Lion’s Head, Fire and Fynbos

Lion's Head trail running in Cape TownWe’ve recently been enjoying a lot of runs around the iconic Lion’s Head, following the spine of the lion out to Signal Hill, enjoying the beautiful views of the whole city that this trail affords – I’m always so astounded that we get to run in the tranquillity and nature of a National Park that’s actually within the city – we are pretty spoilt here in Cape Town!  ;)

But it is Summer in Cape Town and as the weather becomes increasingly hot & dry there is an increasing risk of fires, and last week there was a huge fire on the slopes of Signal Hill.  On the morning of 2 December we did a lovely run around Lion’s Head with Sinead and Brian from Dublin, and while the conditions were pretty blustery and windy, we were able to admire the awesome views and beautiful flora of the area… This was literally the calm before thTrail running on Lion's Heade fire because by 2pm that day the slopes of the mountain were ablaze with a roaring fire that was fuelled by the strong and persistent winds.

trail running in Cape TownLuckily the blaze was controlled pretty sharply by the amazing SAN Parks and Volunteer Wildfire Services and when we ran the route again 2 days later with Daniel and Thomas, the fire damage was very evident, and the smell of burnt grass was still lingering in the air, however there were no more flames and it was clear that the extent of the fire damage was not as bad as it could have been.

This week when we again ran this beautiful route with the lovely Susie & Michaela, also from Dublin, and it was amazing to see beautiful green shoots already poking through the burnt ground, evidence of new life all over the place!  If you read the literature it says that fynbos (our natural and endemic flora in the Western Cape) “… is a fire-adapted vegetation that requires regular burning for its persistence. In the absence of fire, fynbos is gradually replaced by thicket species. It thrives on infertile soils and fire is the mechanism that recycles precious nutrients from old moribund growth into the soil.  Fire in fynbos is far from a Trail running in Cape Towndisaster, but rather a crucial trigger that resets the fynbos ‘successional clock’. It provides the stimulus for dormant seeds to germinate and the opportunity for many annuals, short-lived perennials and bulbs to grow, flower and seed during times of abundant nutrients and sunlight. They complete their short life cycles, returning to the soil as the larger shrubs overwhelm them, and remain dormant until the next fire. The optimal fire cycle for fynbos is between 10-14 years. Shorter fire cycles can wipe out slow maturing species, while species start dying when intervals become too long.”  (www.fynboshub.co.za)

So whilst it feels sad and ugly to see the scorched earth following a devastating fire on the mountain, this fire could/should actually be celebrated as it is healthy for our fynbos, and leads to that crucial re-setting to allow for more growth …

See you out there on the trails!