Easter inferno

Back in April, over the Easter Bank Holiday, there were a series of huge fires in the Peak District National Park. The biggest was on Bleaklow, which burned out 844 hectares of internationally important moorland. The upland areas in the Dark Peak are a rare habitat, raised blanket bog, of which the UK has a significant proportion of the worldwide total. I've included some pictures I took of the fire below. I know I've been really tardy in putting them up despite several other Rangers nagging me to do so, but I frankly wanted to avoid having to look at them.

The fire covered an area of 844 hectares. In addition there were fires on Black Hill, Kinder, Buckton Moor and Slatepit Moor plus others further south.

Bleaklow fire

This is taken from Chunal, and shows the huge stream of smoke from the fire on Bleaklow, being blown away to the west towards Manchester. As an idea of scale, the fire is about 8km away and the plume of smoke you can see is approximately 8km long, and caused disruption at Manchester Airport, some 30km away.

Bleaklow fire

One of the many unfortunate casualties of the fire - a mountain hare, still in it's winter coat. Darrel, the gamekeeper for this moor, told me that when he went up onto the moor after the fire he had seen several hares frantically running around, blinded by the smoke and flames and obviously in a great deal of pain.

Bleaklow fire

And here is the reason it probably didn't run from the flames - the pathetic group of bones in the foreground is all that remains of a leveret (baby hare). For those of you that know the area, the burnt mound in the background, right hand side is Torside Castle.

Bleaklow fire

This is a view westwards from Harrop Moss towards Glossop Low. Total devestation. In my opinion the Bleaklow fire was probably started deliberately, I hope whoever started it (and the other fires) is satisfied with their handywork.

It is a common misconception that the fires are part of 'natures way', but it is important to understand that the moorland has been managed for centuries, and because of the proximity of Manchester and Sheffield (two centres of the Industrial Revolution), the area has long been blighted by heavy pollution. This has obviously has a detrimental effect on the ecology and wildlife of the moors. The peat is no longer forming in any noticable quantities, and in fact in many places is eroding at a significant rate. The peat only started forming at the end of the Neolithic period (6000 - 3500 BC), in response to clearance of the land by humans and a cooler, damper climate. Unfortunately widespread and uncontrolled fires (in contrast to the controlled burns used for moorland management) remove the protective vegitation from the peat, which then erodes rapidly. Because peat is such a mobile surface, subject to drying out and wind erosion in the summer and freeze heave during the winter, it is extremely difficult for vegitation to get a foothold on areas that are bare peat, and the low nutrient and high pollution levels don't help either. The "Moors for the Future" project is trying to repair centuries of damage, and the fires this year have been a huge setback.

For more information on the Dark Peak, I can strongly recommend the University of Manchester Geography Department's superb Dark Peak Fieldwork site.



Re: Easter inferno

Was up on Bleaklow in the Torside Castle area during the August 2003 Bank Holiday weekend, and pleasingly, there is now much evidence of substantial regrowth in the very centre of the 7.5 sq. km. burn area. However, evidently it will still be some substantial time before the moor is back to how it was before the Easter 2003 fire (if indeed it ever is!)

Re: Easter inferno

Just been over Bleaklow today (frozen conditions, the only way to go!!) There is little evidence of the fire now. A lot of regrowth up there.