Heather Hillsides' Patchwork
Muirsburn is controlled burning of the heather foliage, without damaging the peaty soil. It is a technique that has maintained the heather heath for thousands of years.
Muirsburn creates the patchwork pattern seen on most Cairngorm hillsides. The patches are different ages and heights of heather. The darkest areas are thick, old heather, newly burnt areas are grey, others are tinged blue-grey and green with the growth of new heather shoots, grasses and bilberry. The regulated burning takes place from October to April, predominately in the spring when the heather is dry but the soil still damp.
The purpose of Muirsburn is to replenish the food stock for deer, sheep and grouse but more commonly now to simply preserves the heather heath. Meanwhile, the diversity of ground cover in adjacent patches supports the diversity of birds, invertebrates, and plants.
Its not without controversy. The sight of the hillside on fire, the lasting visual impact and debate about how these ancient, but man-made landscapes, are returned to their natural state, means Muirsburn is debated annually.