People were caught lighting barbecues at Frensham Little Pond and Blackdown near Haslemere even as a huge plume of smoke rose from nearby Longmoor Camp earlier this month, the National Trust has said.

Rangers are now reminding people not to light a barbecue when they visit the countryside, including Frensham Little Pond, Hindhead Commons, Black Down and Ludshott Common, following a spate of wildfires on local heaths.

Despite recent rainfall, the hot weather has left many landscapes dry and created the perfect conditions for fires to ignite and quickly spread. 

Firefighters from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and Bordon Fire Station battled a blaze at National Trust-owned  Frensham Common  over several days, as 25 acres burned on May 30. 

While on June 16, more than 74 acres were alight at nearby Longmoor Camp, owned by the MOD, where woodland affected will take a generation to recover. 

And as the smoke still rose on the skyline from Longmoor Camp, National Trust rangers reported having to ask members of the public to extinguish and take home their barbecues at Frensham Little Pond and Black Down, unaware of the fire risk they were creating.

Save the barbecue for when you get home, says the National Trust

Matt Cusack, National Trust lead ranger for Hindhead Commons and Frensham, said: “We’re respectfully asking people not to bring disposable barbecues to the countryside.  

“Barbecues can have serious consequences when not used responsibly; endangering lives and damaging landscapes.

“These fires can also undo years of conservation work to bring back nature and tackle climate change. We have sadly seen several incidents, in the last few weeks, where these items have led to real damage.

“Access to green spaces was one of the trust’s founding principles – and it’s still at the heart of what we do. We want everyone to enjoy the countryside and we simply ask that they follow the Countryside Code, which is there for the benefit of all.” 

During periods of extreme hot or dry conditions, the trust’s countryside teams are on high alert to signs of fire and are in close contact with the fire services.

Notices are clearly displayed on site and the Trust’s local websites asking visitors not to light fires or barbecues.

They ask anyone who sees a fire to immediately call 999 and ask for the fire service and not to assume someone else has already reported it.