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Allerdale Borough Council,
Allerdale House,
Workington,
Cumbria,
CA14 3YJ

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24 July 2013

Fire damage at nature reserve could take years to repair

The damage caused by a fire in the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty could take years to heal, according to environmental experts.

A discarded barbecue is thought to have started the blaze at the Wolsty Banks Site of Special Scientific Interest on Saturday. Around seven hectares of dune grassland was burned out. The area is owned by Allerdale Borough Council and is part of a Stewardship Scheme through Natural England, who monitor the site for its nature value.

Because of the size of the site, it is impossible to measure the damage to the wildlife which lives there, but it is feared that many species may have perished in the flames. The damage to the valuable dune grasslands and wildflowers is extensive and is likely to take years to grow back to its former glory.

This area has ground nesting birds such as whinchat, meadow pipit and skylark, many of which may have been nesting with their second brood. The adult birds will have been able to fly away, but any young could have died in the blaze. The area is also home to sand lizards and the rare natterjack toad, as well as moths and butterflies, but it is not known what might have been killed or driven away by the flames.

Rose Wolfe, Assistant Manager at the Solway Coast AONB, said: “The speed and devastation caused by this sort of fire has to be seen to be believed and the consequences for the wildlife are long-lasting and horrendous.

“It is going to take a long time for nature to repair the damage – it could possibly be up to 10 years in the worst affected areas. The heat will have been so severe in some parts of the dunes that the roots of the grasses will have been burnt away and will be unable to re-grow immediately

“I can’t emphasise enough the danger of using barbecues on the dunes. I know it’s a gorgeous place to sit and picnic, but the risk of fire is just too great. I would urge all our visitors to come and enjoy the dunes, but, for the sake of our wildlife and this valuable habitat, please leave your barbecues at home or, at least, use the sandy beach instead of the dunes, and use water to put out the ashes as soon as you have finished eating. This environment is so important – we need to care for it for generations to come.”

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0303 123 1702

Allerdale Borough Council
Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria,
CA14 3YJ