Friends of Beacon Hill Winter Newsletter

Winter Newsletter

Welcome to our winter newsletter. It has been quite a while since our last newsletter. Autumn has come and gone and winter is here at last. The early autumn rain and the warm weather resulted in an extended growing period and the grass was not only far longer than last year but also far greener. I know of property owners in the district who were unable to burn in mid-June because their grasslands were to green to burn. In an earlier newsletter I explained the burning program which we follow. The Hill is divided into three blocks resulting in each block being burnt every third year. That’s the theory but as we all know nature is in control and our plans cannot always be followed. This is what happened last year. We were able to burn the fire breaks but later in the year it was too wet to burn the middle block. This resulted in the management plan being altered and it was recommended that the middle block would be burnt at the same time as the fire breaks, and the block next to Sunfield Home would be burnt later in the year.
Conditions were  near to perfect for burning during the past week. There was heavy frost on the Hill on Monday (16 July), Tuesday and Wednesday which dried the grass out and the days were calm with very little wind. We could not have asked for better conditions. On Tuesday morning (17 July)  teams from SAPPI and Working On Fire Burnt the break along the boundary next to the SAPPI gum plantation. This was a very clean burn but as a result of the grass being damp from the melted frost it was not a hot burn. It will be interesting to see if there is any noticeable difference in spring. The W.O.F. team then burnt along the boundary between Lake View Rd and Sunfield Home followed by a  burn next to Sunfield Home and continued next to the wattles to join the SAPPI break. This was not  easy to burn as there was in places a high fuel load due to brush piles and the long grass, at times head high. As this was  next to the wattles it gave cause for anxiety.

On Wednesday the 18 July, W.O.F. did the break along the Currys Post Rd , along the edge of the gums next to Eagle Ridge and the cement reservoir. They then burnt the middle block which should have been burnt last year. Due to a higher fuel load, as a result of four years growth and the accumulation of a thick layer of dry grass on the ground, the hotter fire has resulted in a very clean burn. On Thursday afternoon and again early this morning (20 July) I spent some time on the burnt area. The fresh ash makes it easy to pick up the tracks of rodents. It is always amazing to me how the mice and other rodents escape the fire by going underground and letting the fire pass. No doubt, just as the plants have adapted to surviving fire, so too have the other grassland creatures. The early burn should have avoided the possibility of ground and grass nesting birds having their nests destroyed which will please the many birders who spend time on Beacon Hill.

I’m sure that many you find, as I do, the recovery of the grassland after a fire fascinating. The first fire lilies always draw attention and soon after they have flowered the grass and numerous other plants sprout and the whole cycle starts again. I hope that we will be blessed with gentle, soaking spring rains, to get the season off to a good start.

May I, both personally and on the behalf of FOBH members, thank Mrs. Joyce Pope from the Municipality, for the time and effort which she spent in making the burn possible. Our thanks must also go to the management of Working On Fire and to their team led by Mr. Brian Mkhize, who did the burning.

Alien Invasive Plants (IAP) Update
I.A.P. control has continued, the last of the trees in the stream bed near the Eagle Ridge fence have been removed. Time has been spent in removing lantana which is encroaching into the grassland in a number of places. This is time consuming and they seem to reappear behind you! The quantity of lantana to be seen in the scrub gum adjacent to Eagle Ridge is a problem that will have to be tackled in the near future. This will require time, effort and money but will be worth it.

There are a few members who spend a couple of hours on Saturday mornings working on the Hill. They need help and would welcome any assistance. If you want to join them contact me on 0726921566.

Monthly Walks on Beacon Hill
On the last Sunday of every month Eve Hughes hosts a walk on Beacon Hill. These walks come highly recommended and Eve is very knowledgeable about flowers and birds. If you are interested in joining the walk here are the details ~

Place:   Meet at the end of Lakeview Road, Howick
Time:    9 am
Cost:    A R20 donation will go towards the conservation of Beacon Hill.
Dates:  29 July,
26 August,
30 September,
28 October.

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