It’s official – the fire is out!

The huge fire, which started on June 28th and devastated much of the moorland on Winter Hill not far from my home, was generally considered to be out three weeks ago and most of the fire crews had left the area, although there were still several hotspots being monitored by the remaining fire service members and all footpaths onto and across the moors remained closed. However, a couple of heavy downpours the weekend before last had helped things along and on Wednesday this week a message was sent out declaring the fire to be officially out after 41 days – the fire service would cease monitoring the land and would leave the site, with access to Winter Hill itself and Rivington Pike now being reopened.
At lunch time yesterday, while driving back along the A675 from my friend’s house at Belmont village, I noticed several walkers climbing the path up to the top of Winter Hill so instead of sitting down with a brew when I got in I grabbed the camera and the dogs and went back to do the same, leaving the van in the car park at San Marino pub/restaurant. The first part of the walk from the road to the gate about quarter of the way up wasn’t too strenuous but after that the terrain became steeper and much more rocky, with huge patches of burnt land on the left side of the path, many of them right next to the path itself, though it was good to see that even after such a short space of time new grass was growing through.
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Fire service banner near the gate onto the moors
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Burnt land next to the path
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Up on top of the hill it was frightening to see just how close to the transmitting station buildings the fire had got – within just a few yards in some cases and the main building was almost completely surrounded by large patches of burnt land, so it was no wonder that those working there had been evacuated. Almost opposite the main building was Scotsman’s Stump, a plain grey iron post with an unassuming plaque which was a memorial to an 1838 murder victim; presumably affected by the fire it had recently had a makeover and had been painted black with the plaque in red with white lettering – it looked quite attractive and much nicer than the original grey.
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Burnt land close to the transmitting station
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Scorched and damaged fence posts and railways sleepers used for footpaths
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Scotsman’s stump with a new paint job after the fire
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Mindful of the time, and wanting to give myself time to have a brew and a snack before going to my next job, I didn’t linger too long on top of the hill, though going back down the track proved to be harder than going up. It had taken me 40 minutes to walk up from the road but the track was steep in places and so full of loose rocks and stones that I had to negotiate it with care going down – slipping, tripping or twisting an ankle just wasn’t an option, though I’m sure it hadn’t been so bad when I went up there last year.
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On the way back down
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Belmont village and reservoir
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Finally, after 50 minutes, I reached road level safely and returned to the van across the road in San Marino car park. Looking up at the Winter Hill tv mast from there it didn’t seem to be too far away but it was further than it looked, though having now satisfied my curiosity it’s a walk I don’t need to do again for a while. That was only one side of the moorland though – the fire had been extensive and had affected a huge area so weather permitting I may very well do a bit more exploring in a day or two. There was one thing I’d noticed on the way back down the track though – the complete lack of birdsong. Not a tweet or a chirp anywhere, and away from any traffic noise on the road the silence was deafening. I just hope that not too many ground-nesting birds were affected by the fire and any that have been displaced will soon find their way back again – the place just isn’t the same without a bit of birdsong.

13 thoughts on “It’s official – the fire is out!

  1. I’m thinking it will be bleak this winter, Eunice. It’s grouse shooting season this weekend, isn’t it? I can never forget the ‘glorious 12th’ because it’s our wedding anniversary. We’re going up the coast and will likely get rained o, but there are many worse things. 🙂 🙂 I dread to think how things are in Monchique right now. Rain would be a Godsend. Have a good weekend!

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    1. Grouse shooting isn’t something I agree with to be quite honest, though fortunately it doesn’t happen on Winter Hill. There’s just been a heavy rain shower here but not for long and the sun is out again now – I hope things are calming down in Monchique, I feel so sorry for all those affected by the fires over there. Happy anniversary, and I hope you have a great weekend up the coast 🙂

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  2. Six weeks is a long time for the fire to have burned. Hard work for the firefighters. The moorland will recover but so sad for all the wildlife that perished. Lets hope this never happen again.

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    1. I hope it never happens again either Eileen but you really can’t believe the stupidity of some people. While walking up the track yesterday I found a discarded glass bottle lying on the ground in full sun – okay, it was on an area already burnt but that’s not the point. Whether thrown there by one of the walkers I’d previously seen or one of the idiot ‘trespassers’ who continued to go up there even while the paths were closed I don’t know, but I picked it up and carried it all the way until I got back to the van where I could put it in the car park bin. Even while the fire was still burning there were some people going up to other areas with disposable barbecues! To be honest I wouldn’t care if it rains here from now for the rest of the year, it would put people off doing such stupid things and help the moorland to recover. I feel so sad for all the wildlife that’s been affected but hopefully the various creatures will gradually find their way back again.

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  3. There are forest fires in Portugal too – as you say, probably all part of global warming though the fire here was caused by a mixture of human carelessness and deliberate arson and two people are being investigated.

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  4. So do I. I’ve been to a fire station open day today and there was a display of photos taken of the fire, I think it was more extensive than most people realised. I took some photos of the photos so will put them on here soon.

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  5. I am staggered to read than people were still out using BBQs . . . the utter stupidity of so many people makes me very very sad, I wonder about our future when you read things like that.

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  6. Some people can be totally brainless Jayne. Okay, so it’s a lovely summer day, let’s pack a picnic and go up to the countryside where we can have a barbecue and chill out for a while – a nice idea but with no forward thinking, especially with the land being as dry as it has been. And for people to go up there while the fire was still burning is just sheer unbelievable stupidity – it really makes me wonder about the mentality of some people 😦 😦

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  7. What a huge area of devastation! The firemen did a wonderful job to put it put, even if it did take a long time. We had a wildfire, albeit on a much smaller scale, in a nature reserve in the city a few years back. It was amazing how quickly nature rebounded and hid all signs of the damage. Hopefully it will be the same for you.

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  8. It was certainly a big area, at least five square miles, and fire crews were coming from as far as London, Birmingham and the North East to help out – at one point there were 35 fire engines fighting the blaze. It’s been said that some areas have been so damaged that they will never recover – the moor is quite desolate in winter but lovely in summer so hopefully Mother Nature will give things a helping hand with its natural restoration.

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