Saturday, 31 March 2007

Blackthorn on Blacka

All these are photos of the same Blackthorn, one of our loveliest flowering shrubs. All so natural. Nobody planted it, nobody was employed at a desk writing a management plan to tend and nourish it. And nobody imported herds of sheep and cattle to provide the correctly micro-managed habitat in which it thrives.

Four Strands of Barbed Wire

"Don't worry, they'll get used to it. After a bit they won't even notice it's there." (one conservationist to another)

Perhaps people will even make trips from the other side of the city to admire it. Tinsley Wire (now TWIL) may give their employees time off with bus fares paid.

In days gone by they would come on the regular bus up Hathersage Road from the further reaches of Sheffield in August to pick the bilberries. They would bring their bags and buckets and tins. If they do that this year they may be disappointed. Cows will be on the site and cows enjoy eating bilberry. And better not bring the dog either. One has already been seriously injured on the barbed wire as he dashed off to the side to avoid a horse.

I don't think you can find a similar four strand barbed wire fence anywhere alongside a public right of way in land designated as a public open space and public pleasure ground.

Another first for Sheffield!

See Mark Fisher's website for his comments.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Another Notice Appears

It's interesting that a notice has appeared advertising the next meeting. In fact before the previous meeting none appeared anywhere on the site. Yet strangely when a regular member of the group asked why this was so the Sheffield Wildlife Trust manager responsible insisted that notices had been put up. The truth is that SWT likes it to be known that they are very open and responsive; it looks good on their paperwork. But they would prefer to have all the decision making to themselves.

This dissembling was the subject of some ill-feeling at the latest meeting and one regular member left in disgust after ten minutes - but not without leaving this statement.

That meeting was already badly attended. After this there were remaining only 9 people. Of these one was the chair who was from the council and asked to come along specially by SWT to fulfil that role. Then there were two officers/managers from SWT, and two SWT members, two newcomers who had been persuaded to come to make up the numbers, a member who had only come to complain about the recent handling of the consultation, and one other with an interest in a narrow area of wildlife.

This hardly represents a ringing endorsement of "organisations individuals and groups from the local area" implied in the notice above.

In fact may groups have been represented previously but have now decided not to come. The reason is simple. They know that the consultation is a sham.

On Blacka This Morning

A cool damp and cheerless morning. The birds did not seem to be bothered and were singing more than the last few days.

Angry Words

This is the notice pinned to the compost facility by the protesters. People would not do this unless they were very angry. On the face of it it does seem that they have a strong case. A petition of 800 ignored! A consultation process cynically disregarded and the participants used simply to give some paper credibilty to the wildlife trust. One should expect more surely from a charitable organisation which claims to be acting from high motives.

Above The Fog

Sedges touched by frost this morning on top of Blacka Hill in pale sunshine while Sheffield was in thick fog.

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Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Brief History of the Troubles (part one)

This is the text of a short newsletter left in plastic wallets at certain points on Blacka Moor usually near points of access.

Background notes about Blacka Moor
Unlike other local spaces, Blacka was given to the people of Sheffield for recreation and as a public open space by Alderman Graves in 1933.
It was managed without farm animals and the paths were maintained.
In 1983 council officers put sheep on the land. There was a public protest and petition which succeeded in getting the sheep withdrawn
In the 1990’s council officers planned with officers of English Nature in Bakewell to have the land added to the other nearby sites of Special Scientific Interest.
This was not discussed with the people, with councillors or with those who walk on Blacka Moor.
In 1999 the land was proposed as an SSSI. Officers responded welcoming this without consulting the public or councillors.
The Graves Covenant states that the land is to be a public pleasure ground and public open space. Council officers kept this document to themselves and resisted calls to have it made available.
Council officers then persuaded the council to declare the site a Nature Reserve in 2001 and gave it to Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
Sheffield Wildlife Trust’s management plan crafted with the help of English Nature states that they will be grazing the land with cattle. This is contrary to the wishes of local users of Blacka who wish it to be left as it is or with manual removal of unwanted trees. A new petition in 2005 collected 761 signatures. This has been ignored.

I will return to this subject with further details about what has been going on in the following days.


The recent series of meetings with a 'facilitator' from Icarus finished with a report and set of recommendations from the facilitator.

A Thing of Rare Beauty

This inspiring structure is one of Sheffield Wildlife Trust's numerous successful projects on Blacka Moor. It is positioned so as to be perfectly visible from various points and regular visitors can hardly contain themselves in their rush to renew acquaintance with its charms after even a short absence.
It's name tends to change with the whim of the beholder, but I currently call it the compost shrine. Because SWT's original purpose for it, before it became a monument in its own right, was as a composting facility.

The observant will have seen that there is a notice pinned to one of the uprights. Here the plot thickens because this is our first real introduction to a desperate struggle which is being waged between the Philistines (SWT) and the regular visitors.

Notices have begun to appear pinned to the wooden structure declaring discontent with what the managers are doing and about to do. No sooner do they go up than they are torn down which is odd because experience suggests that SWT rarely visit the site, being largely content to go about their business at workstations in their smart HQ; but perhaps the fine spring weather has drawn them away from their desks.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Spring Flowers

These delightful flowers are fighting for attention with the fly tippings and distasteful litter thrown out of cars whose owners never get out. They are at the car park at the Stony Ridge end of Blacka Moor. Coltsfoot is one of the earliest spring flowers to show itself and the leaves follow much later. Apothecaries found that it was
excellent for dealing with chest complaints particularly for clearing a persistent cough.
The highest part of Blacka Moor has been given over to sheep grazing for some time. Just for the last two weeks the sheep have been absent. Soon they will doubtless reappear with scores of lambs suitably daubed with a tasteless shade of dye. It is a blessing for the moment to be able to walk untroubled by their insistent bleatings and the ever present feeling that the place is set aside for agricultural priorities. More of this anon.

Monday, 26 March 2007

This part of Blacka is the flattest section of the site and is close to the bog called Cowsick. Here you can occasionally see red deer browsing early in the morning.

This was Blacka Moor this morning at about 8am. Not the prettiest of views in the mist today, looking down on Lenny Hill, but this is one of my favourite spots.

Why a Blacka Moor Blog?

I spend a lot of time on Blacka Moor.
To me it's a special place. It changes with the seasons and over the years. And it has its secrets.
Unlike the other wide spaces on the west/south-west edges of Sheffield large parts of Blacka have been mercifully left alone for 60 years or so. Now all that is changing and I fear it will be for the worse. There is a new breed of interferers who think of themselves as conservationists. I prefer to think of them as managers - land managers. And they have some of the same characteristics as other managers in our increasingly managerialist culture. They want to control everything. To me they are the enemies of everything I enjoy about wild countryside.

This site and this blog is dedicated to celebrating the best of Blacka Moor and at the same time to exposing the unimaginative dealings of these modern philistines who don't know that they are damaging something precious.