It was meant to be a quiet and fairly quick walk with Mel the Collie. With a few extra minutes available, we diverted our usual night route to cut across Gallows Bank. That’s always a bit of a risk after rain as darkness falls. I’ve ended up getting a muddy butt a couple of times as my feet skidded from under me. But I didn’t expect to meet someone trying to set the bank on fire – in the rain.
Tonight, the ground wasn’t too bad. I gingerly picked my way down the slippery bank past a canoodling couple who were oblivious to the rain. Mel on the other hand was dashing around trying to get every moment out of the walk. As we got near to Charlton Rise, Mel kept pulling back. That usually means she has spotted a dog of interest. But there was no dog to be seen.
There was a flicker of light towards Sandpits but no more. Still Mel pulled and the light got bigger. What first looked like a torch soon looked like flames.
Much to Mel’s delight, I turned and we went back up the bank.
Gallows Bank is in two halves. The east part is an open meadow. To the west is bushy scrubland. Between is a wide hedge.
In this hedge, a man was building a bonfire. I could see him bringing branches to fuel the fire. The flames were two metres high by the time we reached the scene.
I challenged him. He shouted something I could not quite hear and fled into the scrubland.
The fire was beneath a tree so I called the fire brigade at 18.41 and met the crew at Rockspring about ten minutes later. It wasn’t a big fire and was probably all but out by the time the crew got to it. After all, it has been pretty wet here in Ludlow.
But why was this man lighting a fire? What was he trying to do?
Three of the fire crew were still damping the fire when I heard the fire engine’s sirens. Did the brigade get another call? Certainly this was a waste of the fire crew’s time and could have taken vital resources from a real emergency.
Why was this idiot lighting a fire on a dark, wet night in Ludlow?