Quantock Hills Blog



Andy Harris

Posted by Andy Harris on 19 April 2010

WILD FIRE The swaling season is well and truly over but last Friday smoke was seen rising from Woodlands Hill as a result of a wild heath fire.  Nigel (National Trust Warden) and myself met fire officers from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service just outside Holford before we took a look at the extent of the blaze.

Whilst concerned about the damage any wild fire causes we were somewhat relieved that it didn’t seem too extensive. However, the wind kept gusting and the flames managed to jump a track and into an area of thick gorse.  At the same time as the fire on Woodlands Hill another wild fire was underway on Exmoor meaning that crews and equipment were at full stretch.  Following a request Nigel and I got the bowzer and pump we use to control swales (managed burns) and were able to work alongside the fire crews putting out the front and damping things down.  Thanks go to all the fire crews that attended and their prompt action and hard work to contain the fire and stop it turning into a disaster.

This is the third wild fire within the last month and although damage will be limited, as the swaling season has just finished, hopefully no more will occur as the breeding is well underway and the soil is drying out.  If you see any smoke on the hills and suspect a wild fire please dial 999 immediately.  Although I’m enjoying the dry weather it would be nice to have just a day or two of light rain!

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  • No avatar available
    Lydeard Lowlander

    22 Apr 10

    I saw the big black patch on Woodlands yesterday from Hare Knap, it looks like it was a real roaring blaze, absolutely nothing left. There used to be a lot of thick gorse there if I remember correctly. Will anything apart from Dartford Warblers have been affected?

  • No avatar available
    Andy Harris

    05 May 10

    Yes the “Wild Fire” did destroy a large area of gorse which was prime habitat for Dartford Warblers.  However as it was so close to the end of the swaling season (31st March) it is my hope that very few actual breeding birds were caught up in the blaze as it was unlikely that any were actually on eggs.  However what is suitable habitat for Dartford Warblers is also great habitat for species such as Linnets (which we saw flocks of during the fire), Pipits, Whitethroats as well as other similar heathland species that have now lost valuable breeding ground.  Other than birds I’m sure many invertebrates would have been caught up in the fire as well as small mammals and reptiles all important species found on the heath.  Although this happened just after the swaling season had it been a later summer fire it would most likely have devastated the actual heathland plants as not only everything above ground level is burnt away but the fire / heat often travels underground destroying the roots and dormant seed resulting in the ground being bare for many years.

    Finally, back to Dartford Warblers the reason I’m so concerned about fires affecting their population is because their numbers here and elsewhere in the country have crashed due to the past two severe winters and the area that was destroyed by fire was deliberately left as prime habitat to encourage any recovery.

    Hopefully this is the last of the “wild fires”

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