Karl Whitney

The golf course was on fire, but no one knew how long it had been burning. The first sign that something wasn’t right was when a groundskeeper on the course, which is a few miles west of Newcastle, noticed that the soles of his boots were heating up. The surface of the ground was hot. That was in November 2014. At that point there wasn’t much to see – until it rained and steam rose from the edge of the fourth fairway, next to the riverbank. By the end of the year, the fire was visible: smoke plumed from cracks in the earth and tree roots began to catch alight. And when the smoke blew across the fairways towards the terraced houses of Clara Vale, the neighbouring village, it bore the unmistakeable smell of burning coal.

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