Heathland fires in the high summer can be pretty terrifying, they can spread as fast as you can run and be very destructive for wildlife. Fire on a heath is not always a bad thing though. Here at Black Down we use fire every winter as a tool to help with our heathland management.

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We burn several small targeted areas of heath each winter as part of our habitat mangement work. This encourages fresh new young growth of heather and diversifies the ages structure of the heather.

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It is challenging work, especially making sure it is done safely. We cut a pattern of firebreaks first to make sure the burn can’t escape and always have a water bowser and firebeaters on hand, along with our well trained and skilled Ranger team.

We back burn against the wind to start with to extend the firebreak and then when the conditions are right set light to the leading edge. When it goes well it is quite a sight…

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The fire burns thrugh the vegetation up to the firebreak, and then extinguishes itself as it runs out of combustable material.

It looks dramatic, but on a small scale provides exactly the right sort of diverse habitat that so much of our really special heathland wildlife needs in order to survive. At the moment we are targeting our burn sites to try and help with the habitat for our Silver Studded Blue butterfly reintroduction project.

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We reintroduced the first batch of butterflies last year, more will be coming this year and next, but in the meantime it is going to be so exciting come the summer to see if the first batch produced any young.

 

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