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Is the National Trust really concerned about wildfire risk at their properties?


This week, the National Trust published a new report warning about the dangers of climate change, and how the Trust are likely to be affected by future changing weather patterns.


In the report, “A Climate for Change: Adaptation and the National Trust”, they “set out the holistic approach to climate change adaptation that we have developed – focused on people and places, driven by data and grounded in experience.” Europe's largest conservation charity warned that climate change is 'the single biggest threat' to the charity's survival. Its 500 historic properties, it warned, are at risk of drought, flooding and wildfires as a result of climate change.


The trust cares for 250,000 hectares of land, 780 miles of coastline and 220 gardens and parks, and stated that approximately 71 per cent of the places it looks after could be at medium or high risk of climate hazards by 2060.


One of the major issues they highlight is the risk of flooding. A number of their historic properties need work to improve their roofing and gutters so that they can cope with higher rates of rainfall, while other areas have been severely affected when rivers have burst their banks. One example they use in the report is in Darnbrook Farm in the Yorkshire Dales, where the Trust state they have been working with the farmer to rewet the bog by blocking drains, and reconstructing collapsed peat. At Goldrick Beck in the Lake District, they have ‘re-meander’ed the river through the floodplain, slowing the flood peak and creating 24,600 square metres of new wetland.


But perhaps it is no surprise that the Trust have not mentioned Marsden Moor, or any other parts of the Peak District as examples in this report. The current manager of the Dark Peak Estate has the dubious record of having presided over more wildfires than any other land manager in the UK.

It is also interesting to note that the National Trust are now identifying wildfire as a threat, something that gamekeepers and other land managers in upland areas have been warning about for years. One of the main reasons why land managers choose to carry out cool burns in these areas is to remove the fuel load created through excess vegetation, and to create fire breaks if the worst happens and wildfires do break out.


But retaining the use of this vital tool is becoming harder and harder, due to misguided campaigns led by anti-shooting activists. If the National Trust are truly concerned about the risk of wildfire on their upland properties – something that keepers and moorland estate managers have been warning about for decades – their best bet is to retain the traditional practices which have been shown across the planet to be the optimum way of reducing the wildfire risk.

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