In the middle of last week we witnessed an infernal blaze coming towards us, at first a cloud of smoke behind Mulfra Hill, then as it topped the hill, the ferocious flames along the line of fire clearly visible from Trezelah.
As smoke billowed into the sky creating a trail above and beyond us, we could hear the fire engines on their way to dowse the flames. It was an alarming and saddening sight, and left me wondering what sort of vandal would create such seemingly wanton destruction of such a sensitive and pristine heathland, and on such an exceptional scale?
There was some suggestion that it had been caused by a ‘controlled’ (ha!) blaze started by Natural England to clear some vegetation. Ian McNeil Cooke, co-ordinator of Save Penwith Moors (see post and Facebook page) was quick to air his views on the subject. Mr Cooke has a very public, long-running battle with Natural England. An off-shoot from what used to be Defra, Natural England seem to have recently blundered their way into Penwith and ‘trampled’ their might over, what was once, a wild and beautifully ‘untamed’ but delicately balanced landscape. They have managed to upset a lot of normally rational and sane people in the process.
A few days after the fire, and when we felt sure the whippets would not singe their little paws, we took a walk up to the Quoit to see the damage for ourselves. The scorching was quite extensive, patchy in Bodrifty village, but the Quoit itself, seemingly unscathed. Looking around, I felt there was sure to be ancient remains in the landscape that the burning back of the gorse would have exposed. Not having our dowsing rods with us at the time, this was not possible to verify. Next time.
It is a walk we take often, being one of my favourites, so this familiar landscape has taken on a new ‘blackened’ hue which is strangely beautiful, contrasting with the pale, pastel shades of the winter grasses on the heath. Have a look at the pictures I took last June Bodrifty to Mulfra Quoit to make a comparison with these images. However, it was quite amazing and encouraging to see new shoots are already pushing through the charred undergrowth, just days after this dramatic event. The damage from the fire, although fierce, seems to have skimmed over the tops of the gorse leaving the ground relatively unscathed and roots intact, as scraping back the thin layer of ash, the earth underneath seems neither baked nor charred.
Not far from the quoit stands a lone holly bush, barely 4 foot in height that, although slightly scorched, is a striking contrast to the blackened remains around it. The holly tree has long associations with sacred healing and protection, as well as the fact that hollies do tend to conduct lightning into the ground better than most trees, with the least injury to the tree. Ancient Celts would often plant a holly tree near their homes specifically to take lightning strikes and protect a house and its inhabitants. On this occasion, it has done it’s job well in protecting Mulfra Quoit.