July 2013 was coming to an end and I had a date with a rhino. The plan was to walk to the airport, find the rhino there and walk back, a nice little eight mile stroll and one more of the out of town rhinos ticked off my list. Sometimes things don’t work out quite how you planned though and a catalogue of disasters meant a change of plan.
27 July 2013
First, I couldn’t find my phone and, as WalkJogrun and my camera are kind of vital for a rhino hunting walk I had to spend time searching for it. Turns out it was under a cushion in the living room. Then it wasn’t charged. This doesn’t take too long, when you can find the charger that is. By the time I’d found it and plugged the phone in I no longer really had time for the walk I wanted.
Then I started thinking about the fire we saw on the way home last night and wondering if there was anything of the green left. Maybe I’d go down there to inspect the fire damage instead. If I could get onto it of course. The fire had made the news and the local papers but I wanted to see for myself and see if my little woodland path had survived unscathed.
Thankfully it seemed a little cooler and I could see dark clouds gathering, maybe we’d finally get the storms we’ve be promised for the last week. If it rained while I was walking I didn’t much mind, it would cool me down at least. On my way I amused myself by looking at the gardens I passed. Many of them were dry and shrivelled but some had obviously been watered. Close to the cutway leading to the woodland a georgeous deep pink hydrangea caught my eye. To only did it have the darkest pink flowers I’ve ever seen on a hydrangea, it also still had the remnants of the old skeletonised ones from last year, everything that is good about hydrangeas on one plant.
To my relief, the woodland seemed unscathed although there was a distinct smoky smell in the air. Not long after I came out of the trees where the path runs through grass and scrub, I saw the first signs of the fire. Looking down towards the water, along one of the small tracks that criss croos the green there was a tiny patch of burnt grass. This needed further investigation because it was much further along than I’d expected, far beyond the houses.
This turned out to be the furthest reach of the fire, a long thin finger that had run along the dry grass towards the woods. In some places the fire had jumped even the wider paths. This area was mainly grass and wild flowers, all of which will soon regrow. In a few places small bushes were scorched but not burned. The further I walked the wider the area became. I wasn’t alone in my curiosity, a few other people were walking dogs surveying the damage. I chatted to a couple but it seemed I was the only one who’d actually seen the fire. Even the man who lived in the house closest to the fire had been at work, although there was talk of people being evacuated.
The fire appeared to have swirled and eddied, islands of untouched grass and shrubs amid the burned. As I got closer to the railway bridge that leads to the Yacht pub, there were burned bushes, these may not recover, time will tell. Close to the flats I found the cause of the high explosions of flame, the burned gorse. Twisted, blackend branches burned to charcoal. There will be gorse next year though, it’s indestructible.
The wide track at the far end of the green and the direction of the wind stopped the fire reaching the road. Here there were unscathed seed heads and even a ladybird, the cycle of life will continue and the wild flowers will come back. At least I hope they will.
Standing on the highest ground I could find I tried to get an idea of the extent of the fire. I took a couple of photos but there was no way to really show the vast area it covered. Later, I looked at the WalkJogrun map and I’d say it was about a third of a mile from end to end and about a tenth of a mile at the widest point down by the gorse. Walking back towards the path, right where we’d seen the policeman who told us to stay back, they’re was one little spot, a little away from the main fire, where the grass beside the path was burned. Maybe a hot ember, or maybe something more sinister, who knows? Either way I’m glad we kept off the path.