Chariots of fire – a burning issue


Bonfires sited on the ground in woodland can damage soils, plants (including their roots and underground prennating organs) and mycorrhizal fungi. To negate these detrimental impacts when undertaking woodland management, alternative methods for burning cut material on site may be desirable.

As an alternative to burning coppiced material directly on the ground in Hatfield Forest (southeast England) a ‘burning trailer’ was constructed. The idea was to have a raised platform on to which woody material could be burnt. From earlier trials a height off the ground of 30 cm was deemed a safe working height and sufficiently elevated to prevent scorching of the ground from heat generated by the burning.

The base was constructed from a 5 m long chassis of an old boat trailer. Four sheets of steel plate 2.5 m x 2 m (4 mm thick) were bolted to scaffold pipes with 36 ‘U’ bolts to create a platform that could be unbolted and packed away for transportation and be of road-legal dimensions. A pair of steel rims (from a local scrap metal dealer) was swapped with the road-going tyred-wheels, when the platform had been towed onto the site. This design resulted in a 5 m x 4 m platform standing 30 cm above the ground.

The burning trailer effectively prevented scorch damage to the ground from heat generated by burning. The platform can be towed on site by either a tractor or quad bike. The latter was found to be more flexible, especially in the winter when the ground was wet and tractor movements needed to be kept to a minimum to avoid vegetation damage, soil disturbance and compaction.

The trailer takes only about 30 min to assemble and can be moved and located where needed with relative ease. Thus it slows work a little but this is considered a worthwhile compromise to avoid damage to plants, fungi and soils. As a consequence of its success at least two other sites in southeast England are using similar burning platforms.

Note: If using or referring to this published study please read and quote the original paper.

Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust