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Thread: Camp fires and the Access Code in Scotland

  1. #1
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    Default Camp fires and the Access Code in Scotland

    Judging by the number of references to camp fires on this forum I guess that they are very popular with open canoeist.

    As I recall camp fires get a special mention in the Access Code for Scotland. The are NOT allowed unless with the landowners permission. My interpretation of this is that if you light a fire you could negate your right to camp because under the terms of the code you would not be acting responsibly.

    I have seen many anglers fires where this was the case, in that they had been cutting down sizable trees, or damaging trees that were too big to fell. They also leave 'burned' bottles and cans in the 'grate'. Come to think of it, I've seen what where probably paddler's camp fires in the same state.

    Many of our top paddling spots will not sustain heavy use of fires. For example, Loch Ba has very few trees and they are getting denuded by pressure of camp fires.

    My personal position is that in the majority of places that I camp fires are not appropriate, and that on the grounds of a 'social' feature they are not justified. Maybe I just see too much environmental abuse related to fires. Maybe that's why they are not allowed.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    its a shame,canoeing bushcraft,camp fires??????seems a big chunk missing...
    http://www.freewebs.com/wolf1965/
    please pop in for a visit and sign the guest book...

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    Under the Scottish Access laws you are allowed to have fires. Obviously this is as long as you are not doing any damage.

    Like everything else it is the irresponsible people that spoil it for the rest of us. The only time I cut living wood to burn is when I am tidying up the destruction left by others.

    Recently I have started using a fire box but even before that you would struggle to tell where I had sited a fire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly
    Under the Scottish Access laws you are allowed to have fires. Obviously this is as long as you are not doing any damage.

    Like everything else it is the irresponsible people that spoil it for the rest of us. The only time I cut living wood to burn is when I am tidying up the destruction left by others.

    Recently I have started using a fire box but even before that you would struggle to tell where I had sited a fire.
    John, I don't have my copy of the Code handy; where does it say fires are okay? MAybe I am remembering the draft/consultation document?
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    Quote Originally Posted by tenboats1
    John, I don't have my copy of the Code handy; where does it say fires are okay? MAybe I am remembering the draft/consultation document?


    Below are quotes from the full copy of the access code. These are the same as were included in the draft. You can download it by following the links on the links page.

    So we do have the right but I do agree that the irresponsible lighting of fires and collecting of wood is a major problem.

    Direct Link

    http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/upload/Full%20Access%20Code.pdf

    LIGHTING FIRES




    Wherever possible, use a stove rather than light an open fire. If you do wish
    to light an open fire, keep it small, under control and supervised – fires that
    get out of control can cause major damage, for which you might be liable.
    Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as
    forests, woods, farmland, or on peaty ground or near to buildings or in
    cultural heritage sites where damage can be easily caused. Heed all advice
    at times of high risk. Remove all traces of an open fire before you leave.



    Wild Camping


    Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done

    in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can
    camp in this way wherever access rights apply but help to avoid causing
    problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields
    of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or
    historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse
    shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner’s
    permission. Leave no trace by:

    taking away all your litter;

    removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire (follow the
    guidance for lighting fires);

    not causing any pollution.
    Last edited by MagiKelly; 22nd-February-2006 at 10:12 AM. Reason: Adding link

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    So no campfire on the spey then?

    All things in moderation. Don't build big fires, only build fires in pristine areas, build fire below the flood line, don't burn trash, only use dead and down and detached small twigs that will burn completely before bedtime, burn all of the wood, spread the ashes, throw the charred rocks/sand/dirt into the river for a good cleaning, naturalize the area. I think it is possible to have a responsible campfire.

    Of course, I'm from a different continent and may be use to different norms. Some sites are not appropriate for a campfire, but some are just fine. I would never do a trip without a stove and enough fuel for the whole trip, but I enjoy evening social time around a campfire. Probably my favourite part of the trip aside from eating. If the land has been raped, then I'll do evening social time around the latern. I think you deny yourself a joy when you make general rules that don't consider the different situations. I've been on a trip where we had to carry all of the ashes out with us, 9 days worth of ashes, no big deal.

    My thought is that its better to role model responsible fire-building then to preach abstinence. People won't stop building fires, but they may be willing to build smaller fires, clean up after themselves and not burn trash.

    Just my thoughts.
    Lucas
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    This is a copy from the Access Code relating to other Laws. I doubt that the Code will over rule these laws. (from the web)


    Lighting fires
    Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 (Section 3)

    You are guilty of an offence if you light a fire:

    on or near any private road

    on enclosed or cultivated land

    in or near any plantation
    without the consent of the owner or land manager.

    I knew I'd seen something about no fires.

    Enclosed and cultivated land will cover most of our circumstances, and just what 'near' means is anyones guess.

    So, yes we can have fires (good), but we need to be aware that we can't have them anywhere we please.

    Do you Bushcraft folk have any fire code which goes beyond, or improves on, the Access Code guidelines?

    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    Quote Originally Posted by lucas
    So no campfire on the spey then?

    .
    Okay by me if you light it! And deal with any irrate landowner!
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    Quote Originally Posted by tenboats1
    I knew I'd seen something about no fires.

    Enclosed and cultivated land will cover most of our circumstances, and just what 'near' means is anyones guess.

    So, yes we can have fires (good), but we need to be aware that we can't have them anywhere we please.


    Do you Bushcraft folk have any fire code which goes beyond, or improves on, the Access Code guidelines?







    If I remember correctly it is within 50m of a private road (note not a public road)

    Plantations is obvious enough as these are about the only woodland in the UK where you can get a forest fire.

    Enclosed or cultivated makes sense too. Starting a fire in a field of crops Or in an enclosed area where people or animals can get trapped

    But none of these really apply to places I would have a fire.

    As to Bushcraft, there is no set of rules but the principal of "Leave no trace" is very strong. Also it would go against the principals to damage live trees (unless it is Rhododendrons Die Die Die!)


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    enclosed land.........could be a field, but really means any land enclosed by a fence or wall. The Garbh Gaur river is surrounded by miles of moor, but if you go far enough you will find a fence enclosing the moor, so technically a fire by the river is on enclosed land.

    A fire on an island on the Spey would be okay, unlikely to be fenced, but our proposed first night camp is, I think, enclosed, but obvoiusly not a field of crops.

    The problem with the plantation situation is what constitutes 'near'. And the law seems to allow a fire in the Rothiemurchus, that being natural. Strange.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    is my mini-fire spout classed as a fire?
    Am I banned from scotland too?

    If I call it a solid fuel camping stove can I get round the red tape?

    When I have used it I have only ever used wood I have brought from home. The corner shop sells it in bags and its cut to the exact right size!

    I have had a base made so there is no damage to the grass under it.

    After cooking there is almost no ash left.

    using the fire with the wood i use there is very little smoke and no flying embers. I thinks its safe and environmetally friendly.
    Rogue

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue
    is my mini-fire spout classed as a fire?
    Yes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue
    Am I banned from scotland too?
    Not yet

    If you have a base it is still a fire but not an open fire. It could certainly be argued that it was now a solid fuel stove. The same argument could be applied to kelly kettles.

  13. #13

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    It is possible to clear up after an open fire to the extent that no trace is left to any normal observer. It just takes a bit of time.

    I also think that a small fire, correctly cleaned up, is rather more sustainable than using, say,a gas stove. The gas stove may seem 'clean' but somewhere there is a factory making the stove and cartridges, a steel mill and gas platform making the raw ingredients, and landfill sites with empty cartridges in them. Worse still, I have seen empty gas cartridges on Rannoch Moor left by someone who just couldn't be bothered to pack their rubbish out.

    A fire for cooking does not need to be very big.

    Much as I like to have a fire it is not always appropriate. That is why I like the Swedish army Trangia which lends itself well to cooking over a fire, but can also run on cheap meths when required.

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    It should maybe be mentioned that on SSSI and SAC areas land managers MAY(with reason) further restrict both access and fires in order to protect the environment/flora.

    As this is normaly only mentioned in the land management plan which the owner has agreed with the SNH I haven't a clue how the general public are supposed to know about it but if you come across signs which appear to contravine the right of access code there's a good chance that this's what's going on.
    It seems to take the OS a while to add SSSI's to their maps, I was on two last year which were not marked as such on the map yet both had had their status changed about three years beforehand.

    My usual camp is on an SAC but I have the landowners permission to be there, wild camp, have fires and even cut live wood(not that I ever do).
    The site gets regularly used by yaughting and fishing folk who often leave the place in a total shambles . Having got fed up with new fire sites popping up we laid a permanent ring last year which done the job, most folk seem to use it now which keeps the garbage in one spot making it easier to tidy.

    Funny thing is we'd never have dreamt of leaving a ring there ourselves and usualy sited our fires on the beach below high water mark before but now we tend to use the ring(because its there - fallen for our own ploy ).

    I never take a stove so consider a fire to be part and parcel of a night out camping. There's no shortage of windfalls thankfuly.

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    As it's the only sheltered, sandy cove for miles around it's probably seen it's share of canoists too( canoeists and their empty beer cans ).
    Should be said though that sometimes there's very little evidence of a camp(maybe just some cleared bracken for tent pitches) and I'm sure sometimes there's none at all(which is kind of hard to tell ).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc
    It is possible to clear up after an open fire to the extent that no trace is left to any normal observer. It just takes a bit of time.

    I also think that a small fire, correctly cleaned up, is rather more sustainable than using, say,a gas stove. The gas stove may seem 'clean' but somewhere there is a factory making the stove and cartridges, a steel mill and gas platform making the raw ingredients, and landfill sites with empty cartridges in them. Worse still, I have seen empty gas cartridges on Rannoch Moor left by someone who just couldn't be bothered to pack their rubbish out.

    A fire for cooking does not need to be very big.

    Much as I like to have a fire it is not always appropriate. That is why I like the Swedish army Trangia which lends itself well to cooking over a fire, but can also run on cheap meths when required.
    I've heard this agruement against gas stoves before and whilst in a sense it is quite correct, it is also a red herring in the context of impact on the paddling environment we are talking about.

    You, and I , cannot exist in modern society as we do without having an adverse affect on this planet. In driving to Rannoch Moor I pollute this earth far more (by a massive ammount) than I do cooking on a gas stove when I get there.

    It is a bit inward looking I know, but consider the micro picture, ie the island campsite that really only boaters can get to. There is no way that fire users have lass impact than me, even if they carry in all their fuel. When burning a fire you cause visible smoke and flame, which tend to be only tempory visual pollution, but it can be visible for miles. Then, okay, you say it is possible to leave virtually no trace of the fire. But of course that never happens (or maybe it does and I never see it....a self fulfilling arguement!).
    And wind fall is not dead wood. It forms one of the basis of the food chain, in an environment which is already poor in nuitrition. Something suffers directly as a result. Your fire, the 20 folk before you, the 200 folk after you, all hitting the same resource.

    And if you don't carry fuel, and find that there is no windfall left because half a dozen groups have beaten you to it. Do you go hungry, or do you cut live wood? Look, I know that after a long days paddle you are going to cut live wood. And so is everybody else. The evidence is right there, on the canoeists islands.

    You do not need fire for anything, though I accept they are quite nice, if you don't mind your clothes and gear stinking of smoke. Just pack out your rubbish, it weighs less on the way out anyway.

    It comes down, as all things, to personal values and judgements. I'm not saying one is right and everything else wrong, just pointing out the visual impact of fires and left overs which is there for all to see. The real damage, to the food chain, is less visible. That's because things that might have been alive on that island are not there now, or there are less of them.

    Each to his own. My fleet of boats has caused more environmental degradation in their manufacture than my gas stove.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    Probably shouldn't add anything but here goes.

    I love campfires, always have done. I run a guide unit and every year we hold a camp where they have to spend the whole weekend cooking on open fires. It is a good skill to learn and there is something special about sitting round a campfire at night, smoke wafting of you to keep the midges off................

    However I have worked as a Ranger at Loch Lomond and have lost count of the number of people I have encountered who have ripped, torn or brought axes to chop down trees around the loch.

    In such a heavily used area I don't think the use of open fires can be justified. I know it's the irrisponsible few who generally cause problems but surely we all have to take resposibility in a land with not that many trees.
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

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    Silvergirl.....

    What a pity the axe weilders couldn't be made to chop up and burn their boats!

    I know what you mean about living for today (I'm on that bus), but in the context of this thread, tomorrow will mind. That's the whole point.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    I have a small micro gas fire as a backup for when I've used my wood supply. I did get an axe but it is way too blunt to use so I don't bother taking it anymore. I use my knife to make tiny kindling and once the fire is going the wood from my corner shop is the right size already. Very little ash remains (usually none to see) and can be tipped into the rubbish bag.

    Using the wood from the shop there is no visible smoke. I once tried using wind fallen wood gathered from our garden but its too smokey so I don't bother anymore.
    Rogue

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    I have a trangia for making my meals when I do not have a fire.

    I also carry an axe and a folding saw and a bow saw . I use these to cut and split some of the larger dead fall that is available. Splitting this means it burns better and leaves only ash as opposed to the big charred lumps of wood you get when idiots try to burn whole green wood logs.

    I do not have a fire at all costs, only when appropriate.

    It was strange at a recent BCUK meet up. We were there at the invitation of the ranger that controlled the wood. He was keen for us to clear a lot of live trees. None of us found it easy to cut down living trees to make stuff and to burn in the fire. We were constantly looking over our shoulder at the ranger who is saying "go on get it down". There were good valid reasons for the trees to be felled but it still felt all wrong.

    Anyway back on topic on the larger islands on Loch lomond you find no fire wood near the shore and signs of many live trees being felled for wood but if you walk 50 yards into the woods you will find loads of wood available. People are just to lazy to go and get the dead wood.

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    Anyway back on topic on the larger islands on Loch lomond you find no fire wood near the shore and signs of many live trees being felled for wood but if you walk 50 yards into the woods you will find loads of wood available. People are just to lazy to go and get the dead wood.

    So in say, 50 years time there will how many tress within 50m of the shore, and how much so called dead wood left on the islands?

    The best places for open canoe campers are often the worst places for sustainabilty in terms of burning the very environment we go to enjoy. Take for example Loch Awe. The island there are pure magic, especially those towards the S end. They are qiute small and the only nuitriants available to feed the trees and shrubs and smaller plants comes from 'dead wood' and the like. There will come a time when the balance tips the wrong way and the slippery slope will be irriversable.
    The only place on Loch Awe where fires are sustainable is the forestry commision plantations! (but don't do it).

    Want to see an island suffering from over/inappropriate use? Check out the small one on Loch Ard. Any wood cut or collected on a tiny island is an ecological disaster for that micro environment.

    I hope folk will not take this thread as an anti fire rant (though in my case it a little bit of that).

    My hope is that folk will concider the bigger and long term picture (and the law) before playing at boy scouts out there. The times when fires are okay maybe less than you might first think.

    If this thread raises awareness then that can only be to the common good.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tenboats1
    And wind fall is not dead wood. It forms one of the basis of the food chain, in an environment which is already poor in nuitrition. Something suffers directly as a result. Your fire, the 20 folk before you, the 200 folk after you, all hitting the same resource.
    I agree. Deadwood is an important part of the natural environment, not just from an ecological point of view, but also aesthetically. Just because it is available doesn't mean we should feel free to use it for fires. Dead wood is part of the scenery and one of the things that can make natural woodland and remote areas special, as opposed to manicured gardens where all the natural 'rubbish' has been tidied up. Even driftwood on the shore adds to the unspoiled nature of remote beaches. One of the things I found special about remote beaches in New Zealand was the accumulations of natural driftwood, which really made it feel like you were in a remopte forested wilderness. We don't get much of that here, but perhaps we should value it where we do. By all means burn the fish boxes and other assorted but try to leave some of the natural stuff behind.

    I come from more of a hillwalking/backpacking background and have always used stoves. I like the idea of fires in the right places and will probably use them on some canoe trips, but I would rather leave the areas I visit intact. perhaps the idea of buying wood from the local cornershop (or sawmill) is sound, as there's usually plenty of storage in an open boat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tenboats1
    Silvergirl.....

    What a pity the axe weilders couldn't be made to chop up and burn their boats!

    I know what you mean about living for today (I'm on that bus), but in the context of this thread, tomorrow will mind. That's the whole point.

    You are quite right . I was never quite sure how that would read.
    I'm away to change my signature.

    (p.s. Whenever I'm camping I use a gas stove or an MSR, with the guides it on a private estate near old forestry, but I am going to teach them how to use gas or a trangia, Tricky when your catering for 60 though )

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    Well, all credit to tenboats for highlighting the issue. And I agree with everything he's said, except the bit about cutting green wood after a long paddle. I would use the Trangia instead, as would the other people I know from the bushcraft trips.

    I've not been to the islands mentioned but it sounds like they are being used in an unsustainable way, and I'm sure anyone would oppose that. I would also be worried about the loss of Caledonian pine forest remnants being lost due to uncontrolled fires, especially as the islands on Loch laidon have been used as seed banks.

    On the other hand, a driftwood fire below high water mark has very little impact (probably less than a stove). It is all about weighing things up and making the right decision.

  25. #25

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    Just to add another few thoughts:

    1. It is the same problem around bothies_ everything combustible within 400 yards or so has been collected and burnt. I bring fuel with me on bothy trips.

    2. In Sweden fires are much more accepted. Of course they have a lower population density, more cold and more trees, but it is also partially cultural.

    3. Deadwood is indeed important for biodiversity. The best way to find dry dead wood is by looking up, not down.

    4. Much of the problem is down to people having huge fires. Kelly kettles are obviously more efficient than an open fire, but they do illustrate how little firewood is actually needed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silvergirl
    You are quite right . I was never quite sure how that would read.
    I'm away to change my signature.

    (p.s. Whenever I'm camping I use a gas stove or an MSR, with the guides it on a private estate near old forestry, but I am going to teach them how to use gas or a trangia, Tricky when your catering for 60 though )
    I think this is one of those situations where an open fire is very appropriate, and cultural. With a little thought it sounds like it will not impact on the environment, but will be remembered by the young folk gathered around it. Maybe next time you could start a discussion on the pros and cons of open fires and see how they feel about the issue.

    There was nothing wrong with your signature, other than in context of this particular thread.

    As others have commented, it is all about choices. Or rather informed choices and responsibilities.

    Thanks to all who have contributed so far.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    Quote Originally Posted by tenboats1
    Thanks to all who have contributed so far.
    And I am glad to see it did not get deteriorate into a slagging match.

    At one stage I was going to suggest burning Tenboats at the stake as a heretic but then started thinking about the environmental impact

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    Two windfalls that folk have been cutting over the last while(because they're close to the camp) are down across a fence bordering the neighboring property. Much as I agree that decomposing wood plays an important part in the ecology it's a fact that sometimes they need to be removed(before the landowner gets a letter from the forestry commission about the state of their fences).

    The next one in line after those has fallen across the path leading to an old croft. In any other century but the last it'd have been logged the day it fell to get it out the way.
    At the croft itself some of the dykes and building walls are under threat from birch that have sprouted at their bases. It's a choice between felling them(and saving someones handywork which has stood for hundreds of years and only become threatened in the last thirty or so) or letting a couple of trees turn the lot to ruin.
    I'm all for letting nature run it's course but again it's a case of needing to manage/maintain things and one of the by-products happens to be firewood.

    After a day trudging around murdering rhodedendron and getting eaten alive a fire is the sort of luxury that makes returning to do some more work seem like less of a chore and more of a pleasure.
    I'm not really promoting fires but realised that my "never take a stove" comment may have sounded a bit brash and was just trying to qualify it.

    By the time the couple of nearby windfalls are consumed there will probably be another down onto the fence that'll need cleared. Looking beyond the edge of the camp there are about 300 acres of lochside woodland for which we have nothing but the utmost respect and spend most of our summer weekends in and around. We don't treat ANY wood as firewood unless there's good reason to do so.

    As my canoe is just a form of transport to get to one place I couldn't comment on conditions elsewhere although Loch Lomond I will go along with. Sometimes the folk there don't even bother with axes, I've seen guys rocking wee trees out by the roots. That ring by the carpark at Rowardennan is a hazard. It's about five times the size it should be, just encorages folk to have bonfires instead of campfires.

  29. #29

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    It's all about proportion. I get a lot of pleasure from seeing a skein of a hundred pinkfoot geese fly past me. Suppose that morning a wildfowler has shot one. Does a skein of ninety nine give me any less pleasure? Of course it doesn't, and pinkfoot populations are buoyant.

    But if half the world went goose hunting, and there were no geese, we would be immeasurably the poorer.

    So it is with fires. In the right place, done properly, and not too often, the fire has it's place. Where there is a lot of fire 'pressure' maybe some regulation is required. Although it would be nicer if we could rely on folks common sense.

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    Hmmm.. Some interesting food for thought here.

    My position is that campfires are at least carbon neutral on the ecological scale but I tend to bring my own firewood, which means that I am using fuel to transport it, so slightly shooting that argument in the foot.

    I still feel it is better than the manufactured alternatives though.

    I never cut live wood for fires. If I am cutting live wood it is coppicing or thinning for a purpose. We live in a man made landscape in almost every part of these isles, it is just a matter of how far back you look.

    Having said that I think it is our responsibility as bushcrafters (and I hope soon as canoeists) to minimise our impact upon the current landscape.

    I have broken that rule on certain occasions. One such case is on the Walna Scar road some twenty odd years ago where, like Grooveski, I built a fire ring to stop dozens of random patches being burnt.

    I last visited it in January this year and it is still in regular use, but there are no other burnt patches in that area, unlike the next nearest patch which was covered in them.

    The other impact that I make on the landscape is to remove other peoples trash whenever I can. Witness the surprise on the faces of the rangers at Archray last year, when they arived to litter pick the campsite, only to be presented with the bag of rubbish I had already collected.

    People are always going to light fires, humans have been doing it for 1½ million years and they will not stop in our lifetimes no matter how hot under the collar we get.

    What we can do is educate, manage and lead by example.

    On my next trip to Walna Scar I fully intend to build another fire ring in the camp next to my regular spot and see if that will improve matters there.
    Wayland
    "Trust me I'm a Viking"

    Wayland's World

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