Friday, 28 July 2017

Nobody's Lane

The top track that runs along between Blacka and that part of Totley Moor to the west is well used  by walkers, bikers and horse riders and is used by the vehicle of the grazier who owns the livestock. No grazing happens on that section of the moor to the right of the picture (west) or the track itself however, meaning that what grows on and to the west is not influenced by SWT's or Eastern Moors' intrusive grazing regimes (both use cattle and sheep). So the absence of farming means we get scattered trees, deep shrubs and, fringing the track, various wayside flowers that attract butterflies and other insects giving it a more interesting character than where the livestock are kept.

It's not strictly within Blacka's boundary but it's worth a few words not least because some people never go further than along here - not least certain senior officers of certain conservation organisations!

The track is straight but care needs to be taken as it's rough and stony in places; this must be the result of some pretty careless work when it was originally layed many years ago indicating that sloppy management is not just a recent phenomenon. Inevitably water drains across the track and there are two places where we often  need to divert to the side in order to avoid it going over the top of boots.

Nobody takes responsibility for this track, presumably because the likely authorities or organisations, SCC, PDNPA. DCC, SWT, RSPB, NT and any other combination of letters, can't be bothered. Possibly they fear having to cough up funds to make repairs, or being liable for any accidents. But it's not credible that SCC should be able to shrug off responsibility seeing that it must have helped to lay the track in order to give vehicle access to its land. Attempts to find out have come up against blank looks as stony as the track itself. The wildlife trust claims to have tried but my guess is they just gave up too easily - probably accepting without argument such excuses as SCC officers have given me, i.e. that all their stuff before a certain date has been archived in some inaccessible basement. They shouldn't get away with that.

Some drainage has gone on in the past and a ditch runs alongside the track part of the way. Much of that part is fairly wet with a thriving area of marsh orchid and ragged robin amid the rushes. To either side there are common flowering plants giving plenty of interest.

Rather common plants but such a variety as we see less often than when I was a boy. Certainly not the kind of variety that you might find anywhere within the bounds of Blacka's grazing enclosures. And we might come across something a bit special like this among the thistles and docks and willow herbs:

- the seeded head of a marsh orchid.

And over the wall various tree species are present alongside the rhododendron, including beech, ash, oak, birch, pine and willow. Some of these have sent their seeds out over the track and onto the previously treeless area beyond, making even more interest to the benefit of numerous birds.

This growing wilder area is a delightful confirmation of the benefit of hands-off management and puts to shame the sheep-wrecked hillside beyond. It's a treat to see a young oak growing expansively here, currently favoured by small bird families of whitethroat, stonechat and various warblers.

The view is much improved by the spread of trees but, of course, as usual with the local management mafiosi, we have to be aware of doctrinaire commitments to "openness" that can lead to sudden incursions of chain-saws outside the bird breeding season; all can change in an hour when they sense a feeling of power.

It's not unknown for people to claim to visit Blacka who've never stepped foot on it. They will likely be those who get this far, having negotiated the rough parts of the bridleway to see the end of the woodland opening out to reveal extensive views to the east and south.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


Enchanter's nightshade, in the darkest parts of the woods and hardly noticed.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The Cow and the Stag

Looking at my recent rant about cows on Blacka I've decided it was intemperate yet still can't regret a word of it (apart from a missing capital letter).

It beggars belief that there are those who see these animals as having a place on land supposedly set aside for nature and wildlife -while all around we can see under-used farmland. If you particularly like cows then there's a plentiful supply of them all over Peak District's farmland. And given the scale of funding that has been used (public money) shouldn't we ask why a similar or greater sum should not have been put towards ensuring that real wildlife has a home here unhindered by farm management? Because we know that wildlife flourishes greater where there's no farming agenda getting in the way.

I'm reminded that I've not been seeing the majestic stags that I was seeing a few years ago - animals that had made their home here and which were undoubtedly the sort of animal that should be here. of course there are people with guns around and the RSPB, allies of the wildlife trust, have killed some for reasons I've never understood. The really big animal here was an inspiring sight in the dim light of early morning more than a year ago. What, I wonder, has happened to him? Shouldn't this be a regular sight that a wildlife trust does all it can to encourage instead of occupying Blacka with dull-witted farm cows?

I've used this quote from the famous Victorian naturalist and columnist on The Times, Richard Jefferies.

The land is his, and the hills, the sweet streams, and rocky glens. He is infinitely more natural than the cattle and sheep that have strayed into his domains. For some inexplicable reason, although they too are in reality natural, when he is present they look as if they had been put there and were kept there by artificial means. They do not, as painters say, shade in with the colours and shápe of the landscape. He is as natural as an oak, or a fern, or a rock itself. He is earth-born— autochthon—and holds possession by descent. Utterly scorning control, the walls and hedges are nothing to him.—he roams where he chooses, as fancy leads
In this continued rant I am particularly intolerant of the behaviour of certain groups who give tacit or active support to this discredited management simply in order to get favours for their chosen activity. They know who they are and they doubtless think they are being clever in forwarding their own single interests by giving support. Some of the comments I have heard have been beyond parody in their sycophancy from a position of ignorance of an organisation that scarcely achieves adolescence. We know how this is received. It leads to gross complacency through absence of scrutiny.

Monday, 24 July 2017


Usually it's the deer that get blamed for damaging young trees.

Hit Out of the Park.

This major controversy is going on not far away in the Peak Park but resonates more widely as a national issue.  How much will it figure in the responses to the National Parks's draft management plan?

Bored and Boring

These cows should be given compassonate leave. They're obviously miserable. They stand around without being able to think of anything to do. We know they shouldn't be here. After all this is supposed to be a nature reserve and these are farm livestock. Anyway who wants to see such depressing looking creatures obviously from over-exploited stock with no minds of their own. A nature reserve should be, well, natural, with wildlife that you wouldn't normally see on a farm, animals that are alert and independent intent on survival.

Centuries of breeding have created these dull-witted animals that can't think for themselves being totally dependent on humans, lumpish and vacuous. Could anyone imagine a fox, a badger, weasel, deer etc, with such a dim expressionless face? Nobody's saying that they don't have a place somewhere, and there are fields all over the country, thousands of them dominating the countryside where you might say they look as if they belong. There's enough, more than, countryside for cows and sheep. Here's one place we had the chance to reserve somewhere for the animals that lived here before they came.

So why are they here? The answer is money, money again. Someone in the cash strapped conservation industry has worked out that if they forget the fact that this place is supposed to be for people and wildlife they can call it agricultural land and rake in farm subsidies. And they have also worked out that with a bit of imagination - not much is needed - they can persuade the most gullible sections of the local community - plenty of these -  that the cows serve some sort of useful purpose; nonsense of course but we live in an age when confidence trickery abounds. The effort needed for anyone of average thinking power to believe this is considerable so the success depends on the people being either lazy or far too busy to have time to work out what's going on. And the piles of public money necessary to service this cow regime must astonish anyone who does work it out. And all for beasts that shouldn't be here at all!


So why do things like this happen? Why are there so many cock-ups in Britain? A recent newspaper article pointed to the answer: from large-scale projects down, there is simply not enough deliberation; things happen with minimal scrutiny.

Campaign for Bare Hills?

Apparently it's National Parks Week. Time to think of responding to the Peak District National Park's consultation on its management plan; we've got to the end of the month.

There's some funny ideas in those who run the Campaign for National Parks. See this Twitter stuff: