Going up in Smoke

Smoky bonfire in Dittisham

The smoke you see from a garden bonfire is billions of little particles of un-burnt material. There will also be other harmful compounds released by a bonfire like this including high levels of dioxins. An open fire will typically produce 90% more particulate emissions (smoke) than a new wood burning stove. A garden bonfire, burning wet fuel, will be off the scale in comparison.

The reasons are twofold; for an efficient fire you need a high temperature and you need oxygen. Wet fuel does not allow the temperature in the fire to rise because all the heat is being used to evaporate the water, and when you burn fuel in a pile on the ground air does not get mixed in properly, so the combustion is incomplete – it is an “air-starved” way of burning things. Which is why you get billowing clouds of smoke from bonfires when burning fresh garden waste. 

Billowing clouds of smoke is harmful at the best of times, but right now we are in the midst of a covid-19 health pandemic. Millions of us have had to drastically change the way we live, mainly to protect those who are at higher risk. Billions of our public funds are being used in this effort. There are huge impacts on the mental health of adults and children, many businesses will be wondering if they can stay afloat at all, whilst our care services and support networks are doing their utmost – we are all of us paying a high cost.

Covid-19 seems to largely be a respiratory disease. Those with existing conditions such as asthma are at higher risk, and looking at the statistics published by the government it is easy to see that the highest mortality rates are among our elders – which we have many of in this parish. So anything which adds stress to our health, especially respiratory health, is to be avoided.

Deciding to burn wet garden waste is not only generally to be avoided, but right now it feels like it is ignoring all of these huge sacrifices that we are collectively making, and is likely increasing the risk posed by covid-19. There is growing evidence that air pollution worsens coronavirus 


If I can’t burn it, what should I do with it?

  • Take it to the Council recycling centre near Kingsbridge – we all collectively pay for recycling services so that, for example, we do not have to end up burning garden waste. Make use of them, they are open.
  • Use your brown bin if there’s space. You can fill it up every 2 weeks of course.
  • Create habitat from the waste – hedgehogs and many other animals love a place of refuge so another option is to make a deliberate habitat pile in your garden and see what new life that attracts. A very tidy garden is not a rich bio-diverse habitat. Here are some pointers from the RHS. There are also some good articles in the Parish magazine from “The Untidy Gardener”.
  • Use a chipper for more bulky material and then use it as a mulch or compost it.
  • If a contractor is doing the work for you then they must dispose of it in the proper manner – which would mean leaving it on site either as-is or chipped, or paying to dispose of it in the proper manner – not burning it.
  • If you are going to burn it regardless then make sure it is dry – which means stacking it so that the air and sun can get to it with some type of cover to keep the rain off. Drying can take months so bear that in mind. Also bear in mind that a bonfire pile is an excellent habitat for many animals like hedgehogs so at the very least once it’s dry move it before you burn it so you don’t also burn any animals inside. As I say you should avoid burning it in the first place.


What if bonfires are causing a nuisance?

I’d advocate talking first – observing distancing of course. If you notice a neighbour having one of these bonfires go and have a word with them. Or send them a letter or phone them if you have their number.

The person having these bonfires may well not be aware of the level of concern and harm they are causing, nor how many people they are effecting. This more personal approach may also have a more lasting impact than a letter from the authorities, plus these bonfires tend to be intermittent so it can tend to be hard for an officer to come out when one is actually happening, especially when Council services are under particular strain at the moment.

So again I’d advocate for talking, and talking early before an annoyance turns to anger. If you also talk with other residents about this then that can help to spread awareness and a few more people getting in touch is more powerful than just one. Remember – the person doing this may well not be fully aware of the impact they are having. 

If that fails you can contact Environmental Health at South Hams District Council. They also reiterate the message that you should try talking with the person causing the nuisance first.

Here is a handy Bonfire Guide – again the Environment Agency advocate talking with the person having the bonfires first. There is also some good information in there on best practice.

Smoky bonfire

Latest news from Torbay and South Devon Health Service

Latest news from Torbay and South Devon Health Service

Open the file here  Issue 2 17 April 2020 final or read below.

We are sending you this update to keep you informed about Trust developments. We thought you would find it especially helpful during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please feel free to share these updates amongst your networks. If you wish to unsubscribe, please email:

We are ensuring our website has the latest information on it so please do look there for the most up-to-date information www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/

You also keep up-to-date by following us on Twitter and Facebook

 Your NHS Is Here For You – Getting Help In An Emergency

Local people should be assured that urgent and emergency services continue to be there if they are unwell and need help. If you or a loved one are unwell and need urgent care please do contact health services as you would normally. In an emergency call 999 or visit the Emergency Department. This applies to care for children and adults alike.

We do understand that people maybe concerned about attending but we want everyone to know that precautionary measures are in place and that there are real dangers in not seeking help for serious conditions.

Hospitals and GP practices across Devon have put in place special measures to protect patients and staff from COVID-19, whether they are treating a patient with symptoms of the virus, or for other illnesses. In many cases those affected by the virus are being seen in separate areas.

We are still here for you if you need help.

  • If you or someone you know has a life-threatening injury or illness, such as severe chest pain, bleeding, loss of consciousness or signs of a stroke, call 999 or go to the nearest emergency department.
  • Some hospital procedures, operations and clinics are continuing to take place in Devon. Hospitals are making their own local arrangements which may change over time.
  • Our Minor Injuries Unit at Newton Abbot is open as usual – 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week. Please note that the Dawlish and Totnes Minor Injuries Units are temporarily closed.
  • GP practices in Devon remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you need to see your GP, for example for back pain, arthritis or asthma, contact your practice via their website or by phone. Your consultation may be via phone, video or in person.

Accessing urgent dental care

Patients with an urgent or emergency dental condition must not attend any clinics. There is a system in place to triage them to help manage the flow to centres and avoid queues (in line with social- distancing measures).

Registered patients

People who have a dental practice and use it regularly should contact their dentist by phone to seek a referral. All NHS dental surgeries should be accessible by phone, even though their doors are shut.

Unregistered patients

People who don’t have a dentist should call the dental helpline in Devon on 03330 063300

Outpatient appointments

Given the current instructions from the government to stay at home to combat the coronavirus epidemic, we are reducing the number of non-essential medical appointments.

All non-essential outpatient appointments are being stood down and appointments are undergoing a clinical review by the appropriate specialist. Following the clinical review, unless the appointment is essential, it may be replaced with a non-face to face appointment such as a telephone consultation or it may be deferred for a clinically-appropriate period of time.

This means if people who have an appointment booked over the coming weeks should do not attend the appointment unless advised otherwise by the Trust. If the appointment is deemed to be essential we will contact directly – people do not need to contact us.

Offers of support

We have been and continue to be overwhelmed by the level of support we have received. This means so much to us.

As we said in the last update we have set up a just giving page for anyone who would like to donate at this time and again the response has been fantastic. We can assure you that all the money raised will go to supporting our staff in their care at this time

We cannot thank you enough for any donation made, it will make a lasting difference.

Donate via this link: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/TSDCOVID

New Nightingale Hospital in Exeter

A new NHS Nightingale Hospital will be opened in Westpoint Exeter to provide 200 extra beds for patients with coronavirus symptoms, if needed. The new emergency facility, announced by NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, brings the total to seven confirmed NHS Nightingale Hospitals across the country. The five acute hospitals in Devon and Cornwall, including Torbay Hospital, will provide the majority of care for critically ill patients with coronavirus, and have plans in place to increase their critical care capacity up to 500 beds across both counties.

The new hospital, which is expected to be ready for the first patients by Early May, will provide a regional resource of 200 beds for Devon, Cornwall and neighbouring counties to meet the care needs for patients who are seriously unwell due to their coronavirus symptoms.


What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms (a temperature above 37.8 degrees or a new, continuous cough) should use the NHS 111 online service to complete a coronavirus assessment, not call 111. GOV.UK WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Service

A new GOV.UK WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Service has also been launched.

The purpose of this product is to combat the spread of misinformation propagated through WhatsApp on an Official Government channel. To use the service, simply add +44 7860 064422 to your contacts and send a WhatsApp message saying “Hi”.

Sharing Good news

Our staff have been absolutely amazing in the way they have continued to provide excellent care during this pandemic. It has been heart warming to receive so many messages of thanks and this means so much to our staff.

You may have read or seen coverage about some of our in local media. It was lovely to see Ariel from our catering department on ITV Westcountry last night to show how are support staff are so important in helping us provide great care.


Extended GP appointment hours

At local practices:

Dartmouth Medical Practice – Thursdays – 6.00pm to 8.00pm

Leatside Surgery – Mondays – 6.00pm to 8.00pm

At a local hub:

Pembroke House Surgery

01803 553558

266 Torquay Road, Paignton, TQ3 2EZ

Fridays – 6.00pm—8.00pm

Saturdays – 8.00am—6.00pm

Sundays – 8.00am—2.00pm

Please note that as this contract is being delivered at scale across the locality, you will not necessarily be seen by a Clinician known to you from your practice.

To book an appointment, contact your Practice.