Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Blue Lough

A walk into the Mourne Mountains this morning brought home how bad last month's fires had been.
I'd seen the huge areas of scorch damage a few weeks ago when walking along the Brandy Pad, but this morning's walk past Annalong Wood was through some of the worst damage.
Much of the wood is now charcoal, large open spaces giving a clear view over to the other side where there used to be a curtain of forest.
Some of it has survived but the rest will have to be replanted, hopefully with native species this time rather than ubiquitous pines.
Further on up large tracts of scrubland are blackened and the recent heavy rains seem to have washed away the charred heather and even the topsoil in which it grew to expose the rocky ground beneath.
Even though I walk this route more than any other in the Mournes the landscape was a new one to me, the surrounding peaks were the same but the ground around them had physically changed.
The silence was more intense than ever, no crickets or bird song, just a couple of cawking ravens on the slopes of Slieve Binnian.
I went on up past a little mountain called Perscy Bysshe, past a cluster of bog cotton in one of the pockets of undamage heather and sat on the shore of the Blue Lough, pictured above.
On the opposite shore were the steeply inclining slabs of Slievelamagan but even up here there was evidence of scorch damage... and then among the charred soil I saw a couple of green shoots.
It might take a few years but the mountains will recover, despite the crisp packet-dropping, boot-eroding (my own included) and cigarette butt-incinerating efforts of those who come here.
Another encouraging thing was a small stunted tree that I always look out for along the path leading to Percy Bysshe was still there. I didn't see it on the way up, but its well off the path and hard to sight sometimes, camoflaged agains the surrounding heather.
But coming down again I saw that it was still there, like the only stage prop in Waiting For Godot, standing stunted but surviving in the fire-blasted mountain heather surrounding it.

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