Public Service Announcement

This, is your annual reminder – Don’t light up, and don’t let go!

In autumn we blaze against the shortening daylight by sparking lights of our own. The raking of leaves, pruning of trees and general tidying up of gardens is a perfect excuse for a bonfire; on all Hallows Eve we fight our fear of things that go bump in the night with lanterns and candles, whilst November 5th or Guy Fawkes Night is marked in colour and flame.

However, our celebrations are not all that fun for the natural world.

A pile of dry leaves or stack of wood looks like the perfect hibernation place or shelter for all sorts of creatures from slowworms to hedgehogs. If you are having a bonfire, try to only build it on the day of burning – stack the material to one side and construct a fresh pile when you are ready to go, to ensure no-one has moved in whilst you’ve not been looking! If you HAVE to leave a pile in situ for a few days, use long sticks/branches and a torch, to lift the stack and peer underneath to inspect for new inhabitants. Don’t burn plastic, chemicals, tyres, fuel or anything other non-natural material as these can produce noxious fumes and explosions.

Fireworks and Sky-lanterns
We all know someone who’s pet dog is terrified of fireworks night. The loud bangs are not just a problem to sensitive canines, but other domestic animals such as horses, wild animals and birds, and even some people! Choosing sparkler and decorative fireworks, over explosives such as mortars, is the kinder option. Also remember that what goes up must come down, so assess your fireworks for non-flamable material which will come back to earth as litter with you having little or no control where it will land.
Increasingly popular in recent years, ‘Sky-lanterns’ or paper balloons powered by a small flame, are commonly used for all sorts of celebrations from weddings to bonfire night. A sky full of lights floating peacefully into the stars is often thought to carry wishes and prayers with them, a sentimental and mesmerising sight. Well… personal beliefs and sentiment aside, sky lanterns are beautiful but deadly. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the flaw in letting a flame drift uncontrolled to land as and where it will. Crops, buildings, livestock, even peoples lives are at risk from these floating fires. Even if the fire fizzles out safely, the flare itself can cause significant harm whilst on its travels. The strange lights can spook animals, or get mistaken for distress flares off our coast which wastes resources and needlessly endangers the lives of rescue volunteers such as the RNLI. After the event, even once extinguished, sky lanterns have a final sting. The wire or bamboo frames that support the paper of the ‘balloon’ are sharp, often falling in crops or animal feed, damaging machinery or causing harm and death when ingested, or simply creating litter which entangles and kills wild creatures.

Ghoulish Gourds
I love a good pumpkin! Seeing doorsteps and windowsills adorned with ghoulish carvings brings such fun to Halloween, but care is needed in the days afterwards. Sadly, although pumpkin seeds and indeed the flesh too, can be tasty and nutritious, the fruit is potentially poisonous to hedgehogs. If you want to give your pumpkin an afterlife, carefully remove any trace of wax from candles, and place the pumpkin in your garden, off the ground where hedgehogs cannot reach it. Fill with bird seed and nuts, to create a natural feeder for birds and squirrels to enjoy.

So, please, this autumn, take care with your bonfires, let it be the turning tree leaves that spark and blaze in glorious colours against the sky, and don’t light up to let go!
Happy Autumn!

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