The Burning Forest
Whilst returning home from Hythe this afternoon, I decided to take a detour across the forest rather than taking the normal shorter route home.
As I approached Beaulieu Road Station from Ferny Crofts, I noticed a cloud of dark smoke on the horizon, and decided to investigat, as I guessed there was a controlled burn taking place.
The gorse and heather just east of Boltons Bench was ablaze, and despite the size of the flames, I was assured that it was under control.
Controlled burning of New Forest Heathland can legally take place any time from October to March, but more usually occurs from late-February until the end of March, towards the end of the legally permitted period.
The reasoning behind this is that by then, the worst of the winter weather is normally over, and as a result the vegetation will likely be quite dry, whilst the round cvonditions are still relatively wet ground offering protection to the underlying peaty soil. Furthermore, the impact on breeding birds and reptiles, is also minimised.
Burning occurs in relatively small but widely separated blocks, thus creating a diverse habitat and ensuring that there are always untouched ares nearby.
The burning not only removes old woody growth and encourages vigorous new growth, but also benefits a number of species such as the Woodlark, which tends to do well on newly bare ground, and the beautiful sky blue Marsh Gentian, which benefits from reduced competition from more vigourous plant species.