This blog will always aim to share all that is great and good from the natural world but sadly, every now and again, there are less pleasant topics which simply cannot be ignored. At this time of year nothing falls into that category more than the blight of deliberate grass fires, a scourge from which Wales in particular seems to suffer badly. Every year vast swathes of our countryside go up in smoke and with a local patch covering mostly open hillsides, the fear has always been that someone would choose to do something particularly stupid there. We’ve got away with minor fires in the past but last week suffered from the largest arson attack to date. What should have been a celebratory moment following the first Willow Warblers arriving soon turned to anger as the valley beneath me erupted into flames, quickly consuming a large area as tinder dry vegetation offered little resistance and plenty of fuel. As much as I despair at such mindless destruction of valuable habitat, especially in an area I try to promote, there was added risk here as the fire rapidly approached several houses. By the time the fire brigade arrived their garden hedges were alight though thankfully the properties themselves escaped unscathed.
It’s hard to know what can be done to change peoples attitudes towards our countryside and the prospects for the future are increasingly disheartening. What worries me most though is not the apathy which could perhaps be excused but a rampant desire to actively instigate destruction for nothing more than sheer amusement. You could blame the politicians, parents or teachers but in truth it is society generally that, to me at least, appears at fault. An increasing lack of moral responsibility seems to be infiltrating every part of modern life with people out purely for themselves and sod the rest. From driving standards to simply holding a door open for another, daily life seems to have lost what little sense of togetherness may once have existed. There are however glimmers of hope. My twitter feed for instance is filled with like minded people fighting for change and similarly in the blogosphere there are those who have made great strides in pushing the agenda of both our wildlife and its environment. I would not for a minute be so pompous as to suggest that this blog would ever change the world but I hope that through it I have at least helped to open a few peoples eyes to what can be found right on our doorsteps and how we should value and cherish what we have or face losing it forever. I include myself in that category as before embarking on this journey (hate that word) I had no idea quite what a varied and complex patchwork of species and habitat existed, nor of the significant issues facing both. Through minor changes I have seen real benefits both to my own life and to that of our wildlife, so just think what could be achieved if more thought in the same way. Hopefully it’s not too late for attitudes to change but based on current trends, I have my doubts. There is no silver bullet here and I have no solutions to offer, nor an adequate conclusion to this diatribe. All I can hope for is that by highlighting both the good and the bad I will perhaps cause pause for thought and maybe prevent a hillside near you suffering the same fate as ours. Perhaps…..