Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Bonfire Sunday

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.


WOL said...

Have you ever thought of getting a wood chipper? Anything too large for the chipper would be fireplace wood. The chipper would reduce the "noncompostable" things to chips that could be either composted or use to lay paths, or mulch around plants. It wouldn't have to be a very big chipper to deal with the sort of thing you'd want it for. You wouldn't accumulate great piles, because you would chip it as you go. But, on the other hand, bonfires are fun. . .

Kath said...

Oh bonfires are a sore-point for me today. My neighbours gardener is having a blaze in their back garden and the smoke is blowing right at my house, choking us in our garden and I can't put my washing out. This seems to be a regular occurence, as he comes very Thursday. We have ours at dusk when folks are indoors. At least you have the space around you, to enjoy your annual blaze and not bother other people :-)

Bovey Belle said...

We've had a couple of bonfires this week, but we definitely had a "too wet" moment with Bonfire 2, although B. 1 went quite well, and we have even cleared the ashes away for the garden.

I know what you mean about the timing being right, although I am glad to say that our only near neighbours are cows . . .

Dartford Warbler said...

WOL - we have a wood chipper, but the volume of twigs and branches is just too much to deal with. The chipper is also incredibly noisy and uses electricity, so we would be causing another sort of pollution with it! We do use what we can on the indoor fire. At least we don`t have a bonfire every week, like Kath`s neighbour.
Kath - it might be time for a quiet word with your neighbour.
We also have a neighbour who loves his bonfires. He lights one most weekends, but the smoke usually drifts out over the fields.
BB- the remains of the Big Bonfire are still smouldering, a week on...