Tuesday 19th July 2022 was an extremely tough day in the office for us at Wild Ken Hill.
At roughly 11:30am in a day of record temperatures across the UK, a fire started out in a part of Wild Ken Hill close to Snettisham Beach that we call the Coastal Park. The Coastal Park is both rich in nature and a valuable green space for people to enjoy.
A strong, hot South Easterly wind was blowing which quickly carried the fire northwards. By late afternoon, the fire was brought under control by the incredibly resilient fire service, but not before it had burnt through around 33 hectares of the Coastal Park. You see further photos and videos from the event on our Instagram page.
The following day, the fire restarted as the wind direction changed and took a small amount of further marshy habitat inland.
Unfortunately, a significant amount of wildlife perished in the fire, in particular mammals, reptiles & amphibians, and late-nesting birds. The coastal park is home to Turtle Doves as well as many warblers and other birds which we hope mostly escaped.
More important is the habitat itself. The fire moved fast and therefore has not destroyed all of the taller vegetation. The ground flora is almost all gone, but we expect it to regenerate quickly. Large areas of scrub to the south were also unaffected. We are lucky that we have almost 1,000 hectares of conservation areas at Wild Ken Hill, so although devastating for this specific area, certainly all is not lost for the wildlife at Wild Ken Hill – only monitoring over the next year will really clarify this.
The cause is unknown. However, the fire has revealed the significant littering of aluminium cans and glass bottles in the area – one possible cause. Like many places, we also have instances of wild camping, disposable BBQs, and smoking in the Coastal Park. But we shouldn’t jump to conclusions around the cause. All we can do is ask people to observe the basics of fire safety at all times.
Undoubtedly climate change played some role in causing this. We are tinder dry across the farm from a harsh spring, and reached record temperatures across the UK on Monday and Tuesday. Our project centres on fighting climate change and restoring nature, so it was deeply devastating and ironic that such an event happened to us. We are hugely grateful for the flood of support that we have had from our friends and followers – it really kept us going as we responded to the fire. We will mostly certainly carry on with our work at Wild Ken Hill, which we feel is more important than ever.
We would like to commend our brave, committed team who enabled the fire services to control the blaze, preventing potential spread into Heacham. The fire services themselves were immense, especially knowing it wouldn’t be their last fire of the day. Many of them worked through the night.
Finally, to be explicit, if you are booked for a Guided Tour or for Gathering festival, these will absolutely be going ahead. Many of you have kindly asked how you can financially support us. We are not a charity and would much prefer if you can book a Guided Tour or come to Gathering festival so we can meet you and show you our project. Any income from these events is typically used to support our nature restoration work. With best wishes from all the Wild Ken Hill team.