A councillor has urged a return to old-fashioned picnics in a bid to beat the threat of moorland fires at a favourite beauty spot.
Graham Sheldon, an Oldham and Saddleworth Parish councillor, is promoting the idea as the Peak District National Park launches a wildfire fund following a spate of blazes.
They say donations to the fund will support fire prevention messages, volunteer costs and restoration work with their moorland partners.
Cllr Sheldon said: “It is time to ditch barbecues in public spaces.
“Countryside users and day trippers should return to using flasks and sandwiches.
“Then hopefully people will take home their empty flask and sandwich wrappers.
“Our countryside is a value asset for everyone to enjoy and there’s a lot to recommend going back to the simple, everyday pleasures of a good old-fashioned picnic.”
Recently-elected Saddleworth South Ward councillor Jamie Curley said: “There is no word on any forward planning, as if this blaze is a once a hundred years event which isn’t going to happen again.
“Clearly there are lessons to be learned about management of this environment in terms of the landscape and wildlife and in public access to landscape and a coordinated response from the various agencies.
“The event may be over for now,” he added, “But we have to have the confidence that it can be avoided as much as possible and dealt with if it happens again.”
Cllr Derek Heffernan, a former Mayor of Oldham, declared: “The wild fires were a national disaster and should be treated as one.
“Surely the Government are intending to fund repairs and reseeding otherwise we could be facing another very large bill.
“We should not be relying on public donations to save us from this.”
Saddleworth north councillor Garth Harkness commented: “I’m pleased the Peak Park are introducing the wildlife fund and think the cross-agency working has been excellent.
“Our emergency services have gone above and beyond and hopefully the council will put their hand in their pocket support this scheme.”
Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the public’s concern and offers of support – and that has led to the launch of this wildfire fund.
“Your donation will help to support our fire prevention work with partners and the work of our invaluable Fire Watch volunteers.”
She added: “It’s heart-breaking to see swathes of landscapes damaged.
“The smallest spark can lead to huge amounts of damage. Ashes blown from a barbecue, a broken glass, a dropped cigarette butt can devastate our precious and protected landscapes and affect people’s livelihoods.”
The risk of wild fires remains high and the public can help by:
• Reporting sightings of smoke or fire as quickly as possible by dialling 999 and giving an accurate location
• Taking home all your litter and any glass you may find on the moors
• Not using BBQs on the moors or general countryside
• Not dropping cigarette butts.
To make a wildfire fund donation, go online: www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/wildfirefund