WARNINGS have been issued after youths were seen lighting barbecues and campfires at Rivington Terraced Gardens.

Several reports have been made of fires, smouldering materials, barbecues and burnt-out wood in the gardens over the Easter break.

Dozens of people took to social media to voice their outrage over the illegal fires, with several alluding to the devastation that was caused by last summer’s Winter Hill blaze — the moorland fire lasted for 41 days and was treated as arson.

The Bolton News:

The flames came just metres away from the terraced gardens, which are currently being restored as part of a £4.2 million project for the public to enjoy. It is being supported by a team of volunteers.

Andrew Suter, heritage projects manager for Groundwork, which is overseeing the restoration project, said: “Following the fires last year we are all very nervous that there have been a number of copycat arson attacks already. Clearly people think this is some kind of game.

“We are part of a co-ordinated process to stop this and we have had regular patrols over the weekend to warn people against campfires and barbecues.

“In most cases it is not malicious, it is just that people do not realise the risk. There is lots of dry material that could easily burn and a barbecue could have serious consequences. It is very worrying.”

On Saturday, firefighters were called to Marsden Moor near Saddleworth to tackle a fire that is believed to have been started by someone using a barbecue.

Crews have also been called to moorland fires above Rivington this year, including a blaze on March 23 which spread to around three hectares.

Camping, campfires and barbecues are all prohibited at Rivington Terraced Gardens and also at Lever Park, which is owned by United Utilities.

Despite this, two tents were pitched near to the Japanese gardens on Saturday morning, next to the “smouldering remains of a large fire” and several barbecues have been lit over the Easter weekend.

The Bolton News:

Mr Suter said: “Barbecues, camping and campfires are not allowed on the hills. If we do see this, we are asking people to put fires out or take tents down immediately. Failing that, we will phone the emergency services who are very prompt to respond because of the severity of last year’s fire.”

Residents echoed the warnings, calling for people to be vigilant and recognise the dangers that bonfires pose.

Karen Hudson, who lives in Horwich, said: “We live in an environment rich in fauna, flora and all sorts of eco systems all of which we find around Rivington. We have a huge social responsibility to protect these areas from the risk of fire, no matter how small a risk some people perceive a disposable barbecue or lighting a fire to be. A fire is a fire no matter how it is started and wreaks a path of devastation and destruction so a small risk is still a risk. This is why there are barbecue and fire warnings in place.

“Why do some people feel such disregard for these warnings or think themselves above the regulations?”

Last week, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service issued safety advice to the public to prevent a situation like last summer.

They called on the public to:

  • Always extinguish your cigarette
  • Don’t leave bottles or glass in woodlands. Sunlight shining through the glass can start large fires
  • Keep children away from matches, cigarettes and open fires
  • Only use barbecues in suitable and safe areas and never leave them unattended
  • If you see a fire, report it by calling 999