Travel tips

Rebirth in the hills

Eventually the countryside does recover

The forest fires of 2018 were devastating in many parts of the world, with the ones in Paradise, California particularly terrifying. Portugal suffered too in 2018, with Monchique in the western Algarve one of the worst hit areas. More than 27,000 hectares were destroyed in a fire that lasted just over a week. Once a fire gets a hold it can be days or even weeks before they are back under control. Fortunately there were few fires in the east Algarve last year, and those that did occur were brought under control relatively quickly. The impact however on lives and the environment is still dreadful, and when you see the pictures of the aftermath of some fires you wonder if anyone or anything can ever recover.

Aftermath - Azinhal fire August 2018

And yet some how it does, sometimes in fact a fire can bring more life to a forest as the dead trees provide homes for wildlife and enable more sunlight to reach the forest floor, spurring new growth. What seems to be critical is the severity and duration of fire. If the soil is not too damaged then life can quickly return as it has here in the hills around Azinhal.

The fire here was in early August and already nature is recovering. And just a few metres away from the hillside damaged by the fire you wouldn’t even know a fire had passed through the area. In fact you wouldn’t even know it was 25th December in the northern hemisphere. On our traditional Christmas Day walk we were surrounded by birds, birdsong, butterflies and bees. I even spotted almond blossom!

Whilst it was wonderful to see firsthand how nature heals itself, it is worrying to learn that thanks to climate change (and an increasingly number of careless humans) wildfires are now occurring five times more often. But we can change this if we all help reduce the risk of fires and climate change, even the smallest of steps will make a difference. Given the statistics though, we should be aware what to do if caught in a fire. If you are planning to hike or go camping this year please do read this excellent article brought to my attention by Denzil. It may save your life.

Blue for New Year
Something blue as it is almost New Year

27 comments on “Rebirth in the hills

  1. Fire also provides nutrients to the soil, which is good for new plants. Where I live, we burn the ground with leaves and hay to fertilize the soil before start farming. Have a wonderful and happy new year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some Australian native plants actually need fire to make the seeds germinate. But we too have recently had devastating bush fires in our state. Hopefully there won’t be any more.

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  3. Nice to hear about nature’s resilience. Happy New Year 🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy New Year too Becky, we return via Portugal tomorrow! Yes, I read a lot about fires and we have to have a fire plan but it seems unrealistic for our small piece of land. Real variety and mixed woodland can help slow a fire down. But important to know how to get out fast. Good to see some of the regeneration on the Algarve.

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    • Safe trip today and enjoy the New Year celebrations. Just wondering if the wind is going to die down, not sure strong winds and fireworks are a good combination!

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      • Thanks Becky we had a great new year in Monte Gordo but wifi was temperamental. Now back in Spain and to recover from all our travel! Have a wonderful year and it was so full of light Portugal. Such a great place to be through the winter.

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  5. I am lucky to live in a place where there are no fires.. Rebirth comes after the snow..

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  6. So lovely to see all the flowers and bird life and butterflies. It is certainly a lovely region. Bush fires are terrible especially when they encroach into human settlements, but also many small mammals and insects can’t get away in time. But in South Africa they also bring about new life as many of the indigenous plants need fire to germinate. I guess Nature knows best, but unfortunately Man interferes.

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    • There’s a balance somewhere isn’t there, but man somehow always causes an imbalance 🤔

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      • We seem to think we have the right to move and build anywhere we please without a thought to the animals and nature that were there first. Like building houses on a flood plain and then wondering why the houses get flooded when the river breaks its bank. Or developing a settlement close to where elephants or tigers have roamed for years and then wondering why they trample the village or attack their cattle. There must surely be better ways to go about things, but the longer I live the more I despair that we will ever get it right.

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        • I have friends who shared your despair, but since they’ve resettled in a remote(ish) place and started to live a traditional life they’ve rediscovered hope we can change, and we can get it right. They and my vegan stepdaughter have between them certainly inspired me to continue making small steps and to believe every step, no matter how small, will make a difference xx

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  7. Good to see nature recovering… Happy 2019 for you, Becky

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  8. In 2017 we walked through a burnt out forest near Tomar and it was quite a spooky experience!
    Anyway, Happy New Year to you and I look forward to reading your posts in 2019!

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    • The immediate aftermath is horrid isn’t it, it is even worse after a volcano 😐

      and thank you so much . . . puzzling over my next post now!!

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  9. Wonderful. I have had fires through my property for years before and after I bought it. The lack of complete burning has lead to some pockets of pioneer rainforest species reappearing. It takes time but the results can be amazing

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