Friday, May 6, 2011

Lancashire Moorland Fires

I'm upset. Not on a day to day level, but a deep down level, down to my core.

I grew up in a town on the foothills of the West Pennine Moors. From a young age, I've walked that boggy moorland, learned how to walk, where to walk, how to see where I'm going in the thickest of fog and I know all this sounds easy. It's easy to walk, right? One foot in front of the other, yeah? Not on this kind of moorland. It's a peat bog/moorland. The landscape alternates between quagmire and tussocks. You learn to move, to spring, to judge the grasses, the lay of the land. You learn to judge the clouds, the wind, the fog. You learn not only to survive but thrive and enjoy one of the most inhospitable and barren places on the earth. Not only that, but you crave it, it becomes a part of you. You want to see it, to be in those uplands, that wild, barren space and the only place in the whole wide world where you truly feel like you can breathe.

Now that area I love, those places, are burning and have been burning for the past seven days. It's peat, the fire doesn't extinguish easily -if they get it to extinguish. Sometimes peat fires can continue to burn underground, working their way through the underground peat layer, until some poor soul (or the ground becomes weak enough on its own) causes a fall in. Then oxygen meets smouldering peat, someone/something gets incinerated and a fire is sparked anew. Don't believe me? There are peat fires in Indonesia that have been smouldering since 1997. Sometimes fire services *can't* put peat out.

The average moorland fire is fast, very fast. Like orange, red and yellow tongues devouring entire masses of land at breakneck speed. When I was younger, I learned that if I were to be caught in a moorland fire, to put on all of my survival clothes (waterproofs), hoods up, to douse myself in my entire water supply and to dig into the land. Don't leave any skin/flammable surface undowsed and to just let it pass overhead. I know people who have done this. They've dowsed, dug in, survived and continued to walk the charred moor left in the wake. In spite of how easy they are to survive, I resolved never to get in one of those. The one time I nearly was, I ran as fast as I could to the nearest body of water.

But these fires aren't as quick, as surface. These fires are igniting the earth itself.

And I have an impending move to another continent coming up. One I am very apprehensive about. One of my biggest draws back to my homeland is that land. That barren highland where I feel like I can breathe. When I was younger and going through a lot of issues, that was where I laid my troubles. I'd walk until I wept and then I'd continue to walk until I'd found my peace and happiness again. I feel like it's been torn away from me. People are saying that it'll take about 30 years for it to be what it was again. I just wanted one more chance to walk those hills before I left again.No matter how far or how long I roam, that land is what I still crave. The place where land meets sky.