I hear that it has been wet on the Spanish costas, very annoying for the people who spent money to go and get some Easter sunshine. Especially so as we have had lots of sunshine here. Yes, even here in the Northwest of England, even in rainy Manchester and dull and cloudy Delph. The pub next door to us has been doing a roaring trade, with people sitting out in its garden area late into the evening, sharing their laughter with all the neighbourhood.
Out running this morning in the already warm sunshine, I saw what I thought were clouds piling up behind the hills to the North. Then I realised that they were clouds of smoke. Another area of moorland on fire. Back home I found this report in the Guardian online. 200 hectares up in smoke!
A friend of mine who lives at the top of a hill posted about it on Facebook. She could see not just the smoke but also the flames from her window. Apparently the firemen believe that this fire was started accidentally by people lighting barbecues in a popular picnic spot in the area. Someone added this comment to my friend’s post:-
“Barbecues should be banned, for environmental reasons, full stop.
What's this obsession with barbecues? Every sunny day and everyone wants to either undercook or cremate meat outside. The carbon emissions of charcoal barbecues is ridiculous. A standard garden barbecue releases around 15lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere each time it is used. Imagine that, multiplied by every other household across the country lighting one up, every sunny day.
And on top of that there's the risk of environmental catatrophes like this occurring. Burned heather moorland takes decades to recover, notwithstanding it is nesting season. How many ground nesting moorland birds have perished because of these selfish, no common sense idiots, lighting a barbecue?”
Quite so! I have always considered barbecues seriously overrated but then I don’t eat red meat so really barbecues are wasted on me. There must be something in our genetic memory, however, that remembers cooking outdoors over a fire. Almost everyone I know enjoys a good bonfire. As children, we used to beg permission to light a campfire at the bottom of the garden (which incidentally is where folks should light their barbecues instead if doing so on dry moorland which will then burn and burn and burn) but we rarely got to cook anything on it; maybe we used the wrong kind of fuel. We also had a coal fire in the house and sometimes we would make toast the old fashioned way, using a toasting fork over the hot embers. There is something special about food cooked over a fire. Hence the popularity of barbecues - it’s not just so that can show off their outdoor culinary skills.
As I watched the smoke this morning, I reflected on the frequency of these moorland fires in recent times. There was a big one last summer and this year to date there have been at least four that I have heard about, and as we have been out walking we have spotted areas if hillside closer to home which have clearly been burnt, just small areas which presumably have been quickly extinguished.
We have grown accustomed to hearing of forest fires in Galicia and Portugal. Now it seems we must get used to regular moorland fires here. In both cases there is very flammable stuff involved, eucalyptus trees in Galica and Portugal and the peat here, which people used to dig up in slabs and burn it in their home fireplaces.
And this year the peat is extra dry.
Forests and moors may not seem as spectacular as cathedrals but we don’t want to lose them to fire either. And neither can we easily rebuild them!
We need to support those environmental protestors!