A herd of ponies were nearly burned alive after a barbecue was left unattended near the sand dunes where they graze.
Their owner, Berwyn Jones, has urged holidaymakers and locals to be more responsible of the environment, and not to treat the countryside like a playground.
Berwyn – who runs a conservation grazing business in North and Mid Wales – received a phone call a fortnight ago to say that six out of his 60 Carneddau ponies were at risk from a fire nearby.
He allows the ponies to graze on a 40-acre parcel of marshland and sand dunes, running from Presthaven Sands to Talacre lighthouse, Flintshire.
Recalling his horror of the situation at hand, he told North Wales Live : “When I got there, the flames were 50ft high and the ponies had gathered in a corner by the fencing”.
Worried and afraid for his ponies, for the next hour he helplessly watched on from a distance as firefighters attempted to extinguish the flames.
He added that moving the horses from the fire was an option – but rather a dangerous one.
Instead, Berwyn says he placed his faith in the fire service, adding: “The worry was that the wind would change direction and send the flames towards the ponies.
“It was a close call, one of the closest I experienced in my five years of conservation grazing.
“Another few metres and my conservation grazing land would have been alight. My ponies had a very lucky escape – it could have ended a lot worse than it did.”
As a member of the Carneddau Graziers Association in Snowdonia, Berwyn gives his ponies a purpose they might otherwise be lacking.
They are an ancient Celtic breed – genetically distinct from Welsh Mountain Ponies – which were much admired by the Romans for their agility and durability.
But due to the decline of mining, hill farmers have ensured their continued survival. By giving the ponies a conservation role role today, Berwyn is able to pay for their upkeep.
The blaze was the latest in a series of anti-social incidents that have blighted Berwyn’s conservation sites.
While vandalism, littler and dog encounters have sadly become the normal for his site, it is wildfires that pose the biggest threat.
This – among many other reasons – is why Berwyn has become a firm advocate of campaigns to ban disposable barbecues from being sold.
Many of the sites run by his business, BG Jones Conservation Grazing, are coming under increasing pressure from public intrusion.
Berwyn, who also rents a smallholding in Bethesda, Gwynedd, said: “Every year we get wildfires and arson attacks and in this summer’s dry weather they’ve been worse than ever.
“It should be commonsense really – you don’t play with matches, throw away cigarettes or light a disposable barbecue. These sort of things are part of the Countryside Code, which ought to be taught in schools.”
During the drought, all the big supermarkets stopped selling the disposable barbecues. Moreover, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Aldi have said they will no longer stock them, because of the potential impact they have on the environment and wildlife.