AS we head into summer and Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease, Exmoor Rangers have seen a notable increase in people visiting the national park for the first time.

With retail and hospitality outlets shut and after weeks of being cooped up indoors, it seems many are taking up the Government’s advice to find enjoyment in the outdoors through picnics, sunbathing and walks in the countryside.

However local services are also feeling the pressure from all the extra visitors, with Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service reporting a sharp spike in call outs to fires in the open compared to this time last year.

Moorland fires in the summer breeding season spread quickly and can be devastating to ground nesting birds and other wildlife.

When conditions are dry, they can start from something as simple as a disposable barbecue, cigarette stub or glass bottle.

Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park access and recreation manager, said: “It’s clear that most people are being respectful, with almost no littering at places like Tarr Steps near Dulverton despite the high footfall.

"But elsewhere our rangers are taking away whole trailer loads of litter, spent barbecues, cigarettes and other flammable waste, discarded with little thought for local communities or the environmental damage that could result from a summer wildfire.

"A small minority also seem to be flouting the rules around social distancing and overnight stays, which risks spreading the virus.

"We’re working hard with police, landowners and other partners to address these issues and encourage care for the countryside.”