Last chance for a swail

IMG_1514 (640x480)Every year we try and undertake some controlled burning to regenerate areas of ageing heathland, but it wasn't until last week we were sure we would have the chance to undertake any burning at all this year. The heather Burning Code allows us to burn until the 31st March, so we are right at the tailend of the season.

Sites for swailing are identified in the early autumn and the staff of the Conservation Trust and then on the lookout for suitable weather conditions to allow them to proceed. A prolongued period of cold dry weather is necessary, with frosts being ideal, and then preparations on the ground can can begin. On the day of a burn staff contact the Fire Service's s Fire Control to notify them about the plans, with the next stage being the establishment of a firebreak, usually done by a tractor-powered mower. Wind conditions are checked and then the heath is set alight with staff on hand with beaters to ensure there is no spread from the intended burn site. A Landrover carrying a fogger (water spraying system) is always on hand for added protection. Swail sites are usually small, and undertaking and completing of a successful burn is hugly satisfying. The accompanying photograph shows a burn being undertaken on East Budleigh Common. A year from now we'll be seeing the green shoots of recovery with the heathland life cycle starting once again. It is the diversity of age structures mazximses the amount of wildlife the heaths can support.  Rain is set to come in later today, so today's swail might be the last of the season.

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