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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Using a ‘burning platform’ to prevent scorch damage to the ground in Hatfield Forest, Essex, England

Published source details

Forbes V. (2003) Chariots of fire – a burning issue. Conservation Land Management, 9-10


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.

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