Thursday, 31 January 2013

Mixed News

The Good News.

I've been worried that I've not seen any hinds for some weeks. An incident after Christmas when a vehicle had been used to knock a gate over left us remembering that there are some very unpleasant examples of low life around. Since then the spell of real winter meant it was not so easy to get around in the secret places where they might be expected to shelter.

Now this morning a small group was seen keeping very close to the edge of the wood. Better still the young calf with the devoted mother was among them.

The Bad News

SWT have been meddling again. They have brought in a tractor to cut the heather and bilberry ostensibly to create two firebreaks. It's not just that this is a waste of time. It's also gross and ugly.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Those People Again

Another year and another brace of A4 laminated notices from Sheffield Wildlife Trust. It would be nice not to have to mention SWT again. If only we could ignore them. There have been  times when it’s been almost possible to ignore them. When their grazier took off his cattle and sheep and there was a hiatus in their conservation crap and crop management, a sense of beauty descended on the place, the deer made the most of it and were in constant occupation. When they take their long Christmas and Easter vacations and forget about the place demonstrating that their stewardship goes only as deep as the money they can make out of Blacka,  then we seem temporarily back to the halcyon days before they arrived.

It’s not just that they are annoying --- they are actually deeply, even spiritually, disturbing because of their being so disconnected to all the values that some of us have always held dear. How else should one describe a group who are incapable of empathising or sharing one’s sense of natural beauty.

That Sheffield Wildlife Trust are aliens whose barbarian streak means they don’t share our values is of course true. So is the fact that there can be no engagement because no communication is possible without some common understanding.  But if only we could dismiss them from our thoughts. That is their true horror: they simply do not go away.  Civilisations  come and go but the barbarous seems always to be not far off.   The abject failure is one of education and vision. They simply do not have the eyes to appreciate what is worthwhile. They are in fact an outlandish species for whom there is more joy in a cowpat and a barbed wire fence than in the exhilaration of wild nature because of … because of what? … because of an idea or it could be seen as a doctrine. It’s something that’s been drilled into their susceptible minds. That idea corresponds to a creed that's articulating the driving force for everything they do: it can be summarised as: all land must be managed, it must not be allowed to express its own identity. Not far from the premise of all authoritarian regimes.

Snouts and Troughs

Some follow up information on the previous post and the comments below it.
Richard Benyon is the government minister responsible for Wildlife Management, National Parks, Biodiversity and other matters which impact on those concerns regularly voiced here. He's probably the very last person one would choose if a more natural landscape is wanted. He doesn't like people to know about it either.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Lobbying by Invitation

When Natural England decided to review its policies in relation to the uplands last year there were 54 invitations sent out requesting responses. A large part of the uplands is in public ownership of one sort and another. Much of that in private hands is also in receipt of a considerable state subsidy, especially if sheep are put on the hills. It's interesting to see the list of those invited. It includes the following many of which overlap considerably so can confidently be expected to respond in almost identical ways. There's also a good chance that many of the same people are members of several.

British Association for Shooting and Conservation
Burning Group  
National Gamekeepers Organisation
Country Land and Business Association
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
Heather Trust
Moorland Association 
Moors for the Future 
National Common Land Stakeholder Group including:
Federation of Cumbrian Commoners
Federation of Yorkshire Commoners and Graziers
Pastoral Alliance
National Farmers’ Union
National Sheep Association
South West Uplands Federation
Tenant Farmers Association
The Grasslands Trust
Upland Hill Farmers
Upper Teesdale Grazing Forum

I'm wondering what chance there is of a fresh approach coming out when  so many of those asked have the same very one sided view.  Many of these groups are old hands in using lobbying and behind the scenes influence to skew our landscapes the way that suits them - a farmed and worked land where the only that wildlife that's welcome is that which can't affect their own plans. What is most galling is the way this approach is also imposed on public land.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Closed Shop

It turns out that Natural England is to hold a conference in London later this year to determine the fate of our countryside and  much of it will be relevant to the upland and the areas around Blacka that have been subject to the (alleged) consultation of Sheffield Moors Partnership. But don’t book your train ticket yet. It’s invitation only. The unwashed, or perhaps we should be called the ‘un-brainwashed’, are to be kept out.

Outside Mt Olympus or the Pearly Gates there is nobody quite so arrogant in assuming exclusive godlike powers as the English conservation industry. They have adopted an assumption of total authority in determining the fate of our landscape according to their own terms and in their own interests. All the rest of us are outsiders denied entrance to their secret garden of Eden and its management. But if only it was an earthly paradise.  Blacka Moor has shown their corrupt vision to be anything but. Whenever they have intervened they’ve demonstrated their failure of values and management.  But possession and ownership are everything. The vested interests among  the cronies of their upper levels of management in the landowning classes have determined not just what our land must look like but how its fate is to be discussed and by whom. They are a closed shop, a cartel and thus utterly discredited. Offhand I can think of no other largely public sector vested interest that’s as unscrupulous as the combined forces of Natural England, the wildlife charities and those elements in the academic world who support them doubtless in the hope of gaining some preference.

This coming event will be on 27th March, almost exactly a year after I was asking for a similar conference to be held when I attended the Sheffield Moors Partnership’s Feedback Session. The key difference is that I was asking for a fully open and public debate but the one that’s being held will be for interested parties only who stand to gain from the funds they vote for themselves. It's a culture not far from that which gave us Libor fixing. The stated topic of the conference will be landscape scale conservation which is, in the words of one independent voice, 
 ‘a "charter" for massive intervention management, and which of course gives a "purpose" and an income to our conservation industry.’
He goes on to say:  ‘I dread what the "shared agreed vision for large-scale conservation in England" will say, as it will be another death knell for wild nature. It won’t exactly be "shared" either!

Friday, 25 January 2013


This group of pines serves as a compensation for having to walk close to the road. Even better when snow has reduced the traffic to a bearable level.

Winter with Sun

The wintry spell is set to end at the weekend. Blacka, like most scenic locations, is at its snowy January best when the sun shines. That's not happened much over the last week apart from on one day, Tuesday, which had bright sunshine.

Anyone who's not had enough of it and with a hankering for seeing Blacka in sun and snow can get an idea of its charms, and sometimes strangeness, by looking at these photos.

Some of us are now looking forward to some greenery.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


So much to look at that after a while eyes get tired. Lack of wind has helped the trees to hang on to their decorative effects now for several days. Any longer and we'll begin to hanker for the fresh greens of Spring.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Moment

Snow's transforming qualities are seen everywhere. It performs a fine job in improving the looks of our local streets. So making the effort to get into the wilder parts of Blacka might seem unnecessary given the problems of moving about. Paths are heavy going. Roads are unpredictable and some of the driving seen is extraordinary. 

It's common for snow ploughs to shove all the snow into lay-bys meaning there's nowhere to stop, car parks being out of the question. But today a snow plough driver had done a magnificent job on the Hathersage Road and all lay-bys were usable.
We know what we're going to see anyway – the standard 'winter wonderland' scene that graces so many calendars. But today it's a bit more.

The moment is everything with extreme weather. Our expectations were exceeded and a new world revealed that takes even old codgers back to childhood. The stillness of the air combined with the first sun for many days created fantasy effects among the trees. As on other occasions I find myself saying “I could have missed this”.  

Friday, 18 January 2013

Natural Tracery

It's usually Gothic windows that have tracery. There's always lots of symmetry and regularity in the great cathedrals. Natural tracery as seen by the human eye is wilder and more irregular. Are trees nature's cathedrals or are cathedrals humanity's attempts to emulate forests? The vivid contrasts following a snowfall leave thousands of tiny spaces that sometimes look planned but mostly obey rules that we may never understand.

Three's a Crowd

Further to the recent report on the robin at the local Bird Caff, there have been developments. Our 9 am friend has been a bit unusual this winter in tolerating if reluctantly another robin’s presence. In previous winters it’s been one or none and there has been bitter rivalry for the territory and for access to the daily handouts. It must be assumed that the second bird this year is a female, though there’s no gallantry in his treatment, just a truculent acceptance. But once or twice in the last week a third robin has been present as the food parcel arrives and that has caused serious resistance. This morning our friend came to meet me out on the moor a good 200 yards from the feeding station. He was quite insistent, perching on twigs almost underfoot. He may have been bettered by the newcomer and believe his best chance of being first to the grated cheese and mealworms would be to show he was braver than the new bird. Or it could just be that the very cold conditions are making him bolder.

I can remember one morning in a very cold winter in the sixties coming into the cowshed at 6 am for milking and seeing a robin well settled on the warm back of a shorthorn cow where he had obviously spent the night. 

You always wonder how they cope with these conditions. And what will they do?  Poor things?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

It's Good For You!!

My first thought was that it must be some kind of joke or wind-up. Time and again I’ve asked why it’s necessary to sell a landscape to the people who own it unless you’re afraid that those same people need to be told what its value is – or you’re afraid they may have different ideas to your own. It came via email:
"As promised, please find attached, the first draft of the Eastern Moors Spirit of Place, or put more simply, the ‘Special Qualities’ of the Eastern Moors.  Getting the special qualities statement right is really important. It will lay the foundations for the way we look at visitor experience across the site.  It will be a statement under which we will carry out our work, ensuring that we strive to respect and celebrate the special qualities of the Eastern Moors."
Good landscape, like anything attractive, doesn’t need promoting. Follow link. Good landscape speaks for itself. The problem with the Eastern Moors is that so much of it is utterly dreary and that only those who resist it becoming beautiful – which it would if they only stopped interfering – need to bamboozle the public into thinking it’s not what they thought on their last visit. So they go in for gushing promotional copy, doubtless devoting hours of office time to this cringe inducing activity which could be devoted to patrolling the hills and dealing with problems.  

The reason for this exercise is that managers have to justify their insistence on maintaining the status quo because the genuinely worthwhile alternative needs less input from them - and would be criticised by the shooting industry and their friends high up in the land lobby - from Natural England to the government. One thing, of many, they never get right, is that they don't know how to, or don't want, the views of those who don't like the moors. The views they get are predictable because their consultees are self selecting.

Marketing hype is everywhere and utterly depressing. Sometimes you can laugh at it but in this case weary embarrassment seems the right reaction.

Similar hype you can laugh at comes from the claims made by those selling products from the deer farm in New Zealand. Apparently deer velvet is sold as a 'health supplement' and benefits include the following claims:

"Boost Strength
Increase Endurance
Reduce or Slow Signs of Aging
Improve Immune System
Reduce Stress
Accelerated Illness Recovery
Improve Athletic Performance"

It can also relieve, so we hear:

High Blood Pressure
Overactive Bladder

But wait, it doesn't stop there. This wonderful material will do much more for you, including making dramatic changes to your:

Male Sexual Performance
Erectile Dysfunction
Increase Interest In Sexual Activity
Increase Sex Hormones

Perhaps the local conservation outfits will soon be telling us that sexual performance is significantly improved by a visit to the local moors.  Nothing would surprise me. Boredom is said to be a spur to many things.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Winter Trees

Going into the hills in wintry conditions should be a a feast for the eyes. Heather as usual disappoints. It could be a field of cabbages, bulging and often breaking through untidily without even the smooth whiteness of a grassy field.

Woodland  easily outperforms the managed monoculture once again. Part of the attraction comes from the dramatic contrast with one side of the vertical surface white emphasising the dark on the rest of the upright. The build up of snow on the horizontals, before the wind removes it, is the greatest appeal, and looking through closely spaced trees enmeshed in this way takes the eye into a new world of patterned secrets.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Knowing Your Place

When birds fly onto your camera you get the idea they consider themselves in charge and super important. This one had an aristocratic air about him today.

And there was a bit of upstairs and downstairs at the wall later on.


Robins are well known to be the first to try to get onto your hand. I've never quite managed the trick of telling one from another apart from an educated guess from observing behaviour traits. And they do change a lot in appearance during the summer moult. But I reckon this one is at least the fourth to have taken food from my hand at this spot. Once you've got him eating from the hand you can also pass on the pleasure to others, including children, who are of course thrilled. It may be pretty ordinary compared with TV spectaculars from Mr Attenborough but I believe nothing communicates the wonder of wildlife as well as direct contact with the wild.

Teasing View

Setting out to walk along the barbed wire is hardly something to look forward to. But there was interest in one teasing view:

another reminder of how easy it can be for the largest animals to remain disguised.

The barbed wire in places has become overgrown. That could cause problems for wildlife.

Where it's exposed there's evidence of hair on the barbs and one still wonders how the very youngest cope.

Complaints early on about the lowest strand of wire eventually led SWT to replace a low section with smooth unbarbed wire - but it was pure window dressing. The only section replaced was where they judged people would see it. 90% of it remains barbed at all four levels so somehow the message will have had to be got out to wild animals where to find the safe places.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Intervention and Non Intervention

Again the evidence piles up that decision making in the management of the moors is done following very little thinking. That's an activity the conservation industry on the land is very nervous of. What thought goes on happens behind closed doors. Thinking by and with the public is strongly discouraged.

Quoted in this post was the National Trust's response to comments on the High Peak management plan, and comments from people asking for more non-intervention.

Why did they reject the call for more non-intervention?

            "........because of the cultural, historical and social importance of the moors."

They don't claim that non intervention would mean the landscape would look worse,  nor that fewer people would enjoy it and that recreation would suffer. As for the shibboleth of biodiversity management, they say that the present species on the moors are dependent on the habitat created by grazing.  But they don't refer to the other species that would move in when a slow return to a more natural landscape happened, although there's an implied value judgement there that leads them adopting the god-role. 

The key argument they make is cultural: the words historical and social are superfluous because cultural embraces both. No definition is offered of what culture they mean so it has to be assumed it's the culture of the status quo, namely gun culture. When the National Trust take over a vast country house they make a choice of which historical/cultural period to restore it to. They rarely opt to go for just managing the property as it is left to them and just polish it up a bit. But here, in the great outdoors, they choose to do just that Why? Is it that same answer to most questions about land management: money and vested interests? It would seem so.

So we're back with the same conclusions. Our remote landscapes where nobody lives are managed because it serves the interests of a privileged group who live somewhere else. They don't look out on the place when they draw their curtains int he morning, which would at least ensure they would be keen for it to look pleasant.Because they have somewhere else which they own that they think about more. The pressure for keeping these places as they are, even going so far as to get them classified as a certain desirable landscape character, is driven by the wish of these distant people to have somewhere where they can spend a few hours each year to fire their guns at ground nesting birds in a place where there are no trees to get in the way.

That landscape character conveniently cobbled together to suit then becomes an established and immutable benchmark whereby other areas are judged. The influence of the shooting lobby then extends even onto public land, land owned not by the privileged but by the urban majority most of whom would be not very pleased to learn of the influence of those driving the policy. Hence the need for pumping resources into propaganda, slanted 'education' projects, sundry press releases and carefully structured consultation events orchestrated by conservation managers. 


Next time you see one of those notices up on the moors telling people to 'get a grip' on their dog in the interests of ground nesting birds remember that those who lobby for these notices to be put up are those  who want the same ground-nesting birds to be around later in the year so they can be shot. It's alright for them to shoot them but not for your dog to disturb them. I've sometimes wondered why people ignore these notices. I'm beginning to understand. It's not much different to what happens with sheep. People are happy to have lambs collected together and slaughtered once they've become fat during the summer. They can then appear on their dinner plates; in the interests of those same lambs farmers may become very hostile to people exercising their dogs on the moors. In fact they are known to get very sentimental about lambs - but only when it doesn't interfere with their interests: a blind eye is often turned to what happens in the final days of the lives of farm animals. Out of sight out of mind.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Little and Large

Some of the largest and some of the smallest of Blacka Moor's wildlife experience real January weather for the first time.

At the Old Wall Caff there was brisk business and competition for the best places. With colder times to come it's as well to stock up when you've got the chance. Some may only live a few months so this winter may be the only they see.

Red deer are our largest wild animals, but not all of them are large. The young deer are having their first taste of a favourite occupation. Their elders have often before used this sheltered spot to await the rising sun after a clear night in winter.

They will need to get closer together when the hardest frosts arrive although they've already developed thicker coats which get more untidy the better they do the job.


Perhaps I should add that I must be one of very few people of my generation never to have seen the film Bambi. The idea of cartoon sentimentality, or any other kind, has always repelled me and I would still avoid it like the plague.   And yet, and yet... These live and genuine wild creatures this morning were affecting as anything seen on Blacka.

Is this where the dangers of exploiting wildlife for one's own reasons starts?

In Spite Of .................

The best things about Blacka are those things that have happened of their own accord or in spite of any programme of management. This scene is the better for the removal of the power lines something that SWT's manager initially opposed. It was Friends of Blacka Moor who argued for it.

It was when their management failed and their stewardship agreement with Natural England was not complied with that we could enjoy a variety of attractions. Flowers, grasses waving in the wind, a more natural aspect numerous delightful unplanned and natural felicities. The unmanaged is everything on this site despite the propaganda put out by the petty functionaries of the conservation industry. What did they do to bring back the deer? 

What did they do to instigate the removal of the power lines? So non-intervention in their case applies only when it’s something worthwhile. Intervention is what they do when they change things for the worse. So much for the words of the Natural England officer who said in public that Blacka Moor is “nothing without conservation”. Not much agreement there then! To me the unmanaged is everything. To them it’s nothing without management (aka conservation.)
What credibility does a so called profession have when it spews forth such garbage? The conservation industry is in effect little more trustworthy than the PR department of a supermarket which would have us believe the world would implode without their promotions bogoffs and loyalty cards. One thing they have in common is that ‘every little helps’ – keep chugging away with message, bit by bit and people will fall in line and believe them. Some pretty nasty precedents for this kind of brainwashing.

Intervention and non intervention as opposed positions make an appearance in the submissions to the so-called ‘consultation’ by the National Trust on the High Peak uplands which inevitably has influenced the Sheffield Moors. Amid the predictable rent-a-comment contributions from the shooting industry a few respondents are recorded as asking for non intervention. The NT management responds with a most unsatisfactory statement, thus.

This is where land is left unmanaged and nature allowed to run its course. The moorlands of the High Peak are semi-natural, being a product of human intervention, and because of the cultural, historical and social importance of the moors, we are unlikely to allow non-intervention to take place for the foreseeable future unless as part of a controlled experiment. Furthermore, the habitats and species on the moors are, in the main, sustained by interventions such as grazing and therefore these practices are important in this respect.
Nevertheless, it may be appropriate to establish a non-intervention reference area, all other factors considered, to demonstrate the advantages or disadvantages of non-intervention.

More on this....

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Quiet, Please.

They are happy times when you are walking among the trees and quite suddenly become aware that you are not alone. You stop and remain still for a while until they no longer look set to flee. You then risk a few more steps to get a better view.

 It means next time you are walking in the trees you walk slower and more quietly, taking care not to frighten off whatever or whoever may already be there.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Guns in Control

In the USA the question is about gun control. A question that should be asked in Britain is whether we wish to have our landscape, especially its more remote parts, designed and its appearance prescribed by a gun culture of our own. The way our hills look has much to do with the demands of two groups whose interests and agendas often overlap: the farmers and the shooters. Both groups are determined promoters of their own interests. The shooters claim their needs coincide with what’s best for the countryside and for Britain. They would say that of course; but that doesn’t stop them saying it. That claim is highly contentious. Their sport, shooting grouse, demands a treeless waste, a regime of burning heather, a campaign of persecuting (aka ‘managing’) wildlife. The persecution they go in for is of those wild animals that might  possibly endanger the lives of game birds before the shooters themselves get a chance to kill them. Note carefully the language used, proof of the involvement of public relations consultants. Game birds are now more often called ground-nesting birds. Culling, itself a euphemism, is now called managing. In fact the whole industry is promoted as one giant euphemistic lie: the story being that without the management and without the kind altruistic shooters selflessly performing a public duty, our upland landscape would somehow become a ghastly place to which nobody would want to go.

In the centre of the Peak District is the area known as the High Peak dominated by the bleak plateau of Kinder and even bleaker high land aptly named Bleaklow. The management of these areas is now in the hands of the National Trust. When the National Trust was considering its approach to future management a few months ago it held a consultation. The responses to that consultation suggest that the most determined responders were the vested interests of the shooting lobby plus perhaps a few others who’ve swallowed their propaganda –often given airtime by the BBC and other organs in the media.
The result is that our countryside gets shaped and managed in the interests of the shooting lobby. The National Trust is like Natural England in this. The people who tend to get positions at the top of these organisations are friends of the shooting and culling lobby. Below are some examples of the specious arguments thrown at any consultation regarding our uplands. There’s no doubt that what happens and what’s decided in the High Peak is a strong influence on what happens on Sheffield Moors and of course also on Blacka Moor:
What would you like to see more of?
Some typical comments:

Field sports which provide the only financially sustainable way of maintaining our uplands which are not a natural environment.
Managed moorland (farmed and shot) which will encourage diversity and healthy population.
Restoring Heather, developing shoot opportunities.
Managed moorland (farmed and shot) which will encourage diversity and healthy population.
Much more burning on the moors. Much more bracken control. More control of
foxes and crows.
Predator control - fundamentally important for ground nesting bird populations.

These people get their way with National Trust managers who allow and encourage shooting on their land even rationalising it through statements like this:

NT recognises the importance of legal predator control for shooting and farming interests and for the conservation of ground nesting birds.We also recognise that deer and squirrel management have a role in establishing new woodlands. Control needs to be sustained and well timed to be effective. Evidence suggests that the targeted control of crows, magpies and foxes is likely to be effective in protecting ground nesting birds but is inconclusive on the effects of controlling stoats and weasels.


Landscapes where birds are the only moving wildlife that you see have a dimension missing. It is nearly ten years since the deer first made themselves known on Blacka and the place has been immeasurably richer for their presence. They remind us that the other much smaller mammals are also present, less visible and even more intent on avoiding attention. Badgers, hares, moles, voles and weasels are all here. Wild mammals bring a place to life and warm our human spirits through their total independence from our concerns and our activities. That's not to downplay the birds, simply to remind us that they are only one element along with the invertebrates and others and on to the natural vegetation of which the trees are crucial for the value of the landscape. the largest of their kind as the deer are of theirs.

From teenage years on I've walked along many of Britain's most trodden footpaths, very occasionally seeing wild mammals but never deer until they arrived on Blacka. That's no surprise.  It's only in recent years that deer have started to regain a hold. Now of course some of those coming from those sections of country life that were responsible for the decline in wildlife are pushing for control, and we know what control means.

This morning was better looking with a combination of sun and mist. Being Sunday it was also hit and miss. Mostly quiet but with a sudden unwelcome racket from a group of motor bikes. This startled a visiting mixed herd of deer who came running across the moor looking for security and hoping to join the regular hinds who were browsing on the other side of the hill.

Unintentionally we were standing in the middle as each group looked across to the other.

To see the hills full of life like this when previously there had been a relative impoverishment reminds us that only by bringing nature back and shackling management rather than the other way round can we achieve an experience of many dimensions.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Jenkins' Ear

I don’t want to leave the subject of the National Trust just yet. It’s the senior charity in the country dealing with land and buildings and its adopted patrician air demands we should expect good judgement and high standards. But I believe that, locally at least, it bears some responsibility for the poor management of local sites even those they are not official keepers of. As an NT member I’ve earned a say though I’ve noticed they are not in the habit of soliciting members’ opinions in relation to local consultations. NT does not manage Blacka, SWT does, but it has a very strong influence both through personal relations between managers and in the fact that NT is involved in management of land all round Blacka. NT is also the leader in the Sheffield Moors Partnership whose intention it is to impose uniformity of a approach to all constituent parts.

Given the amount of public money going into the land management they are responsible for the question who decides how our money is spent? Who decides what kind of appearance our landscape should have and what kind of wildlife should enjoy it? How much say do we have in it?

This is the essence of the question posed by the most prominent public figure of the National Trust in the article I quoted in the post two days ago.

Sir Simon Jenkins, NT’s very articulate and outspoken Chair, wanted to know why the public in particular the majority urban population were not being asked what their money should be spent on. Who decides how the £3 billion plus gets spent that goes on CAP farming subsidies (and more on things like Higher Level Stewardship). The message of his article is that we should all be holding to account those landowners who receive masses of subsidy and that we should insist that they keep their land looking beautiful.

And not to forget he’s talking mainly about farming on private land. He’s concerned about the quality of the work that we get from those receiving public subsidies for what they do on their own land. He’s saying that he expects a high standard of work and that it should also look good. With all that money coming from CAP to the landowner we the public have a right to expect great things when we walk in the countryside. Nobody can accuse Jenkins of not appreciating what’s attractive and worthwhile in the countryside. His books on English Churches and Country Houses are much praised guides to those buildings and testament to  a fine and educated judgement. As he says we should now expect certain farmers he identifies to set about sorting out their ‘manky’ hedges and keeping their sheep looking smart implying that he’s not been much impressed up to now.

I would love to hear what he would say about some of the sights he would find on land on and around Blacka Moor. What would he make of the livestock defecation, the destruction of wildflowers, the war waged on trees, the large scale poisoning of vegetation, the depressingly low standards of workmanship and management, the anti nature agenda. And this is not the responsibility of private landowners it is on public land and influenced and encouraged by the same National Trust of which he is the most senior figure. I wonder how much he gets as Chair?  And does he really believe that the public should be fully involved in the decisions about what kind of landscape we should have. Because if he does I would like to know what his reaction would have been to my call for a proper debate over the future of such a large area of public land as the Sheffield Moors – and let’s add in the High Peak area too; the National Trust has gone about their new management strategy in both areas in tandem. Because there has been no serious debate however much paperwork and self justification the local apparatchiks have produced to obfuscate their line managers and political masters. And some of us who follow his articles and books know that Jenkins is keen on local decision making yet we know down here that any local element to these processes has been phoney, a calculated bamboozlement disguising top down decision making.

I would be quite happy to support Simon Jenkins' campaign against pylons and wind turbines bestriding the Welsh hills ( as well as his other campaign against city skyscrapers) if he will support those of us who want a more natural and more wooded landscape in our uplands. At the very least he could promote a proper debate about it. After all that seems to be the implication of what he is saying in his article of 2005.

Back in April I made a plea to the SMP through the NT that a full scale debate was necessary on the uplands. The substantial area of Peak District land up for consideration raises all sorts of questions which the local officers just did not want to discuss. So what happened to the message in the article? Or did the local officers and the middle managers in the National Trust make sure that this never reached Jenkins’ Ear?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

With Mum

This year will be the tenth anniversary of red deer appearing on Blacka and it is worth reminding ourselves what it is that has attracted them to our favourite place when other parts of the local landscape are not so blessed. In fact deer like just those features that appeal to us, the informal, unplanned and unpredictable aspects that we value so highly and which are under threat from the obsessive interventionists, they are the elements that have attracted these animals. Should that be a surprise? Is it really to be considered remarkable that wild animals prefer wild land? 

However much money has been invested in printing ink and press releases by the conservation and farming industries to proclaim the opposite they will never persuade a sceptical public that management, meddling farming and interfering are better for wildlife.

The last twelve months has established the deer on the site to a greater degree, somewhat helped when those appalling cattle were removed in August, having the effect of giving the deer freer rein with the space to themselves. A bonus was the delight of seeing young deer and watching them grow. Once again this morning the calves were keeping close to the hinds in a moderate sized group.