Saturday, 28 February 2015

Mothers and Children First

They may be first for the lifeboats, but they are also first for the bullet. In fact it's the youngest of all that goes to the front of the queue.

Young red deer are called calves.( A fawn is a young roe deer.) In red deer the young may stay with the hind for as long as two years. There are some regularly seen on Blacka and around where the mother and young are inseparable. Some pictures on this site can be found showing hind and calf of various ages.

When they decide to kill hinds it's claimed that shooting its calf first is humane or merciful. I won't trouble this space with the rest of the reasoning.

Friday, 27 February 2015

High Rise Living

Owl Box in Pine Tree

As far as I know this house is not to let. Anyone interested could always call and ask.

Access Debacle

Once there were many pleasant narrow paths attractive underfoot, one-person-wide.

That was before certain organisations and groups came into being. A suggestion has been made that the following should be locked in a room until they sort this out.

Sheffield's Public Rights of Way Department, Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Ride Sheffield, Sheffield Local Access Forum, Sheffield City Council's Parks and Countryside Department, Sheffield Ramblers, Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland, etc.

So many groups and so many departments and so many meetings and so much resources and we get this and no hope it won't get worse. A sorry state.








Thursday, 26 February 2015

To Be Seen Again?

It's looking as if landowners and 'professional stalkers' in and around Totley and maybe other parts have been shooting more of our deer.

Numbers of stags and hinds on Blacka have been down over the last year.

Here are some links to photos of some of the stags seen on Blacka in recent years. I don't know if these animals are still alive.

10th February 2014

I wonder if they  took pictures of themselves with the  dead deer? As did the man at the  stables.

(I must get with it -'selfies')

It does make you wonder though. What gets into the minds of people who can lift a gun and kill one of these beautiful animals? Perhaps that's something I'm never destined to understand.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Cash Crop?

Regular walkers on Blacka have been saying that there have been fewer red deer seen over autumn and winter. There has to be a reason. In previous years the numbers spending time on Blacka between Christmas and Easter have been consistent, with stags favouring one particular area. The Eastern Moors managers are no different to others in the SMP. They claim to be open but don't volunteer information. So along with others I'm suspicious that something is going on and of the way that it is being done. They have admitted that deer have been shot and that more will be. And local farmers could also be responsible. Their thinking might be - if it's alright for the RSPB then I'll get my rifle.
And it's apparently a 'local supplier' who gets the meat. That doesn't sound like the NT shops, though could be the Chatsworth Farm shop. Anyone going there let me know. ( No I don't eat venison)

Flawed Vision: New Eyes Needed

According to Marcel Proust

    The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes

 According to Michaelangelo:

    The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it

SRWT's Vision for Blacka Moor in its draft management plan is about as flawed, misleading and uninspiring as you could hope never to find. Quotes in red, my response in italics.

A feeling of wildness, with minimal interference; there will be as little management as possible, but as much as required to realise the vision. This emasculates the original vision rendering it meaningless. Yet it's the number one item in the vision. The change from ‘wild’ to a ‘feeling of wildness’ intentionally moves this important strong and dictionary defined meaning to something woolly and subjective giving any manager carte blanche to do what he/she wishes because he feels like it. And ‘realise the vision’ in this document is seen for what it is - constant intervention. Another corruption of language. And minimal seems to be anything short of constructing a trunk road across the moor.  
A natural site (managed in a way that minimises chemical inputs and the use of noise-generating machinery and vehicles) Does that really mean that SWT practice in the last 12 years has been abandoned? i.e. SRWT and their graziers and contractors will not be using tractors, chain saws and Asulam spray??Will the grazier not be using a vehicle in the sheep enclosure where over the years of SWT’s management grass and soil has been systematically compacted and tyre tracks are always visible? 
Worth going to: For people of all ages and backgrounds. But they shouldn't be ‘recruited' and then propagandized by those (like SRWT) with ulterior motives. 
With a wealth of habitats supporting a richness of wildlife: At least maintained, or preferably improved from what is there now. Inserted to support those who can't leave anything alone. There is no consensus about what ‘improvement’ means. Nature knows best. 
Habitats and wildlife which are appropriate to the area What is ‘appropriate’ in this context? And who decides? Far too subjective. Natural forces should decide what is appropriate. Not more management please. 
Where the archaeology and history is conserved: Where our heritage/historic features are conserved What does this mean? Does it mean that the landscape with its woods and fields etc are to be kept or returned to what they looked like 100 years ago, or 500 or 1000?. How much of the minimal interference will be used up on this? Which heritage and which historic period? This should not be used as an excuse to stop natural processes, only to prevent human interventions and exploitation. And interpreted appropriately to enhance understanding. More signs, more propaganda, more intrusions, more interference. Order a new photocopier. 
With signage at points of entry with web address and reference to the Grave's legacy. This needs detailed discussion with those who know the site well. There is already too much clutter of supposed ‘educational' interpretation. Some of the signage is little better than propaganda since it deals with matters that are challenged by some groups. There are already plaques put in by Dore Village Society and the involvement of Friends of Blacka Moor following much discussion at the RAG. Does the writer know that?

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Curious Case of the Dogs and SWT

They're funny places these moors and they're funny people who manage them. To add to that they have some funny ideas, not least when it comes to the vexed matter of dogs, dog owners and dog walking.

It all comes to a head when they try to manage the land in an artificial, anti-nature way to encourage ground nesting birds. It's gardening for birds similar to the way people garden herbaceous borders for flowers. It's slanted this way because the focus on ground nesting birds is compatible with farming and farm subsidies. If they were to stop interfering and let nature take over, as it should in a nature reserve, then different birds would move in and the ground nesters would choose to go elsewhere - and so would the dosh from the Common Agricultural Policy. As it is, managing the land this way and bringing it into 'good agricultural condition' may make no sense for a supposed 'wildlife' organisation but it's perfect for an office outfit that's well-trained at filling in forms and raking in farm grants.

Perfect for managers but not perfect for dogs who like to run about on this public land, land  we thought was protected for recreation like this. Dogs can't read the notices that SWT put up. But their owners are the target for this dishonest harassment. SWT's aim is to make them feel guilty. These conscientious people who believe their dogs should have proper exercise in a place where they won't be likely to bother dog-phobic people (cynophobia is the term) in urban and suburban public parks, are now to be made to feel guilty because the birds that SWT want to attract may not like dogs either. SWT's hope is that a proportion of them are feeble enough to be easily intimidated.

The fact is, a fact SWT and other local conservation industry people don't like to face, that there's not much difference between the phony conservation of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (which believes wildlife is best served by shooting it) and their own brand of conservation. Both like 'open landscapes', dislike trees, preferring ground nesting birds, dislike native predators and want to control everything - even as far as shooting wildlife.

So they make the place as attractive as they can for these birds to send out the message ( I suppose I have to say via Twitter) that here they will find favourable treeless conditions tailored for their needs and lots of lebensraum. And a special part of the message is the promise to deal with potential threats such as dogs and foxes.

Curious must be the word to describe the approach. It doesn't seem long ago that SWT's managers were telling us that they welcomed dog walkers, yes even in summer and even when dogs were off lead. Now they are planning to browbeat people with notices referring to the Wildlife and Countryside Act and subsequent amendments that we know are not relevant to Blacka. They also threaten to close down certain routes regularly used. All in direct challenge to the injunction in the Graves Covenant, Blacka's governing document, that the place is for recreation as in a public walks and pleasure ground where the management plans of the conservation industry should give way to recreation. And there is no more established recreation activity on Blacka than someone walking with a dog.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Brush Off

Rarely seen in daylight and pretty elusive on Blacka, we know there are foxes around from prints in the snow and the occasional roadkill. Some people claim to smell them but my sensory organs are not so well focused. I see them frequently in gardens and crossing roads where I live and under street lamps in early mornings. Out here they are special: the foxes I have managed to see have appeared strong healthy specimens, better conditioned than the urban ones.

As usual they give you little chance to get a good view but this time at least  I saw both face and tail at the same time. And the fox's brush always comes as a surprise: yes it's really that fine. Then he's off.

Sunday, 22 February 2015


What would we do without managers? Well just to respond to the odd voice that claims I'm too hard on them, this simple tale:

A rather enjoyable path was spoiled by a very boggy stretch where boots themselves have been known to cry out in complaint. At the years end a heavy snowfall brought down a large birch tree right across the muddy section. People walking that way quickly worked out that they could make a slight detour of a metre or two avoiding both the fallen tree and the quagmire, a perfect solution.Within days the new diversion was established. The fallen tree had become a feature adding to the natural beauty of a special part of the woods.

Along came managers with chain saws. The fallen tree was sliced off along the path. Tree parts were thrown over to form a barrier across the new diversion. The old muddy section was reinstated, if anything more soggy than ever. The fallen tree was left with truncated limb parts displayed in cross section. (Crosses mark the now aborted diversion.)

Neat one.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Wary and Alert

Running, fearful and keeping close together is about right for deer. They should be afraid; it's their birthright. To fully retain this character they need to be free and, ideally, aware that predators could appear at any moment.

Those in the parks of stately homes, decorative as they are, display little more than an innate timidity alongside their elegance but that cannot compare with the sense of  near panic that is daily life for free living wild animals in a world shared with top predators.  Their place in the scheme of things means they should always be looking to move on. Their browsing in a natural landscape where danger is ever present does not impact on the vegetation in the same way as the eating habits of protected farmed livestock or more domesticated deer where no predators threaten.

There are times we see deer spread out across a remote hillside relaxed as they never should be - with only the nearest human, half a mile away, to worry about.

On Blacka things are a little different. Dogs being walked on the comprehensive network of paths are more likely to remind deer that such animals as wolves exist.

So predator behaviour is vital for the deer to behave as they should. Otherwise as with all herbivores, their impact on the trees and other regenerating plants is disproportionate in certain areas. Not though as much as cattle and sheep perversely favoured by the industry who prefer to blame deer for all ills.

The deer on this day were alert and fearful, watching, looking around, gathering together and running off in panic. Perhaps a wolf was near or a lynx?

Either would be much better than a rifle wielding human whose lethal target practice gets called, guess what, management.

Clear and Open

You can have your windows cleaned by a company called Absolutely Clear. But "Let's be absolutely clear about this ..."  is  most likely to come from a politician; and that's when we should be alert for muddying of waters.

Much valued by the managers is the word 'open'. Few words carry so much resonance across different shades of meaning, all usefully positive. And when they tell you, the public, that you (the public) specially value openness in the landscape, you find you've already started to nod.

Open gets used in the same way as clear. "We've been completely open about this" is one that's come up a few times and should be heard with the same degree of caution  as "I want to be absolutely clear .." A recent context is the deer cull. The "we've been completely open ..." claim has been made, but there's been no publicity, or press release. And one enquirer is told a different story to another.

They have the quaint idea it's good managerial practice to tailor your message to the person you're communicating with, not just the way you say it but the very facts.  Not so easy in public meetings of course. Which is why meetings are avoided whenever possible.

Friday, 20 February 2015

50,000. Some time ago I said this would be the time to give up.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

"Here: You Have It - It Only Belongs To The Public"

I've been waiting for this announcement for a while. I was last told it would not come before March but you have to watch how these officers slip things in when they think you're not looking. It's at the back of today's edition of Sheffield Telegraph, page 40.

So our council, acting allegedly in our interests, has decided to hand over a major publicly owned asset to a partnership of two mega sized business interests. Do not be fooled that they are charities and not for profit organisations. They are each major landowners, have many employees a large bureaucracy and a considerable turnover. That has to be a vested interest. They are not transparent or accountable to anything like the extent of public bodies such as councils or government agencies and will not have either a meaningful complaints policy nor a freedom of information policy. They also spend a fortune on publicity, PR, advertising and well massaged press releases.

So well done SCC officers, directors, cabinet members and councillors. It's our land but it's you who can give it away. They might even give you a complimentary rubber and pencil set from the NT shop. Or a shoulder of venison from the current deer shoot. Or even a job as a reward for facilitating the deal. A fair payback for the millions in grants, subsidies and agri-environment monies coming their way?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Plantation Blues

A grand area of woodland on Blacka with birch, beech, sycamore, rowan and larch. This is part of the area SWT usually refer to as the plantation.

The word plantation for UK walkers carries with it images of dense commercial conifer crops blighting the landscape with serried rows of daylight-starved Sitka Spruce and similar alien species. SRWT chooses to call, repeatedly, the fascinating woodland to the north east of Blacka a plantation. The label is used so many times that I wonder why there is the persistent repetition.. The word appears again and again as if they felt the need to make a point. A similar thing happens with the word 'reserve'. They don't call it Blacka but insist on referring at all times to 'the reserve' as if to expunge from consideration its primary role as 'public walks and pleasure ground' and install it into the minds of visitors that conservation, and their own brand of it, really comes first. I am as certain as could be that there is a requirement on all staff at SWT to stick religiously to this practice as a tried and tested  indoctrination technique. As for 'plantation' it emphasises a view of the land as managed and dependent on human intervention, an idea they like to promote for obvious reasons, whereas the overwhelming attraction of a walk through here comes from seeing the woodland pursuing its own momentum, with a diverse range of spaces and natural regeneration going on alongside trees falling and decaying.

The woodland in question certainly has some planted trees but many would not be aware of it. Some is just lovely woodland  made specially interesting by the altitude and the absence of intrusive management over many years. There's no resemblance to most people's conception of a 'plantation', and any plantings were certainly nothing like the exploiting projects of commercial conifers that appeared across the country post war, nor the obvious cash crop at Lady Canning's Plantation at Ringinglow.  The origins of the larch and pine may fail to satisfy the purists but the proof of the pudding is the enjoyment.

A major feature of our woodland here is the amount of standing and lying dead wood usually covered with moss, algae and lichen.

The scupltural forms are all over. SRWT  talks about creating more standing deadwood. Work creation again: the deadwood is already everywhere on Blacka. But here we go again with SWT vandalism. They are intent on removing trees they say they don't think should be here. It won't be case of repatriation. Their speciesism agenda is simpy about finding work to do. But trees will be destroyed and others stripped of all beauty and dignity. Piles of tree body-parts will be left all over the woodland floor declaring themselves to be the work of man and his sub-species the manager.

Monday, 16 February 2015

A Liking for Lichen

I was a bit surprised to read this in the description of trees from SRWTs draft management plan:

"The true veteran trees tend to be oak, although several notable beech, sycamore and birch trees are also recorded. The notable sycamore present on the in-by support some of the best lichen communities present on the reserve."
So I went along to the in-by to have another look at the sycamores. I had obviously missed something. I didn't think the sycamores at the spot I call Seven Trees would be called veteran but notable seems about right in that they form a group in an enclosure otherwise devoid of tree interest apart from one or two scattered thorns. What I had not realised was the importance of the lichens. But then my appreciation of algae, lichens and mosses is purely subjective. Still, as with anything from SRWT, it's best to query.

It would be helpful if somebody who is an expert could enlighten me because nice though they are I've not been able to detect any specimens distinctively different to what I've seen in many other parts of Blacka. And nothing as striking as the spectacle on the rowans along the streamside above Blacka Dyke.

It would be sad if someone visited Blacka to look at lichens and, having checked out the sycamores failed to see the others.