Quantock Hills Blog

Where there’s smoke….

- It’s March, we have some high pressure and relatively settled weather so that can only mean one thing...

Andy Harris

Posted by Andy Harris on 03 March 2012

Where there’s smoke…. swaling has made a start.

The traditional practice of burning patches of heather in a controlled way until the end of March is undertaken by Rangers and specially trained volunteers who give up a lot of hours over the coming month.

Our first burns of the season were completed just north of Bicknoller Post and it feels great to have made a start and we’re hoping to have plenty more opportunities before April.  Swaling is all about perpetuating the internationally important heathland habitat which without this form of management would revert to woodland and lose all the associated wildlife e.g. skylarks, greylings and adders.

The timing is planned to avoid disturbance to ground nesting birds and emerging reptiles and great care is taken to keep the fires under control and to maximise the patchwork effect of age class across the common.

Should you see a fire on the hills and have any concerns that it may not be a controlled burn do please ring the Fire and Rescue Service as we always inform them when we are on site and when we’ve left.  Any fire after March will not be one of ours and we ask that you inform the emergency services.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy swaling.  It’s something I and my colleagues look forward to every year and judging by the laughs we have it’s something the volunteers enjoy too.  Just being on the hills at this time of year you get to see the subtle changes of seasons swapping over; usually I see my first Wheatears of spring arriving and as Keith (a volunteer) reminded me that last year we even saw our first swallows.  No doubt I’ll keep you post with any sightings we have and I would be keen to hear from you as well.  Heathland birds are going to feature a lot in later blogs but I’ll keep you hanging on for now!


Comments in chronological order (Total 4 comments)

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  • No avatar available
    Glen baker

    06 Mar 12

    What training do you need to help out

  • Katy Coate
    Katy Coate

    13 Mar 12

    Hi Glen.
    You would need to join our Countryside Conservation Volunteers, which is a group run jointly with the National Trust.  If you are interested in becoming one, please contact Owen Jones who is the Volunteer Co-ordinator on .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Owen would know how and when volunteers receive training in order to help out with Swaling.  Here is the link to our Volunteers page. http://www.quantockhills.com/page/double-column/volunteering_on_the_quantocks/
    Hope that is helpful, best wishes
    Georgie, Comms Officer

  • No avatar available

    20 Mar 12

    Was heather burning taking place on the evening of the 19th March, probably on the south west flank of the hills near West Quantoxhead?

    I could see a very large fire in that direction from my home just north of Wiveliscombe.


  • Katy Coate
    Katy Coate

    10 Apr 12

    Yes we swaled near Beacon Hill in the afternoon and Hurley Beacon near Crowcombe Park Gate (the one everyone saw) which went into the evening.

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