An Evening of Fire Ecology

Swailing on Mutter's Moor35 people attended the evening on the 5th December, with members of the Otter Valley Association very supportive of the event. After mince pies and mulled wine, Dr. Bridgewater gave a broad illustrated overview of fire adpated ecosystems from around the world, including the Fynbos of South Africa, the Cerrado of Brazil and the Chaparral of California. His talk highlighted many co-evolved plant adaptations to fire including corky bark and fire-induced break of seed dormancy. He suggested that fire is not necessarily a catastrophic event but necessary for the maintainance and diversity of many natural ecosystems, with heathlands also benefitting from intermittent fire events.  After a brief discussion of heathland fire ecology and the Conservation Trust's own swailing pratices on the Pebblebed Heaths, Senior Warden Paul Swain then shared his own recollections of the Colaton Raleigh fire in 2010 which covered an area of about 100 hectares, highlighting how the Conservation Trust works with the Fire Service to combat un-planned fires. After a break where those present were given a guided tour around the Rolle Estate Office by Dr. Bridgewater, Mo Bowlam introduced her Phoenix Cycle project that has been recording vegetation recovery on Colaton Common since 2010. Her beautiful photographs were much admired and stimulated some broad discussion on all aspects of heathland management. Finally Katherine McDermott-Darley introduced the creative writing Local Voices project and their plans in 2014 to stimulate creative writing inspired by fire ecology. The evening was highly enjoyable and benefitted from the many differing views, experiences and voices of those present. It was generally agreed that there should be subsequent follow up events in the New Year. The first of these is a one-day Poetry Workshop scheduled for the 18th January 2014. 

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