires burning out the decaying wood within, destroying a habitat that supports more than 1,000 different species of insects and their larvae.  Birds in a burning tree will fly off but baby birds will die, and so will roosting bats. Mammals will run off but their nests get burnt.

“No-one ever believes it’ll be their actions that cause a fire, but fires can start easily. Please protect wildlife and leave no trace by enjoying a picnic not a BBQ, and by taking any litter home if the bins are full.”

The fires can have a devastating effect, destroying historic parkland that hosts a rich diversity of wildlife and wiping out valuable wild-flower meadowland.

In previous years, fires have destroyed veteran trees, annihilated flower seed banks and harmed or even killed birds and mammals. 

The charity warns that fires have started when people have positioned their BBQs under the shade of large trees which could be hundreds of years old.

Some of the oldest trees in the parks have become hollow over time, creating a chimney effect when a fire starts – enabling the fire to spread through the tree rapidly, destroying the tree and killing animals.

Featured image credit: Colin Smith / Fallow Deer in Richmond Park / CC BY-SA 2.0

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