Friday, 30 January 2009
There's always been a bog at Cowsick and it's of course always been wet. But a public footpath across the bog has always been fairly easy to use. The best thing about Cowsick is the flowering of the yellow bog asphodel in July, not otherwise a great time on Blacka.
Several years ago SWT, without consulting, stuck several sheets of plywood as dams on the east side of the bog where excess water ran off into the stream that becomes Blacka Dyke. Presumably the bog for them was not boggy enough - maybe it didn't even come up to Bog Standard. More likely a whim of an English Nature (Natural England) officer was passed down as a suggestion and there was some grant money attached to it.
It didn't take long for the effect to be seen. The footpath became flooded and walkers found the path unacceptably wet. The result was they diverted off the path onto slightly better ground to the side - just where the best bog asphodel flowers grow. You might expect a wildlife trust to react swiftly to this but it was several months before any response at all came from them. It was in the form of a passage in a letter to RAG members saying that they had located some flagstones which they would eventually get round to putting in place along the original path. Meanwhile the trampling of the area continued and SWT showed no urgency to deal with the problem. Eventually the new flagstones were put down (inevitably causing more trampling) and for a time the access to the right of way was much improved even though there were reservations about the visual impact of imported materials.
But the problem was far from solved because since then the water level has continued to rise. Now the wooden bridge made from old railway sleepers, which has been there as long as anyone can remember, is in constant contact with the water. Cautious people have given up putting their weight on it. After a rainy day water which used to be absorbed by the bog has nowhere to go but to the area near the woods from where it rushes along paths to join the streams 150 yards further on. Wellington boots have become obligatory here while walking along the actual right of way is not recommended whatever your footwear.
The main point to make about this is the tardiness of any response from the conservation people. The obvious thing to do is to remove all, or at least some of the wooden damming panels. But SWT is nervous about the bog lovers in Natural England - people who I've never met on Blacka but who, from the dry comfort of their offices seem to wield considerable influence on my choice of route and footwear and much more besides.
Bog asphodel still survives at Cowsick but the section beside the path where the best examples used to grow is now under water and the plants prefer to be swampy rather than drowned so the best ones are on other parts of the bog.
Thursday, 29 January 2009
The return of deer to Blacka should be welcomed as it fits well with the wildness of the place. Anyway the small numbers involved (only two hinds) are no excuse for anyone getting trigger happy. As for road accidents they certainly happen. I hope nobody is suggesting that deer should be culled because they cause accidents. Speed limits are a much more acceptable way of preventing accidents. I frequently see stray sheep on Hathersage Road. Perhaps they should be culled? Or maybe the speeding motorists?
Also it will not be lost on Blacka's regular walkers that SWT want their cattle on the moor to eat young trees and that deer are nature's way of doing this with no need for a management plan, barbed wire fences, awkward gates and eroded paths. The control freaks of Natural England won't have it though. There's a difference between deer grazing and cattle grazing says NE. And they want the landscape according to their blueprint. God help us all.
Link to the radio item here. I love that "Dear (sic) Initiative" (now corrected). Link to them here. But how depressing that there's always somebody or some group popping up wanting to manage something. As an advanced species we can't manage our economy we can't manage our aggression or our crime rate but we seem to have faith that we can set up agencies to control nature. Hmm.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Sunday, 25 January 2009
Saturday, 24 January 2009
The agenda is as follows (several items put forward by Friends of Blacka Moor).
3) Minutes of last meeting
4) Work update
5) Devil’s Elbow bridleway
6) Cowsick Bog Management
7) Closure of Piper House layby
8) Tree Felling
9) Consultation –SCC, PDNPA, SWT
11) Dates for on site meeting
Friday, 23 January 2009
The stated aim of this exercise is to deal with birch's capacity to spread onto heather moorland and thus impair the purity of this starkly artificial vegetation. And in many places you can see young trees sprouting amidst the heather. Then why is it that these young trees are not the targets of the work and usually remain behind when the birch bashers move on?
Blacka Blogger can reveal the answer to this mystery. The fact is it's not much fun uprooting small trees but a lot of primitive satisfaction can be gained from having go at much larger trees in the woods with a chain saw.
Landscapes as they keep telling us must be managed and kept down and learn to know their place. Otherwise they might go wild and do what nature wants. And what would conservationists do then?
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
Fairthorn is the monolithic structure erected on Townhead Road Dore, that dominates the views on the eastern side of Blacka. How it ever got planning permission God only knows (plus the Sheffield planning department and the sleepily inept councillors who are on the committee). The photo below was taken about a year ago when it was nearing completion.
One of the most vital parts of Blacka Moor’s appeal is its favoured outlook onto the stunningly attractive green spaces and the small scale housing developments around Dore; sloping as it does, towards the east, Blacka Moor sees very little of the western vistas towards the Peak District and therefore the human scale and individually angled streets of the village complement the wild beauty of Blacka Moor’s heights where deer roam in their natural habitat.
A building as stark as this, even were it only half the size, would be an affront to those who have worked in the past to protect much of this area from inappropriate developments. As it is the completed building is grotesquely unsuitable and, should it be allowed to remain in this form, would send out a message that Sheffield is incapable of looking after its best and most valued assets. This development has absolutely no architectural distinction, which could be the only possible justification for its disproportionate affect upon the landscape. Materials used draw attention to themselves shamelessly – witness the window frames and the roof tiles.
Anyway we now have another chance to object. The developer has contravened the original terms of the planning permission by making it too high. This means a retrospective application has to go in and the whole decision can be questioned from first principles. Seeing that many of us did not know about the building until we began to see it from Blacka Moor and were suitably horrified, this is our chance to express our disapproval. I think objections have to be in by Monday 26th January.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Mark Fisher in a recent article on his wonderful Self Willed Land website quotes some examples:
“National parks say that if the sheep and cattle go, there will be a knock-on effect on precious environments. The high moors are effectively a manmade environment and if grazing stops and is not replaced by other management, scrub and trees will begin to grow”
and a farmer from Dartmoor with 500 cattle and 200 sheep says:
"The vegetation will grow and it won't be accessible for the walkers. The birds that thrive on the moor will vanish. Water quality will be affected – the water that comes off Dartmoor is some of the cleanest in the country. The walls won't be maintained, communities will die and the tourists will stop coming"
....as Mark says:
"This is a dreadful litany of self-serving nonsense. What if, instead, we paid for that rewilding of the uplands as a mechanism of securing improved ecosystem services - water quality, flood protection, carbon stores/sequestration, recreational landscapes, habitat and biodiversity improvements, etc. - instead of using the money to subsidise marginal agriculture? Because of cultural conditioning, it may be that this will only be achievable through a nationalisation of critical areas of the uplands, but this would move the UK system of protected areas to a level consistent with almost all other European countries where their National Parks are publicly owned wildlands, practically free of agricultural exploitation."
(see Threestoneburn Forest on Mark Fisher's website)
2 The views to the east are an enormous part of Blacka’s appeal. Increasingly there are threats coming from inappropriate development. The latest of these is the Fairthorn building on Townhead Road a grotesquely over-sized edifice that catches the reluctant eye from many parts of Blacka. Many believe that more poor planning decisions will follow. Local people need to be organised to fight the developers and the planners.
3 Motor vehicles and even pedal cycles are encroaching onto parts of the local countryside and even onto Blacka. The result is serious damage to paths and bridleways.
Monday, 19 January 2009
Saturday, 17 January 2009
It just needs one misguided individual with a chain saw or a pot of strong weedkiller to destroy all this. And the dead remains and stumps are left to remind us wherever we walk. These are people who do not love the natural world.
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
The recent cold spell has persuaded some to dash to the sales for suitable clothing. We have taken to wearing warmer gear about the house to combat soaring energy bills. Until recently even those living outdoors with no permanent address might have been given credit - but no longer. Deserving or not the deer have to look to their own resources for added insulation, not yet qualifying for government grants. Their solution is a grow-your-own added layer which becomes more noticeable during and after cold weather. Not as attractive as the sleek red coats of summer and autumn but a lot more practicable. And that coarse knitted scarf could become fashionable.
There have been eight younger stags around Blacka during the last week or so. Now the mornings are milder they were out on the higher ground in the gloom before dawn. The familiar two hinds formed another small group some distance away.
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Temperatures this morning were ten degrees higher with a south-west wind. Around sunrise two separate groups of deer were running across the moor and through the trees, reminding us that the 'running of the deer' is a special sight in itself making the running of cattle, sheep and even horses a tame event in comparison. What had set them off I couldn't tell. Nobody could be seen. Perhaps it was a spirited response to the change of weather. The ground remains hard with a treacherous wet icy surface that will take some time to return to the pre-freeze squelch.
Saturday, 10 January 2009
Friday, 9 January 2009
SWT has let it be known that there will be 4 Reserve Advisory Meetings this year. That is two more than originally planned and hopefully this is a response to comments from those of us who submitted that two was insufficient. If one of these is an 'on-site' meeting (at which it is very difficult to properly discuss important matters) then opportunities to talk about urgent items and long term strategy are seriously limited.
A reminder that Friends of Blacka Moor invite all interested to a short walk and talk on Saturday 10th (tomorrow) - meet at the compost area 12 midday.
Thursday, 8 January 2009
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
Monday, 5 January 2009
Saturday, 3 January 2009
Friday, 2 January 2009
All that's been missing the last few mornings has been the sun. Today it came - with a sunrise worth waiting for. Then the cold fingers could be forgotten leaving us to admire the range of colours on the rime clinging to trees.
The cold has also thankfully neutralised the mud which had been everywhere. As boots hit the ground there's a satisfying thump only heard after days of hard frost.