Saturday, 30 June 2007

Response (1)

The Telegraph letter (below) despite being far too long, manages to make no serious contribution to the debate. Instead it is an attempt to score a number of points each one of which I will address. This will unfortunately need more words than I normally post so I will do so in several posts and hope that readers will bear with me.

The letter writer gives the impression that he’s been involved at some stage in attending Blacka Moor meetings.

How he gets the idea that we are the minority or that we might ‘rule’ is beyond me. The minority of those initially involved in the “consultation” perhaps, but as very few people knew about the consultation this can’t be valid. The initial meetings consulting on the management plan were at 2 pm on Monday afternoons and officers from English Nature, PDNPA and Sheffield Council’s ecology officer attended during their normal working hours. The people who regularly walk on Blacka, in the early mornings, in the evening and at weekends, did not know about these meetings and were not informed with notices on the moor. The true feelings of these people were demonstrated in the petition of 761 signatures collected from people walking on the moor. Some minority!

It was after this petition that the conservation lobby made sure that they were in attendance to defeat the intentions of the petitioners. The idea that we might ‘rule’ is of course absurd. The point of us promoting this debate is in order to try to prevail over the misguided orthodoxy which does make all the decisions usually without any serious questioning. Even if we have achieved nothing else we would dearly love to think we've made them re-think their position. Little hope of that as unquestioning arrogance has been the order of the day.

Letter in Sheffield Telegraph

I hope it is clear that anyone reading posts on this blog is welcome to contribute comments and especially if their views differ from those of the writer. One of the aims of this blog and the linked website was to stimulate discusssion about Blacka Moor and similar issues relating to countryside management. The writer (anonymous) of the letter in this week's Sheffield Telegraph is not bold enough to do this even though he knows this blog and refers to it. In order to rescue him from a potentially dishonourable situation therefore I hereby reproduce his letter in full.

I shall of course take the opportunity to comment on the content in due course. He can then respond using the comments facility and a reasonable discussion may follow.


Much of the recent debate and the material on the Friends of Blackamoor website and Blog relate to the perceived conflict between the conservation managers and those who wish to access the Moor. I think we need to remember that the existing management plan for Blacka – produced by a conservation organisation in consultation with many access and recreation organisations and individuals - and its proposed revision is about much more than the conservation of the wildlife habitats of the Moor.
Most obviously it is about providing access to Blacka. All of our access rights are being compromised to a greater degree by scrub, bracken and bramble encroachment than by the cattle which could go at least some way to suppressing that encroachment. To give just one example I used to picnic with my young children on a small sunny clearing by a small stream. In fact I have a photograph of my son at five days old laying on the grass there in dappled sunlight with his sister and brother.
This son was 15 on Wednesday. There is little grass there now and definitely no sunlight. To do nothing more than some occasional scrub bashing is to compromise the opportunities for Sheffield people and others to benefit from, and appreciate the place that is Blacka.
The plan is also about enhancing the landscape. At its simplest this means the views of and from the Moor. I no longer have my favourite view because of the changes to the woodland/moorland interface, in essence as a result of scrub encroachment.
Others of my views are being changed through the march of bracken across the site. I am grateful for the Wildlife Trusts aims of controlling the spread of scrub and bracken, and not just because I recognise that this will enhance the wildlife habitats, but also because this will help retain the open landscape and the landscape dominated by heather, that makes Blacka what it is, and gives us the views of the city and the surrounding landscape from the moor.
The plan is also about community awareness and involvement. I find it quite astounding that given the hostile environment within which it has to work, the Trust continues to welcome community participation in its management planning process.
Without this participation we lose the opportunity for the plan to reflect our needs as local people visiting the site. We should feel privileged to be invited to be involved rather than antagonistic when the Trust on balance takes decisions that upset some of us.
From what I understand there are a small minority of people who are anti the idea of cattle grazing. (I understand that there were a large number of signatures on a petition. However there are only a handful of people who feel strongly enough to turn up to a meeting.)
We should not be letting this minority dictate a style of management – essentially nonintervention which is the only practical alternative approach - which will compromise not only the wildlife habitats of the moor but also our access to the site and the way we use it, the landscape, and the ability of the Trust to do its job. We should also not be tolerating this minority hijacking management planning meetings.
The supportive majority now have little ability to influence the revision of the management plan because they have either been excluded from the meetings because they cant bear the hostility and the lack of progress, or because the meetings centre on one aspect –the pros and cons of cattle grazing – rather than being allowed to concentrate on moving forward with real and practical issues.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Straight Lines and the Green Belt

The view from Blacka is enhanced by the green fields and the scattered woods on the lower land. Much of this was earmarked for development 60 years or so ago. Campaigners helped to keep it as green and attractive as it is.

More threats will come from greedy and insensitive developers. One regrettable new bulding is the rebuilt King Ecgbert's school. There is just too great an expanse of straight line. Monolithic structures do not suit this landscape.

New Visitors?

The five full grown red deer, well-antlered were something of a surprise at 8:30 this morning. They had no intention of waiting for me to get a close up picture. They looked bigger than those I've seen in the last few months. Antlers are usually cast in March to April and the new ones begin to appear immediately. These specimens seemed to be back to normal already though the more velvety new antlers are quite sensitive early on..

Meanwhile the cattle remain in the sheep enclosure.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

After The Deluge

Early morning sun. Everything looks as if it's had a good wash.

Falls on the Lee Stream.

Bridleways with foot deep trenches.

Horse riders are already displeased. Now this.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

In Confinement

Ten cattle on the bridleway running through the sheep enclosure. I don't know the reason for this. They have an insubordinate look about them suggesting that they are in detention for some misbehaviour.

I believe that a storm has brewed up among the riding community about the cattle and this may have something to do with them being here this morning.

The picture also reveals a broken wire on the fence. Interesting. Originally there were eleven beasts. Where did the other one go?

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Still On The Paths

Those nervous about cattle are not likely to be comforted to see that they are still gathering around walking and riding routes.

I've tried to tell one timid person that you should shout and wave your arms about if you suddenly come upon them but to no effect.

A Soggy Tale

This path is not a bridleway or public right of way. It is an informal track or ‘desire line’. It was closed off with barriers at each end earlier this year to prevent further erosion.

SWT claims that the erosion was caused by horse riders. I know this is untrue; I use the route so often that I would know instantly – I’m usually examining the soft peat for evidence of deer. The real damage is caused by occasional use by motor bikes. SWT claim this is only a minor problem. The trouble is that only one visit from a motor bike leaves deep ruts that fill with water causing walkers to spread further away. SWT seem unable to understand this and persist in putting it about that horse riders cause the problem. No wonder the horse riders are unhappy.

Now SWT has imported cattle to the site.

They make their own contribution to the erosion....

...............and the pleasures of walking.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Sweetest Scent

Elderflower and bluebell are rivals for the title. Both are at their best in woodland under the canopy on a still heavy day. Elderflower is more likely to get these conditions later in the year but it's more often found in the open where the scent dissipates.

The Message Goes Out

Now if only these wires were telephone wires the story would have more credibility. They are of course electric power lines.

But word has somehow got around in the bird world that earlier than usual the bilberry crop is ready for harvesting. This morning 20 plus mistle thrushes rose from the shrubs as I approached. Those on the wires are just a few of them.

There are also scores of wood pigeon just to show that not all of them are ravaging my redcurrants.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Track Surface Washed Away

This bridleway running mostly level or gently sloping between Shorts Lane and then up towards Piper House was surfaced in 2002. It was one of the first things done by SWT with lottery funds. At the time several of us could not understand why this stretch was chosen of all the tracks on Blacka. It seemed perfectly all right with no problems unlike some others that were severely eroded.
Eventually we decided it must have been an 'easy win' project which could be shown to new visitors to demonstrate what a fine job was being done. It seemed a major operation at the time with quantities of material being brought in and a resultant unnatural look and scarring which took some while to heal. Cross pieces were concrete kerbstones which raised some disapproving comments.
Now the recent heavy rains have washed away large parts of the new surface exposing the broken bricks and leaving an awkward trench which will cause problems for horse riders.
Interestingly the unsurfaced track down from Devil's Elbow which gets very muddy at times in winter seems unscathed by the rains.
Conclusions should be drawn!!

Pleasure of Paths (7)

This is the favourite secluded route that follows the Lee Stream. It could be that I won’t walk this path again before September. By then the bracken may have been knocked back by a few cold nights. It’s a good walk from mid autumn through to June but the bracken dominates in high summer. When there’s been rain you’re drenched, otherwise the midges that gather around bracken can be troublesome even in the mornings.

The cattle have discovered this path and it has become squelchy with hoofprints full of water in places.

This waterfall is now easier to view than the cascade below High Voltage Terrace once you’ve braved the rest of the route.

Even without the bracken there are swampy and indistinct stretches. Definitely a route for those who love the wildly overgrown (a declining number).

The holly that provided us with Christmas decoration is still displaying a surprising show of red berries even in June.
A place for those who love to explore.

Blacka Moor and Recreation

The original Graves Covenant makes clear that Blacka’s primary purpose is to serve the varied legitimate and benign recreational needs of the local people and the wider public in Sheffield. As later amended that principle is maintained. Of course an element of the enjoyment of recreation relates to the natural state of the landscape. But even this depends on the particular focus of the activity. Bird watchers are more actively involved with the wildlife than cyclists or kite flyers but all three use Blacka. Once you distort the management imperatives through the governing document (covenant) you risk upsetting a balance which has served the place and the visitors well over many years. And this is what has happened in the designation of Nature Reserve and the profligate invocation of protection area statuses such as SSSI and SPA and SAC.

An incomplete list of some of the recreational pursuits observed on Blacka. Each one can be defined and qualified in numerous ways.
Horse Riding
Model Aircraft Flying
Fun running
Competitive running
Dog walking
Bird watching (and listening)
Bilberry picking (and eating)
Blackberry picking
Mushroom gathering
Wildlife photography
Hang gliding

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

This Way to a Healthy Diet

Berries are in the news and it seems that the most valuable health giving properties are to be found in berries with a blue or purple colour. The greatest level of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is to be found in our garden blackcurrant. See today’s report in the Daily Telegraph. The blackcurrants on my two bushes are not yet ripe and the freezer supply from last year is used up.

But Blacka Moor to the rescue again. There are many bilberries already ripe and edible. Our native bilberry is a near relative of the American blueberry so beloved of the privileged celebrity class who pay astronomical sums to consume a regular diet of the fruit under the impression that it will confer amazing health benefits. I would wager a lot of money that the completely free bilberries on Blacka Moor will do just as well if not better.

All you need is a container and some patience and hope that the bl***y cows haven’t scoffed the lot. Really I do wonder why the human race goes to such lengths to feed the best foods to cattle, when we could eat it all ourselves saving so much energy and costs and damage to the environment. And we would be fitter for the exercise in harvesting it.

Stay tuned for my bilberry exposion recipe, coming shortly!

Monday, 18 June 2007

How many letters can you get after your name?

Dog Rose

George Ernest Arbuthnot MA, MABPT, IFA is a member of the Association of Blind Piano Tuners and also of the International Federation of Aromatherapists (or possibly the Irish Farmers Association).

Not to be outdone, places as well as people can join this letters-after-your-name game. So we are told that Blacka Moor is no longer just, as we’ve always known it, honestly and unpretentiously a Public Open Space. Now it has become (courtesy of the all-embracing conservation industry) Blacka Moor SSSI, SPA, SAC. It pays to be sceptical about all of this. In practical terms it seems that being a Public Open Space means you can avoid being messed around by managers and their livestock. But once you get these letters this entitles you to managers fully-trained in the latest cock-up theories who can install barbed wire and awkward gates and various other barriers. You can put cattle all over the land who leave substantial calling cards all over the paths. You can get farm subsidies to pay for deskjobs - but not, it seems, for on-site workers.

But how do you get these designations? I’ve had it said to me that we can’t go on doing what we’ve always done here and the landowner has to take certain measures because of special European status such as Special Area of Conservation. This has European force. What does this conjure up? A grand authority figure in Brussels or Strasburg exercising supreme judgement and issuing benign dictats in the interests of the continent and the planet? All nonsense of course.

A little understanding of bureaucracies gives a more accurate picture. Somebody with a job title a tidy desk and an empty in-tray starts to worry about whether his job will continue. He sends out a consultation sheet asking various local conservation organisations to nominate areas for a special new designation. Search your minds he tells them to find places to add to the list. There could be sites for you to manage in future.
Is this a caricature? Well, each case should be looked at on its merits and when you see a fiddle you should believe your eyes and not be persuaded it’s a church organ.

Saturday, 9 June 2007


No posts for a few days as I am away.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Blacka Moor is NOT a Nature Reserve - Official

At Thursday's Blacka Moor RAG meeting the reserve manager made an amazing and surprising admission. Despite all the signs that have gone up and leaflets printed proclaiming that it IS a Nature Reserve there's nothing official about this. They CALL it a Nature Reserve simply because anyone can call anything a nature reserve if they want to!

There is an officially approved status of Nature Reserve recognised by government agencies such as Natural England. Blacka Moor does NOT have this designation! So what is the point of calling the place a nature reserve? Ah well, it's all a matter of being in control and making people think that it's not 'as of right' that you come here.

It should be clearly understood here that I am very much in favour of a suitable level of protection for nature and wildlife. But it must be balanced and proportionate. Certainly not the kind that is designed to cow people, often the very people who have helped to inculcate the respect for these values in the present generation. And people who have helped to keep these isssues alive in times past when our landscape was under threat from unsuitable development.

Read more about this subject here.

Enough is Enough - Time For Them To Go

We've never had cattle on this place before. And as far as we're concerned the experiment can stop here. We want the place back as it used to be.

That was the message that came out of the meeting of SWT's Reserve Advisory Group for Blacka Moor this Thursday evening.

Some people were horse riders who found that cattle were gathered around the access points and intimidated the horses and riders a number of whom are children. Another was a father with an autistic son. He had always enjoyed his evening trips to Blacka but now he is too frightened to come.

As I said to the wildlife trust 6 years ago its all very well to tell people that these animals are placid but it does not inspire confidence if you find out they have huge horns and are reluctant to get out of the way.

And if you didn't have cattle you wouldn't need all that barbed wire.

Dirty habits?

At one time it seemed only to be footballers that did this. Now the cuckoos are at it. They've been around on Blacka a lot lately but this behaviour only adds to its poor moral standing. (Only to be grassed on by a much larger bird.) Ouch!

More information on the froghopper

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Heifer with Attitude

I blame all this feminism. She thinks she's in Pamplona!

Long Evenings

In less than two weeks the days will be getting shorter!!

Enjoy them when we can. A surprising number of people on Blacka Moor in the evening are on bikes.

The cyclists nearing the Seven Trees just visible in the above picture illustrate the image a salesman of mountain bikes would like to project. Idyllic scene on long summer evening, healthy outdoor exercise. In a better picture it could sell a few bikes. To me it's another part of modern life I can't quite understand. If I wanted to go out into the countryside and enjoy wilder places, why would I bother to take a bike with me? It restricts your freedom rather than adding to it. And nearly always you have to do some riding on main roads to get to where you want to be.
I've talked with cyclists who've agreed with me and others who've been very defensive. They (the latter) say it's just the same as walking; that's what you like to do and this is what we like to do. But it's not really. The typical cyclist I've come across will want to ride his bike first and look for some suitable place to do it afterwards.
To me as a walker the place I go to is the be all and end all; I'm not doing it for the pleasure of the means of propulsion being an end in itself, nice though it is to be in decent surroundings and away from noisy roads. I don't spend hours looking through magazines showing pictures of walking boots and other gear - there may be some who do, but I don't know any. And there's the question of speed. For me slowness is a distinct advantage because it enables me to see more and think more about what I see, as well as taking detours off the paths to investigate. But then I'm odd.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

"Conservation Grazing" Leaflet (2)

To return to the SWT leaflet in the dispensers. This states:
Heathland has developed through hundreds of years of human intervention including forest clearance and grazing. Due to its origins, management is needed to conserve the open heathland that is valued by people and wildlife.
Blacka Moor has developed a wonderful mosaic of birch & rowan copses, mire, scattered trees, grassland, heather and bilberry; creating richness both aesthetically and ecologically. However, being inherently dynamic, this mixed heathland habitat can be lost through the build-up of nutrients in the soil, and the invasion of birch and bracken.
The impression given here is that what we have got at Blacka conforms to a certain standard of heathland, and that this is a strictly definable entity. This is misleading and I think knowingly so. The distinctive elements which characterize Blacka and which give it the richness described have arisen only during the last hundred years and due to a diminishing and eventual absence of management – not because of the ‘human intervention’ referred to, but more from the lack of it. Conservationists, both real ones and ‘wannabies’ should get together and agree what they mean by the word ‘mosaic’ in these contexts because it gets chucked around irresponsibly to the point it becomes another empty term indicating the user is part of an ‘in-crowd’, but with no clear and agreed meaning.

Flowering Grasses

With 11 cattle on such a large site there is a hope that some of the grass will survive to flower and seed because the beasts will be after other fare. But their use of the paths is not promising. One thing that makes verges along lanes intriguing places is the chance of a surprise discovery. It's usually dependent on there being no livestock around.

The wildlife trust, if one is to believe their publicity, wants the grass to be eaten by cows in order to:
...prevent the continuing build up of nutrients and hence retain the nutrient-poor conditions needed by heathland plants.

So much for minimal intervention. Ah well. I suppose as I'm not an ecologist I shouldn't ask the question of what happens to all the other nutrients coming out the other end; as far as I can see they usually land on the footpaths.

N.B. Contrary to the post on Sunday, the orange cattle feeding bowl is still there. It had just been moved down the slope.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Diversity of Diversities!!

(Warning: this is a bit serious!!!)


It's good to emphasise the protection of species and organisms. This is important because there are all sorts of pressures on land use; even more so in an advanced commercial and industrial country. But it’s at the level of common observation that this should be registered. The ordinary observer is crucial. Over reference to specialisms I find disturbing. They work against the interests of the balanced conservation cause and lead to an increasingly internal debate among those who share the same language and discipline. At the same time non specialists become uneasy and back out of the dialogue unless they are prepared to risk being talked down to.

There’s more to countryside diversity than BIODIVERSITY. But you wouldn’t think so to listen to those who get their views heard in countryside matters. You can’t have a rational discussion of countryside issues without it being whipped from the bottom of the pack and used to trump any other cards played. Once they bring out their target lists and Biodiversity Action Plans nothing much else can get a look in.

But it’s the same story wherever you go these days: the things that get most coverage and greatest priority are those that can be put in statistical form. The man that wields the clipboard, the database and the latest statistical analysis wins the day.

What about landscape diversity? Aesthetic values – (commonly, but for some embarrassingly, known as beauty) don’t get much of a look in because of a contemporary dread of the subjective. This is misguided. Ultimately what gets the countryside valued is the collective commitment of those who use it. That is subjective and usually aggregates into similar likes and dislikes. What is ‘natural’ and what is ‘artificial’ we usually come down to agreeing on even when we’re partly ‘wrong’ and it’s the former that is mostly preferred. We badly need a vocabulary of aesthetic appreciation for the enjoyment of countryside. I hope if it ever comes along it will not be so formulaic that it turns off those who should be using and responding to it.

But there’s an instinctive recoil within me and many of my generation from the train-spotters of the conservation world. These professionals are busy counting species on their clipboards and databases leading to a compulsion to preserve or even redesign habitats that exceeds their awareness of the visual pleasures that first attracted us to the countryside. To paraphrase Wilde they know the statistics for every species but the value of none of them. A quote from an interesting article by Charles Warren suggests things may be turning just a little our way. I’m not sure they are and I’m not sure the writer altogether approves anyway.

Less tangibly, there is a move from hard science to soft emotions in decision-making. This entails a move away from the former exclusive reliance on scientific and economic
criteria (which sometimes had the effect of alienating people) towards broader, socially constructed, less quantifiable
criteria, including aesthetics, landscape values and spiritual
beliefs. The ‘expertocracy’ is giving way to stakeholders, many of them non-specialists, and participatory decision-making is the order of the day.

I like his word ‘expertocracy’, but the situation is worse than that. The genuine experts can be bad enough but inevitably there are numerous dubious characters who ride on the back of others’ ‘expertise’. They tend to rely heavily on the abstruse terminology and jargon of a new discipline to cow the laity, and it’s only later we discover they know less than the average careful observer.

Encounter in the Murk

"Now, now, if you can't be friendly then at least leave me alone. Anyway I've been coming here for many more years than you."

"Oy there, I'm not sure of the intentions of this lot. I may need assistance"

Most groups of heifers contain at least one awkward character. The horns are a kind of 'power dressing'. At least I hope she sees it as merely that. If they were actually used there would be serious trouble.


A downpour in the night has filled the streams.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

"Conservation Grazing" Leaflet (1)

SWT’s new leaflet about ‘Conservation Grazing’ Available at site entrances.

SWT have tried several times, I reckon at least seven, to put together a strong case for importing fences and farm animals to Blacka. It is a question of trying to make something fundamentally flawed sound coherent by virtue of improved 'presentation'. They have strained sinews and brain cells to come up with explanations which appear credible. The latest of their efforts is now freely available in small, green, rather disreputable-looking dispensers at several gates onto Blacka. As you read the text you can hear the creaks and hard breathing as efforts are redoubled to produce something which sounds convincing. The leaflet is not directed at the hardy types who have followed this saga for 5 years but at the occasional visitor who might be more easily persuaded by superficial plausibility and has little time to query the details.

So let us query some of the details on this handout, starting from the very first words

1 “Blacka Moor Nature Reserve”. Well I dispute this. Yes you can call anything a nature reserve but it carries no weight if it’s not properly designated and this one just ain’t. That’s why SWT are so determined always to refer to ‘the reserve’. It’s uncanny. Clearly they’ve a policy on it. Don’t call it Blacka or Blacka Moor. Always say reserve. Why? Because they know it doesn’t stand up, so use the old trick of repeating something often enough and eventually it catches on. Sheffield City Council has a list on its website of Nature Reseves in Sheffield. this is not one. Natural England has a list of Nature Reserves in South Yorks. Blacka is not on the list. So why call it a Nature Reserve if it's not, especially as it clearly IS a public open space - quite a different concept.
Chief reason for harping on the Nature Reserve thing and the ‘Welcome’ thing is to give people the idea that their visit is ‘approved’ by someone in authority. In other words it’s not ‘as of right’.


During 5 years of consultation and research a number of options to conserve the moorland have been been investigated and cattle grazing has been found to be the better option”

There has NOT been ‘5 years of consultation and research’. This is simply untrue. SWT decided in 2001 (if not earlier) that they were going to do this and have stuck rigidly to their plan. Since then they have introduced no procedures to examine the strategy but have been forced with increasing desperation to respond to the questionings representations and challenges mounted by other people principally the regular users. But in no way has this amounted to consultation on SWT’s part. In fact they have constantly tried to impede proper scrutiny of this decision. In March this year an SWT manager addressed a group of us and said “We’ve never intended to do anything else”, saying in effect it was only our fault if we were gullible enough to believe they would reconsider. So the statement above is nothing more than shameless spin.

More analysis/deconstruction of this leaflet to come.

The Pleasure of Paths (6)

This path beside a wall is crumbly but firm underfoot and the grasses flowering add interest. Bracken is kept down by the mature birches shading. Let's hope that the recent soiling by cattle is not repeated or it could be ruined.

Every root crossing this path was scarred after a recent bovine expedition.

More fluffy than fuzzy. Willow seed beside the path.

Incidental News:

Strangely the orange feed bowl for cattle has now disappeared.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Things Fuzzy

Cotton grass looks more fun when it's been around for a while and been allowed to get untidy.

From a spider with more energy than design sense.

Not much untidy about the workmanship here, quite as far away from the fuzzy as you can get.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Debate Paused?

Today’s Sheffield Telegraph has nothing about Blacka Moor. This could be for any one of a number of reasons
1 The editor has decided the story has run its course and there are plenty of letters on other subjects, or
2 The people who didn’t like my letter last week were away on holiday and may respond in next week’s edition or
3 They judged it to be beneath them to respond to someone who clearly has no qualifications in the subject, or
4 They decided they couldn’t win and it was best to keep quiet.

For the record the letter in last weeks Telegraph is below. It responds to this letter from the previous week which in turn responds to this article the week before. (I think that’s right)

Simon Queenborough’s prescription for Blacka Moor (May18th) may not be as manicured as a well weeded flowerbed. But it’s not ‘wild with minimal intervention’ either - as preferred by those involved in the recent consultation. Wildness is not consistent with spending vast sums of public money installing barbed wire and other intrusive barriers. Nor with the poisoning of scores of mature trees which are then left standing - as a lesson in what might happen if nature does not behave itself in future.

I am happy to plead guilty to his accusation of inconsistency because that, along with contradiction and unpredictability, is what helps give nature, left to itself, the special magic which Richard Mabey has described more eloquently than I can:

“Don’t we all want revelation, surprise, inspiration from the wild?........But conservation orthodoxy is beginning to resemble the credo of a business studies course. Everything must be managed.”

On Blacka nature, going its own way has produced a heartening change on what had previously been an over-managed grouse moor. It is still a changing landscape and, left largely to itself, will continue to evolve unpredictably. Sometimes this will annoy and sometimes it will delight but I’m happy to take the rough with the smooth. The tendency to woodland and the spread of bracken eventually produce a response from other areas of nature. He refers to deer as a phenomenon of the past helping to “manage” our countryside. Does he not know that red deer have increasingly returned to Blacka responding to the greening of the moor and that they spend much of their time quietly and unobtrusively browsing. The heresy of this is that these wonderful animals, our largest wild mammal, came unpredictably without any prompting from a management plan.

The bilberry pie issue is a (well-disguised) red herring. All who walk the moors know that bilberry does not fruit in abundance where farm animals have grazed for years. So the idea that grazing preserves the bilberry is a ‘heads I lose tails you win’ situation. And in certain parts of the Peak they put fences around the plants so that livestock cannot get to the fruit, thus leaving some for the ring ouzels and other birds.

But let’s not beat about the bilberry bush. Both Dr Queenborough and I know that this is really about control and the conservation economy. ‘King Nature’, as he dismissively terms it, cannot be allowed to have its own way. People may actually like it and ask questions about the need for so many managers paid from public funds.

I simply and moderately ask for one or two places like Blacka to be largely left alone as has happened in recent years. This wish is widely shared among the general public and some conservationists but seems to be anathema to those professionals who insist on top-down control on all countryside everywhere.

New Month

Mist rolling back and forward, leaving drops of moisture on everything. When the early morning sun does come it brings strange light effects.

But even under the mist the humblest vegetation is at its best at this time of the year.