I arrived at Lodge car park at around 8:20pm and set off to do the Nightjar survey organised by the Ashdown Bird Group that evening. I had only walked a short way when I saw what I initially thought was a helium balloon sailing across the sky, I watched it start to descend and cross in front of me and with binoculars I studied it in more detail. I then realised that it had what looked like a light or flame under it. Not a balloon then but one of these Chinese lanterns.
It started to fall quite quickly out of the sky and out of my view. I walked further down the hill so I could get a view back towards Old Lodge nature reserve. I picked up the lantern again as it casually dropped in to the field just short of Old Lodge drive. Concerned it was still alight I walked quickly across and down to the dividing fence line to get a better look. It didn’t seem to be burning and I hoped it had gone out. I had no signal on my mobile so I couldn’t call for help so I decided to try to get in to the field.
I walked back up the fence line and found a cattle gate but unfortunately I couldn’t get it open. I thought about jumping over but there was plenty of barbed wire along the fence so I decided against it. I walked back up the hill and managed to cut through the Old Lodge drive, walked down the road and eventually found a gate I could climb over. I did so and walked down to the lantern… Thankfully it was out! I picked it up as I wasn’t going to just leave it there and took it back to my car.
Had I not seen it or that it had not gone out and I couldn’t get there, it could have turned in to a massive Forest fire. Releasing these lanterns is so dangerous because they can travel for miles, alight, and then end up destroying somewhere like Ashdown Forest. Need I mention the fire at a recycling centre not so long ago?
I could’ve called the police or the fire service but the disaster was averted and there was no way the police could’ve tracked where the lantern came from. It is now languishing in my dustbin, and cause no harm to anything, not even as litter!