Smoke could be seen rising from Penderyn Common last month as fires blazed across the moorland. This time though the fire was started under the watchful eyes of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Wardens and firemen from the Mid & West Wales and South Wales Fire & Rescue Services as part of a training exercise.
Known as ‘controlled burns’, fires are set each year on areas of moorland and heathland across the National Park as a part of important ongoing land management. One of the purposes of burning on this common is to encourage good grazing land as the burning gets rid of the long tusk-like grass (called Molinia) which sheep and other grazing animals won’t eat. The burnt patchwork of land might look dead to a casual observer but that is not the case. Burning encourages new growth of grasses and better grazing for animals and attracts many species of insects which are the perfect food for the ground nesting birds that will arrive in the spring. Each year different small sections of land are burnt to build up a mosaic of land patches of different ages creating greater biodiversity and habitats for a wide range of wildlife whilst also continuing to let the stock graze.
Importantly National Park Wardens work in partnership with the graziers who traditionally manage the commons by setting fires to ensure their stock would have good grazing grass. It is hoped this will reduce the number of wildfires which in previous years have damaged the landscape and undone habitat management work. The burning is also of interest to local fire crews giving the chance to learn more about wildfires and controlling them, training which is extremely useful especially in light of the increase in wildfires within the area.
Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Warden, Paul Chapman, invited the fire crews to work with the warden team this year;
‘Local fire crews joined us for one of our controlled burning days on the common. It allowed some of their new recruits the chance to practice before illegal fires are set during what has become known as ‘Wildfire Season’ after the legal burning season ends in the hills at the end of March. We have always worked closely with the fire service as National Park Authority land has been damaged by uncontrolled burning many times in the past and we are grateful for the fire brigade’s help at those times. When April arrives lighting fires on the land is illegal and causes great damage to wildlife and we urge members of the public not to start fires on purpose. If anyone sees or hears anything regarding illegal burning they can anonymously call Crimestoppers with that information on 0800555111.’
Speaking at the training exercise, Fire Station Manager Neil Evans, Mid & West Wales Fire & Rescue Service added; ‘Opportunities to get out on the ground and carry out practical training on grassland fires are valuable and we were keen to do this. During this training, our crew members learn about wildfire control and gain practical experience putting in fire breaks, something which will be invaluable if we get a callout to a real wildfire.’
Notes to Editors
Photograph © breconbeaconsnationalparkauthority
Caption: Controlled burning taking place on Penderyn Common