Monday, 21 March 2016

Fire Next Time

16th March 2016

Like most portmanteau words ‘mizzle’ gets it about right. The mist was thin and seemingly distant; the rain scarcely falling. It took me a while to realize that I was getting wet - and a wee bit cold. Still, the walk over to the woods by the Lily Pond soon warmed me and, once I had started work, I was soon overheated enough to remove my waterproof. Anyway, it’s one of those cagoules that as soon as any energy is expended becomes wetter on the inside than on the outside, precipitation or not.

I was back on the hillside beneath the Monument, laying into the rhododendron once again. Other demands were due to keep me away from Gibside for two consecutive Wednesdays, so there I was on a Tuesday, just me and bird song.
After more than six decades of studying nature, I am still pretty hopeless at recognizing anything other than the most common of birds by their song. With one exception, that did for now: wren, robin, blackbird and an assortment of tits. A red kite cried, drifting over the Lily Pond; crows croaked. Under the western hemlock there were a few foraging scrapes – presumably the work of badgers, and faintly worn tracks that disappeared into the dense rhododendron growth.

A Tangle of Rhododendrons
In recent weeks the team has worked its way up the hill cutting back rhododendron and stacking it in larger and larger heaps. From now the job is likely to become more difficult, for it grows far more densely, and presents as a solid wall of thick, interwoven branches which, when cut through, remain in place held by each other. Some reach up into the tops of other trees and refuse to be dislodged. And there is another problem developing. There is not enough ground space to stack it all. In other parts of Gibside this has been overcome by reducing it to ashes. That could be difficult in this location, but will have to be done.

Yet more ...

The mizzle had long since faded, but an occasional movement of the air and my struggles with the vegetation now brought down accumulated water from the leaves and branches above. Wet once again, I packed in for the day. Perhaps it will be the fire next time.
Steve Wootten

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