On Sunday, we burned our annual bonfire. Most of the prunings, clippings and mowings from the garden or the hedgerows are composted , but there is always a pile of twigs and branches that has to be burned. One great pile is fenced off in a field ,where it grows and grows. A second pile grows next to it and then another mass of garden debris starts to take over somewhere else. Finally, we have to choose a day and just get out there with the matches.
This is easier said than done. There are so many reasons why it is NOT the right day for a bonfire.
1) If the bonfire it too wet, it won`t burn
2) If the weather is too dry, it might start a grass fire and burn the field away.
3) If a prevailing westerly, or south westerly wind is blowing, we might set fire to the thatched cottages up the lane. This would not endear us to the neighbours.
4) If it is spring or summer, birds will almost definitely be nesting in the bonfire. Last year, robins raised a family in amongst the twigs.
5) If it is high summer, we might set fire to the Forest heathland over the hedge.....
6) ...or we might just set fire to the hedge!
7) If it is winter, a snuggle of Jenny Wrens may be sheltering inside the bonfire. This winter, I would watch them fly in as the sun set and there were at least a dozen little birds in residence every night.
So, after days of dry, cool spring weather, the time was right. We poked and prodded at the bonfire, checking for life inside. Nothing moved. A match was struck into a bundle of newspapers, and away it went. The first small crackles grew in seconds to a roaring leap of flame.
Tall , bright orange flames shot upwards, while smaller flickers licked their way around the base and widened the mass of spitting, cracking wood as it burst in the searing heat.
Forms of branches could be seen , standing alone against the smoke and flame. Horse chestnut, blackthorn, hawthorn and twining bramble. Thorny branches of rambling rose, honeysuckle vines and dull , smoking green mats of evergreen hedging steamed and snapped in the heat.
Sometimes the wind turned and flames followed.
We gathered up more branches from the second pile, to feed the fire.
Under the lowest twigs and branches, after they had been lifted away, a small nest of dry moss lay on bare earth. Something underneath it moved. One and then another small brown rodent ran out of the nest. Two startled field voles, scurried towards longer grass and away from the bonfire`s heat.
They disappeared, one after the other, into a mossy hole in the earth.
I lost count of the loads we moved on the little green trailer. The fire burned on until dusk, when a grey heap of wood fire smouldered on into the night.
As I moved old branches apart from the heap in the yard, I found this. A relic of last spring.