The little rain that fell overnight might help to keep the vandals at bay from killing the wildlife on our cliffs and commons again. At this time of year, and every year before the end of March, it seems as though its open season for anyone with a box of matches to set fire to the dry grass and bracken, causing untold damage to the flora and fauna. Commons and cliffs should be alive with invertebrates, but these annual fires have ensured that many of them are impoverished. Some selective burning is beneficial, especially when the gorse gets too leggy, but uncontrolled fires burn deep into the ground, and make recovery very slow. The loss of biodiversity and carbon cost is incalculable.
Large areas of Wales are ablaze, with fire crews wrestling to keep fires under control. Forests are at risk, and each year hundreds of hectares are lost to vandals; even lives are in danger when fires invade urban areas. Our local common and cliffs have escaped so far, but there are still two weeks remaining before burning becomes illegal; I keep my fingers crossed, hope for rain, but the forecast is for perfect fire-raising weather.
Powerless, I retreat to the beach away from the plumes of smoke inland. A natural smoke-like flock of dunlins tempers my anger, and a male wheatear, my first for the year, heralds hope for the season of renewal ahead.