Now that we have had a few days of clear, dry weather the moor has dried out enough for the farmers to begin swaling. This is the practice of burning off areas of overgrown gorse and bracken. It helps to regenerate the plants and prevents areas of moorland becoming so overgrown that livestock can’t graze it. A happy additional benefit is that is keeps areas of the moor open for us walkers as well – fighting a way through overgrown gorse bushes is not my favourite occupation and is often a loosing battle as well.
On my way back from Princetown yesterday I saw the first tell-tale plumes of smoke of the season rising up over the moor, from the Widecombe direction. For a small area of fire it produced an impressive amount of smoke. The window for swaling is quite tight as it needs to happen in the early spring before the birds start nesting and needs reasonably dry weather. There were a few days last spring when Dartmoor looked like a war zone with plumes of smoke in all directions.
In complete contrast to the fires yesterday I woke to frozen ground this morning. As Rocky and I headed over to Bel Tor this morning all the puddles were frozen. Where is a dog supposed to get a drink!