Nov 20 2018

Not just a song and dance!

I’m still admiring fungi and talking to people about the ecological value of these autumn wonders. And I’ve been putting posters up across the Special Protection Area describing just that! It’s been a good conversation starter with visitors, if occasionally emotional. People have expressed their dismay at seeing mushroom pickers taking fungi away; sometimes by the bag load. Removal of fungi isn’t permitted on most of the Special Protection Area. If more people feel empowered to challenge this behaviour – in a non-hostile way – it’s just possible we could stop the negative activity.

Warden Trudi putting up her poster about fungi

Putting up fungi posters on the Special Protection Area

I’ve had similarly emotionally tinged conversations about the winter scrub clearance. Most people understand that heathland needs to be managed (more on that later). But for some, the collateral damage in the form of disturbance and noise is causing quite a ruckus (as my dad would say).

Sounds are a big draw to heathland. At their most evocative, and I’m thinking of birdsong, the first cuckoo of spring, the chirring of nightjars, for example, there is nothing as moving as these natural gifts. This week I was delighted to hear stags fighting (although maybe not delighted for the loser). It was a thrill to hear the primeval sound of their clashing horns booming across the landscape.

Such mesmerising sounds stay with you. I’m still thinking about an amazing gig I went to last week by Baka Beyond, a band whose music; a fusion of Celtic and African rhythms, is inspired by their time living with the Baka hunter-gatherer people in the Central Africa rainforest. I haven’t danced so much in ages (not since nearly standing on an adder a few months back)! But the real magic happened when the band stripped back to just two female vocalists who sang an “echo” as they described it, of the Baka tribeswomen ritualistic morning song called Yelli. The aim of Yelli is to bring good luck to the tribesmen’s forthcoming hunting trip and it’s a raw, powerful sound, so much so that it gave me goose bumps.

As I listened I thought of the parallels between Baka people and heathland; both facing loss of environment. Baka through clearance of rainforest to make way for crops such as palm oil, and heathland through threats such as succession (reverting back to woodland).

But the main difference is that heathland thrives on clearance. Which is why it was reassuring to see winter maintenance being carried out across the Special Protection Area this week. And although, yes, the heavy machinery lay wake to fallen trees and smoking fires, and to the un-initiated, probably looks devastating, a bit like my dance moves. But the long term gain through regeneration of the heath is invaluable and will most certainly secure its future health.

I don’t know what Baka Beyond would make of the noisy and boisterous modern methods of heath management, but I’m absolutely certain they’d approve of the end result: saving habitat and protecting the environment.

Warden Trudi


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