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Forest Diary

 The Forest Diary, Al Fresco Dining in the New Forest

by Forestry Commission Recreation Ranger, Amy Howells

At the time of writing, we’ve had blue skies and glorious sunshine for the past few weeks. It’s the time of year when we decide to light up thFAMILIES ENJOYING A BARBECUE AT CARDINHAM WOOD. PENINSULA FDe barbeque and set off in to the great outdoors for some al fresco dining.

The New Forest has many picnic and barbecue sites that you can use; we just ask that you bear in mind some important guidance when you’re visiting this special landscape. The recent dry weather and lack of heavy rain means the dry ground is more likely to ignite. Hampshire Fire Service has been called out to a number of fires in the last few weeks because of carelessly discarded disposable barbecues, which have got out of control. 

The Met Office provides a Fire Severity Index (FSI), which is an estimation of how severe a fire could become if one were to start. The FSI shows the current day's fire severity and a forecast of how likely it is that a fire might happen during the next few days. The New Forest is currently at a ‘very high’ risk of fire and if it increases to an ‘extreme’ risk we will have to stop barbecues from being used across the New Forest.

The forest is particularly vulnerable to the risk of wildfires; the majority are commonly started by arson, discarded cigarettes, barbeques and campfires. Summer fires can cause serious harm to wildlife and destroy rare plants. As you know, we live in a precious place and we all need to think about the impact our visit to the forest has, and take steps to keep this beautiful place safe.

The recent glorious weather has meant that people have been able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the forest. Unfortunately, many have being using disposable barbecues on our forest lawns, which damages the grass and leaves behind unsightly scorch marks. The grass will take many weeks to recover and causes a loss of grazing for ponies.

If you’re planning a barbecue in the forest please take a look at the following guidance and enjoy your sausages and burgers safely:

Disposable barbecues are only allowed to be used at sites where we provide stands and water – these are located at Blackwater and Bolderwood. There are picnic tables with metal plates in the centre at Wilverley Inclosure, making this an ideal location for barbecues.
Raised non-disposable barbecues are allowed on the hard-standing areas of our car parks.
Always have enough water available to put out your barbecue
Ensure your barbecue is out cold after use and take it home with you, this includes barbecue coals and ash
Do not dispose of hot barbecue coals in the wooden bins in car parks
Barbecue hearths are available for hire at Anderwood and Wilverley. If you are planning a barbecue for over 20 people you will need to book one of these sites in advance. To check availability of these sites please call us on: 0300 067 4640 or e-mail us at

Our woodlands are not just a place for recreation and relaxation, or important habitats for wildlife; they’re also an important resource and part of our local economy. At the Forestry Commission, all of the timber that we harvest carries FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification – in other words our woodlands and the way we manage them meet strict environmental standards. Importantly, the timber is also Grown in Britain – an initiative which brings together everyone who values our forests, woods and trees, and the products we can make from the wood they produce. Have you considered where your charcoal comes from? Did you know that of the 50,000 tonnes of charcoal consumed annually in the UK, 90% of it comes from abroad. Sustainable charcoal is relatively easy to come by - many supermarkets, garden centres and local stores sell locally grown, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified charcoal, either loose in bags or as disposable barbecues. 

So when you’re planning to next light up a barbecue stop for a moment and consider the different ways that you can help to keep the forest safe from summer fires.

Last updated: 26th August 2016

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.