Regeneration at Frensham

We used to visit Frensham Little Pond quite often, but there was a devastating heath fire there in July 2010, which left a lot of it feeling like a bit of a wasteland. I thought I’d have a walk there today to see how things have recovered. On first look it all still seemed pretty barren.

But although the silver birches were burnt to leave only scorched skeletons, the root systems survived intact and there’s plenty of bushy growth coming through. Birch is a very opportunistic tree; it’s a vigorous coloniser of newly cleared or burned ground, and has to be managed and curtailed if heathland isn’t going to revert to scrub over time. It’s one of the ‘weeds’ of the tree world, but personally I like it ; the silver bark gives beautiful colour and contrast and the leaves are delicate and attractive in spring and autumn.

When you look around more closely, there’s actually still plenty of colour; luminous mosses and new regrowth of ling heather. Heathland always regenerates eventually, but the devastation at the time is appalling. Massive loss of wildlife, from reptiles and insects through to nesting birds. Some trees survived the blaze, like the oak below that was just on the fringes of where the fire reached.

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