Friday, 30 November 2007

In With The New - Out With The Old

The open space on the bridleway crossing below Lenny Hill has always been a pleasant place to rest for a while. An old bench was replaced three years ago by SWT and was doing quite well although one of their vehicles chipped a bit off the corner and their contractors made quite a mess of the area when doing some grant funded work to bridleways. It's still not fully recovered from this.
Now that bench has been replaced with another new one. The excuse for that would appear to be that funds could be obtained for a "project". The seat is certainly a decent piece of timber and is further decorated with some words scratched around the perimeter seeming to be from a childrens' creative writing effort.

I wonder what happened to the 'old' bench which was still in fairly serviceable condition?
Oh I's been thrown behind a tree a few yards away.

Why do I think that this is somehow symptomatic of a certain attitude?

East Facing

The afternoon sun leaves earlier here than a short way to the west, Blacka being mostly east facing.

It means that areas under the shadow of the hills feel envious of those still basking in daylight.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Late Afternoon

At this time of year daylight is in short supply even on beautifully clear days.

Fortunately the moon chips in with a contribution.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Woolly Madness

Further to these posts, here and here, another danger on Hathersage Road at the Piper House bend is frequently seen by those who use the road regularly.

Today driving up towards Hathersage just at the point where the latest fatal accident occurred, three sheep calmly walked in front of cars coming towards Sheffield. Drivers cannot possibly see this beforehand. There is no local speed limit. Sheffield City Council is the main owner of the land where the sheep graze and where the fence is never adequately maintained.

One obvious thing the council could do is to ensure that sheep cannot escape onto the road. A more radical and longer term solution is to make the whole stretch of road a 40 mph limit properly enforced and with signage warning of sheep (and deer). Roads should never be used as race tracks - they are for people wanting to get simply and safely from A to B.

Thorn tree on Thistle Hill

Questions Being Asked

Why do such demonstrably silly ideas get accepted so easily? The upland conservation grazing nonsense is supported by supposedly responsible bodies like Natural England and National Park Authorities.

I have a theory which goes like this: the more people tell you something is right and go on telling you it's right the more you should question their reasoning and their motives. And when they tell you that it’s ‘obvious’ start looking around for vested interests. Every time I hear a BBC radio programme about the countryside or see a TV programme I get told the story that our landscape has been ‘made’ by certain farming practices and that it will only survive if it is managed in a certain way. And a key component of that management is grazing the uplands with livestock; the implication is always made clear that some sort of catastrophe will ensue if we don’t encourage sheep and/or cattle to graze on our hills moors and mountains. For God’s sake, we are implored, if you take away the grazing the whole of our countryside will ‘look different’. And people come to the countryside to experience the countryside looking the way it does now.

But at no time in the past has anyone sought to make this point. All the years that the look of the countryside has been evolving and changing it has done so as economic forces and as natural change have dictated. There’s never before been a top down dictat from unaccountable people telling us that it must look just so. Now I would hate our countryside to be ‘spoiled’ in any way, but the funny thing is that I’ve seen many things that have partially spoiled areas of countryside which don’t get anywhere near as much publicity as I would like. One example is the excessive amount of plastic sheeting around farms, another is the yellow flowered oilseed rape fields, another again is the mess made by herds of livestock on footpaths and around access points; and there are many more. But I don’t understand the aesthetics of those who claim more native trees on our hills will significantly reduce the appeal of the landscape. I love trees and I don’t see a natural regeneration of broadleaved woodland doing anything awful to ‘the look’ of the countryside – unlike for instance industrial forestry.

Hill farming subsidies contribute £15 or so from our taxes towards each sheep. Sheep farming is completely uneconomic. The job the sheep are doing is to eat young trees to keep our hills and moors looking the same. This is nonsense and expensive nonsense. If trees were allowed to grow or even planted it would help to prevent fast run-off of rainwater which contributes to serious flooding problems in the valleys. So Environment Agency funding is contributing to Environment Agency expenses!!

In places like Blacka Moor where a previously groomed grouse moor has been allowed to go its own way without sheep the beauty of the land has been shown to increase and wild animals have returned to take advantage of the less managed situation. Yes, there are issues around how open or how wooded we want it to become but those are easily resolved with a routine cutting of unwanted growth; and none of this needs specialist input, just good sense.


With boots well waxed and making sure we are pointing in the right direction the intrepid explorers venture onto ground quite different to its appearance several days ago.

Paths are underwater, no views can be enjoyed and bracken has now received the coup de grace. The snow has been washed away with heavy rain and the peat and bracken litter is working overtime to absorb the water.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Stop The Mad Grazing Agenda

According to Professor Tom Coulthard, of the Department of Geography at the University of Hull we could help to prevent the worst effects of lowland flooding as seen this year by growing trees in the uplands.

Planting trees in the uplands that drain into rivers could slow down the transfer of water into rivers and thus reduce flood risk. Much of the UK (over 90%) used to be forested, and this has a far greater sponge like capacity to absorb water and then release it more slowly. By studying sedimentary records of how rivers have changed over the last 10 000 years, we can see evidence of flooding being reduced when forest levels were much higher. (BBC 13th November 2007)

Yet Defra who have some responsibility for subsidising conservation grazing in the uplands, thus preventing trees from growing, are currently short of funds due to the floods of the last year! Time for some joined up thinking!

Hathersage Road

More on last week's tragic accident on Hathersage Road just beside the Piper House access point to Blacka Moor. A report in the Sheffield Telegraph says that "it was not thought" that there was any problem at that stretch of road. I find this amazing. Is the Telegraph's reporter quoting a spokesman at the Highways Agency or some other local politician? And are the words used chosen to shield somebody who does not wish to be directly quoted?

It's always been felt by anyone walking along the footpath towards the Blacka Moor entrance that they could be taking their lives in their hands. And you would need to offer me a fairly substantail sum of money to persuade me to wait at the bus stop.

Let me explain that nobody in the police, accident services or the Highways Department itself can have any reason for being ignorant about the dangers of that point on the A625. There is a scheduled bus stop a few yards from the accident. This is more often to be found deposited some 10 feet below through the stone wall caused by vehicles losing control. The authority has now seemingly given up on repairing the walls because each time this happened in the past a new hole has appeared days later. In fact some of us have often wondered if the practice had now become established to leave holes in the wall and debris from crashed cars as a warning to road users - much cheaper of course than taking proper measures.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Baled Heather

Surely the area above Blacka to the west of Thistle Hill is one of the strangest places around. Not only do we have the desecration of Moss Road, brutally eroded by 4x4s and motor bikes, the lunar landscape around the tunnel ventilators and our odd accidental sculpture of the Truculent Sheep, but now the latest addition to the list is these large bales of heather newly cut presumably as an alternative to burning.

I suppose a decision was taken that it was environmentally more sound to do this. Certainly the hazard of smoke pollution on the roads is avoided but I wonder what they're going to do with the bales. Rather than simply leave them, should they create an artistic feature? Or are they intending to move them elsewhere to fulfil some role.

I hope they are not intending to use noisy shredders to grind the stuff into mulch.

Is This It?

A Friend of Beauchief Abbey told me that up on the moor on land once belonging to the Premonstratensians was a boundary stone showing the limit of their land. She had never seen it but knew there was no inscription on it. With little to go on I wonder if this might be the stone in question.

The Truculent Sheep

For some time I thought this feature on the moor just beyond Thistle Hill was a modernistic sculpture commissioned perhaps by the Peak District National Park to celebrate the role of sheep on the uplands.

It's only when you get closer that you realise it is just the way the ruined walls of an old brick building have fallen. Still the resemblance to a sheep I find is uncanny.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Too Straight

Whenever man intervenes in views be they landscapes or skyscapes he has to leave behind him straight lines in some form or another. Perhaps we should blame the Romans with their roads. As well as the vapour trails overhead Blacka has to contend with an intrusive power line and the unmentionable b****d w*re. But then it's the mission of many humans including SWT's Director to "improve on nature".

Even the pictures which litter these posts are bounded by the tyranny of straight lines. Curves are nearly always preferable.

In The Woods

Beech besieged by birch.

What was mid afternoon a few weeks ago becomes early evening now, so without any bright sun to penetrate even three thirty can feel gloomy.

Monday, 12 November 2007

A Shocking Waste

The accident on Saturday which killed two young sisters on Hathersage Road should cause many people to feel guilty. Every fatality and serious injury on our roads is the result of a failure on the part of the Highways Authority and just as much on the part of those whose duty it is to hold them to account. Yes of course individual responsibility for how we behave and how we drive is paramount. But anyone who has driven along that section of the A625 around Blacka Moor knows how dangerous is that bend. I cannot remember a time when the wall opposite the Piper House car park has not been broken down in one part or another from recent collisions.

In most areas of the country this stretch would have had signs in place years ago warning motorists to reduce speeds because of the hazard. I personally cannot believe that speeds over 40 mph are suitable anywhere along this road. Yet it retains only the national speed limit. A scandal and a tragic one.

A favourite path newly characterised by frost.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Managing Cold Fingers

The first ice of the season on the higher and more exposed (and windy) sections rather than the sheltered spots. Gloves are necessary but inconvenient when you want to use the camera to record something like this charming stonechat on the dying bracken and small birch.

Another reason for resisting the temptation to buy a more advanced camera. I can't do with carrying bulky packages. I'm a walker who takes snaps, and will never become a photographer. Still it would be good to get a really fine picture of birds like this.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Deer and Managers

In SWT’s first management plan for Blacka Moor the existence of red deer was not even acknowledged!

They were occasional visitors to the site even then but unknown to the trust and the majority of visitors. But since then the deer have established themselves as not just regular visitors but as a permanent presence and numbers have increased year on year. Their influence on the site’s vegetation is also increasing and will continue to do so. They browse on the low vegetation including birch and they occupy the bracken stands in ways that the cattle are unwilling to do.

They are there throughout the year and have started to breed on the site, at least one fawn having been born here this year. They are looked on by local people as their own wild animals however much SWT goes on about “Beautiful Beasts of Blacka” in various publications – meaning the cattle!!!

The astonishing admission from a 'wildlife' trust is that they don’t think that deer will do ‘the job’ properly. In other words deer don’t obey orders and conform to the management plan; more evidence if it was needed of the impoverished imagination of the trust. They seem incapable of the imaginative thought which means that wildness does not always give you just what you demand; in fact that’s almost a definition of it. But then what can you expect of those who want always to be ‘in control’?

Close Ups

I find I'm usually looking towards the middle distance when walking on Blacka Moor. This is to do with the qualities in the landscape and the chance to see red deer and other wildlife.

Down at one's feet and also sideways can be rewarding.

In fact it pays to look more than once at any view on Blacka.................


Sunday, 4 November 2007

More Spun Gold

The much maligned birch coming into its own on a bed of the even more maligned bracken. For those who have eyes.......................

Waxcap Wonderland

Despite the overnight frost Thistle Hill was a paradise for lovers of waxcaps this morning. Odd that the only people I ever see looking at the ground here are those seeking the artificial stimulation of magic mushrooms. For me there is enough colourful, even psychedelic, experience in simply using one's unpolluted senses.

Which of these fungi is not a waxcap?

Friday, 2 November 2007

A Favourite Fungus

When this delightful waxcap first emerges it is an amber yellow colour.

After a while its colour changes

Finally it looks like this as far from the original colour as possible, but still well formed.

It's name.....................................................?

...............The Blackening Waxcap. Extra fun when you can see all the stages in a colony on the ground in front of you .

Here He Is Again

The fellow to the right of the tree is my old friend previously dubbed the Blacka unicorn. As I suspected his right side antler is absent. But there's more to see than that. He's actually got over his right eye something black looking initially like a piece of ribbon. I thought I had seen this more than a month ago and it's still there. Perhaps after all it is a broken antler or one grown at an odd angle. It will take a good view with the binoculars to sort out just what it is.

More close looking needed in the view below. Many people walk along Blacka's paths unaware of the presence of red deer although there are now far more sightings than previously. The stag in the picture below is so well camouflaged that it's understandable that they frequently go unseen.

Not Such A Villain

To hear some wildlife and conservation types talk you would think that it is our duty to expunge the silver birch tree from our countryside. The curl of the lip as they pronounce the word "scrub" is proof of a controlling attitude to the countryside and an inability to value the very absence of human decisions.

This tree near Lenny Hill becomes like spun gold in sunny early mornings in autumn.