Friday, 30 October 2015

Golden Age

Well an hour or two anyway.  You have to take opportunities after a morning of rain and before a grey late afternoon. No rainbow to point the way but a cache of gold on Blacka.

It's intriguing that SRWT's long term aim is to change these woods giving them plenty of work that they can spread out over the years. The pine and larch are not regenerating so will go largely without encouragement in time. They add a lot to the scenic variety.

Favourite quiet paths are at their best with bracken bewitching us with its autumn changes.

Beech brings striking colours and the young low trees can be spectacular. As these spread one must assume that SRWT will send in the mad destroyers at some point. That will be unbearable for those of us who've loved the woods as they are and have been more or less for a lifetime.

Late Fruit

Not many people go blackberrying at the end of October.

But it's been a good year for wild soft fruit. And there's plenty here still. These are in the woods so subject to different conditions to those out in the open. Here in most years the blackberries are few and poor quality. It doesn't help being close to the road; some are particular about picking where car fumes may have had an effect.

There's still some hope that a new flush of cowberry/mountain cranberry may appear before Christmas. There have been new flowers over several weeks.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Looking Down

Autumn's a good time to look for attractions at ground level with new colours and patterns everywhere.

Fly Agarics always catch the eye with their bright red and white design.

This year they have continued longer than usual and can still be found pushing up in grassy patches under trees.

Other red fungi can be found in one patch of the grassy sheep enclosure. ( I hope SWT's fungi walk at the weekend did not repeat the garbage about sheep droppings being necessary for waxcaps - dumbing down as well as looking down).

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

What About Politics?

Where does Politics come into Blacka Moor?

Well we’ve seen where Economics comes in: jobs, farm subsidies, contracts for fencing and much else.

Philosophy as well: - man’s relations with the natural world the value of wildness, respect for wildlife etc.

It’s said that P.P.E. rules Britain (Politics, Philosophy and Economics)**. Even on Blacka? Just like everywhere else.

Now the 'dirty word': politics, and we should never forget that party politics is only a small part of it –though the so-and-so’s do get everywhere. But politics is everyday, certainly not just for professionals. Even those who wash their hands and say they want nothing to do with any of it are making political and philosophical statements. They may be the most important of all because they form a pool of tacit support that senior management relies on. Managers love apathy. The apathetic don’t ask questions.

But why not think about the local politics of Blacka Moor. There's a big politics of course at national and even international level but let's stick to the local for now. This is an important anniversary. Exactly two years ago the present Sheffield administration (Labour) abolished Community Assemblies and replaced them with a different form of ‘locality management’. Blacka Moor is in a Sheffield City ward along with other large areas of moorland owned by the public. The Community Assembly meetings gave an opportunity for citizens to raise matters before councillors and officers relating to what goes on in one of the local wards. When the Community Assemblies were abolished we lost the chance to hold both officers and councillors to account. We knew the ‘locality management’ would not work like that. It was carefully designed to protect the Council from a level of public scrutiny. It’s easy to imagine that when this happened two years ago almost to the day that town hall officers’ desks were festooned with flags and celebratory music was played. Not that Community Assemblies were perfect but it was the opportunities given to local people that were most disliked by the bureaucrats and their top-downing friends amongst elected members. Being held to account in a public forum was not their idea of a picnic.

Despite all the talk about community empowerment and public engagement and putting the people in the driving seat all the kind of trendy stuff that officers used to love to talk about, when they saw it beginning to happen, and realised what it might develop into they soon got cold feet. And the more Stalinist of the local politicians were on their side.

So what did we lose? The chance of getting answers on road safety issues, planning matters, public transport and the management of parks and countryside for example. And the latter would have included members of the public telling the senior officers in Culture, Environment and Countryside that it’s just not acceptable to make statements that seriously mislead the public. 



Monday, 26 October 2015

Welcome Back

Of course Roe Deer may have been present during all the months since Spring when I've been looking out for them; there are many secret places. Or these could be newcomers. But it truly lifts the spirits to see these lively and timid creatures. And makes the place seem a better place, somewhere that wild animals have a home and we are only honoured guests.

Interesting to compare this picture of a Roe Deer doe with this taken on 9th October of a Red Deer hind:

Meanwhile other guests are staying on longer than expected.

There hasn't been the strong wind to hold them back but even so they have decided the temptations of the fruit on Rowan are enough to keep them here. At times the sky seems full of them as they circle before settling in the treetops. This is a time of year to see birds in swarms. Every year doesn't give us the thrush spectacle from Northern Europe we have now so we should enjoy it when we can.

Flocks of birds are always likely to appear at this time and numbers can be large. Jackdaws are always likely to be passing over and wood pigeons too. One of the prettier sights is a flock of goldfinches, commonly referred to as a 'charm'. These were adjacent to the car park feeding on the seed heads among the rushes in the boggy section, about 40 in number.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Hidden Members, Hidden Words

This is public engagement circa 2015, one for connoiseurs of democracy and its cohabitant transparency.

One must feel sorry for them. Those who feebly go along with an anti-transparency agenda because they are afraid their decisions will be exposed for what they are - almost certainly flawed. Do they hunch their shoulders and pull up the lapels of their coats as they join their fellow skulkers at whatever undisclosed venue has been chosen? Are the blinds drawn and lights suitably dimmed?

That's assuming that they exist at all which we might well doubt. "They" are the members of the Blacka Moor Conservation Group, a wholly secret organisation about whom we in the plebeian lower orders have no right to hold any information.

Just to recap: there was once a Reserve Advisory Group for Blacka (RAG), a pretty unsatisfactory affair hated by the managers who wished they didn't have to attend its meetings. For the public there was just one merit but a key one: the meetings were held in public, therefore transparent. Meetings continued over more than ten years and anyone could attend. In the context of our desultory council this was the closest we could come to hold management to account. This year SRWT with the connivance of officers of Sheffield City Council agreed, without consultating RAG members, that the RAG would be abolished and replaced  by a selected Conservation Group meeting in secret. Why is that? The answer is fear. The managers at SRWT are incapable of living with the expression of alternative views to those handed down by their own head office. Might it be that it could undermine staff morale?

Which is to say that this selected and approved Conservation Group, the main interface between SRWT and the public as sanctioned by Sheffield City Council now has to meet four times a year. The unapproved and unwashed lower orders have been thrown the public engagement crumb of two walkabouts - at which notoriously but conveniently words spoken disappear into the wind and rain while restless attenders fidget with the midges. A strong representation has obtained a concession that a meeting will be held for 'users' indoor but not until well into next year some three and a half years after the last RAG.

We should not be surprised then that a request for details of the Conservation Group meetings has been declined. The people attending are anonymous. We are not to be told who or how many. Topics discussed are not disclosed and minutes are not to be made available. Presumably an agreement was concluded with council officers to the effect that they, SRWT, would not be obliged to publish details therefore, what a surprise, they won't.

So how can we be sure that those meeting are at all qualified to have a say? I've been told they just have to agree with the management plan. I wonder how many have read it. What is the constitution of this secret society? Questions, questions.

So much for public engagement. So much for transparency. So much for accountability. This is public land. This is a so-called advanced democratic country. Our council was telling us not long ago that they were committed to community empowerment and  putting the public "in the driving seat".

Well done to you all.

Mutes On

Some mornings you open one eye, think better of it, turn over and go back to sleep.

This was all we saw of the sun on our walk. Not so much 'the sun has got his hat on' as keeping his nightcap on.  But there are compensations in the grey skies for those who like muted colours.

On other days Autumn can be so vibrant that it wouldn't need to go much further and we would be over-the-top and into Disneyland.

It's the range and subtlety of the in-between hues that are the true soul of a wooded landscape in late October. And the variety is often in the same species.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Migrants En Masse

This morning the moor was alive with new arrivals from northern europe.

They were in their hundreds, sometimes on the ground or in trees, at other times battling the strong winds impeding their progress westward. In this they showed their lack of local knowledge. The Jackdaws were coping much better, having a superior strategy they've learned over many years. The daws fly high until they get close to the top of the slopes then swoop down skimming the ground as the wind hits them. The Fieldfares and Redwings make a valiant effort then turn back defeated to take a break, sometimes picking away at the remaining fruit on Rowan. Then they rise into the air and try again.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Poor Prospects

These are poor times for the wild animals that have made their homes in our public land. Red deer are being targeted by farmers and other landowners on the fringes of the national park and by the Sheffield Moors Partnership and their stakeholders within. This fellow, seen on a gloomy morning towards the end of British Summer Time has been spotted on his own several times recently; and there's no clear evidence yet whether other deer are still around. But we should be seeing more of them.

What has happened to the three or four roe deer that were here in Spring? It's beyond belief that they get away with attacking these animals but they do. Is it that Sheffield people have absolutely no spirit at all? That they leave it to other people to make a protest? It's sometimes seemed so in other fields. The managers themselves do their bit of course. They've managed to establish in the public mind that deer are unwelcome, an agenda they've picked up from the equally self-serving farming industry. The truth is that there are nowhere enough deer in the Sheffield Moors area. No parallel at all can be drawn from places like the Scottish Highlands where artificiallly high numbers of deer are maintained by the shooting estates. Here we need more of them. Killing them here is shameful.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Restoring the Ecology

Despite the best efforts of the managers there are still lots of us who have resisted the determined propaganda campaigns waged by those telling us that our landscapes simply must be managed and there’s no place in the UK for anything resembling wildness. Refusing to be brainwashed and trusting our eyes and our own judgement we still believe that there is value for us as humans in having areas of land free from the economy, whether it be extractive industries, the farming industry or the conservation economy, such land following its own determination beyond any exploitation agenda of modern man. Things would be bleak for us if we were not so lucky to have Mark Fisher to refer to on all matters related to landscape and wildlife. His commitment and work rate are astonishing: every month a new article from him appears on his website. I’ve seen nothing else anything like the accumulated wisdom  so available and accessible heartening to all those who care about really natural land as a counter to the over-diluted conservation pap we’re fed by the publicity machines of the conservation bureaucracies. 

Each article explores a new aspect of wilderness and each one has enough in it to keep one thinking hard until the next appears. Each is suffused not just with wisdom but also heart and soul, from someone who loves not just wild life and wild land but the poetry of those people who have creatively engaged in it over the centuries. I once heard him described by a local conservation worker as ‘a romantic’. Predictably this came from someone who considered the remark dismissive, one who, incidentally,  gave no indication at any time of being able to respond to, or be inspired by, natural beauty for its own sake – a conservation industry Gradgrind if there ever was one.

Mark is wary of the term ‘rewilding’ partly because numerous people and groups have defined and interpreted it in their own ways, which he himself is unhappy with. He prefers to use the term ‘ecological restoration’ (although even this and alternatives are always prone to the corruption and reinterpretation by interest groups).

Mark’s latest article is here:

People may find it diverting to read, towards the end of the piece, of his engagement with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

For me the most thought-provoking of the recent articles  was the previous one on substituting the ecological function of wolves.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Bad Species

The job comes first.

It's vital for the landscape manager to be able to define certain species as undesirable. Most management, certainly around here, comprises aggressively attacking those trees plants and animals whose faces do not fit their agenda, or their 'forward plans'. They get away with it by persuading those who are easily persuadeable that this ugly process is necessary to remove the 'threat' that the undesirables pose. It's one of the purposes of this exercise that people get used to seeing ugliness and accept it unquestioningly. That's when perversion becomes the norm. If the managers succeed, and this why they use marketing techniques to manipulate public perception, a proportion  of the public will accept that what they originally thought was appealing and attractive is actually bad enough to deserve an ugly fate.

The less pliant among us suffer, alongside the wildlife, for the acquiescence of the others.

So here are a few of these bad species that are sacrificed for the salaries of the professionals. Birch, Bracken and Beech could be a firm of less than scrupulous lawyers retained by the conservation mafia. They're actually some of the  targets of those who attack natural forces.

A large area of land untouched by humans for many years has now had to suffer the indignity of weedkiller spray ostensibly to clear bracken. What has happened is that tracks have appeared where the tractor's been driven. There has been no overall spraying, just in the vicinity of the tracks leaving the appearance of a road across the vegetation.

It fits in nicely with the barbed wire and piles of felled timber. So much for the natural. But it provides employment for those presumably in need of it. The natural control of bracken by allowing birch and other trees to shade it out and lessen its impact is ruled out. Birch after all is another target bad species, so it gets felled. That makes more work for the sprayer and for the industry that manufactures spraying equipment, the wholesaler, the retailer, the distributer, the packaging facility, the fuel supplier for the diesel etc. We can't have nature doing things its own way. It's bad for the economy.

Much the same can be said about the plans for sycamore and beech. Justifications are given for the removal of these trees almost always laden with half truths and distorted pictures. Sycamore is non native, we're told. Yet it  has been around for the last 500 years and was present in inter glacial periods.

Some fine specimens can be easily found and play host to lichens fungi and others - much more so than barbed wire. But think of the workers who use, maintain, repair and manufacture chain-saws, the industrialists whose factories depend on them etc. Think of the economy.

Beech does not allow much to grow beneath it we are told. They do not tend to reply to the argument that it keeps the undesirable bracken at bay. Nor does it seem appropriate to mention the fungi associated with it ......

........ including  Ceps, Russulas, the Tawny Grisette and Beech Sickener. Nor mention in this context the calculated management of the sheep pasture land to stop things growing in the grass - the latest justification of which is the wellbeing of certain mushrooms. At what point does this speciesism tip over into the unacceptable alongside ethnic cleansing?

Now we should remember the threats proposed to the manufactures and retailers of weapons. Those people who use guns must be supplied with ammunition and the correct clothing and assorted gear. Without the shooters what on earth would be the value to the economy of this useless item .......

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Lonesome and Lost

It's become known as the Lonesome Pine. There were two young pines here and we had watched them grow year on year. The usual and now half-expected thing happened. A group of chainsaw vandals from SWT, at a loose end, had been sent along one day.

Like other trees that had begun to naturalise the heathland desert,  making it worth visiting, the managers judged them unwelcome; except that to leave one standing is a statement of intent showing man exercising his power - for now.

What would land management do, where would it go if it was not looking round for something natural to destroy?

Well, here's a thought; why not clear away some of the unsightly piles from the last pointless execution. I was promised that this pile would be removed early this year. It was not. Then the excuse became that it was close to the bird nesting season but would be removed once that was over. It is now October.

They have lost their way and cannot navigate between a supposed conservation agenda and the need to appear to be managing land for public recreation. So they do neither with any conviction. If this was in the grounds of a stately home all branches would be removed. If this was wild land driven by natural forces the trees would not have been felled at all. Having no guidebook for this situation, neither one nor t'other, they fall back on what's easiest, i.e. go back to the office and forget about it.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Killing of the RAG

A murder story? But we already know who dunnit.

The RAG was killed off having reached the age of 11 in 2012. And so far no sign of its promised replacement.

Could this be Ragnarok  - destruction of the old order and the still-awaited birth of the new?
Or Ragout – a kind of stew ?

RAG means R.A.G. Reserve Advisory Group – for Blacka Moor.

One commenter claimed that what contributed to its death was a reluctance of management to cope with serious scrutiny of its policy and decision making which included some well-informed and some less well-informed criticism and some well informed and some less well-informed approval.  (and some occasional RAGGING?)

I would add to that by observing they didn't like answering questions at all, preferring to conduct their operations outside the public gaze which always threatened to expose their inadequacies.

The RAG was set up to give the public engagement with SRWTs management of Blacka.  For some of the public its purpose was seen as a chance to oversee what was happening, scrutinise, inform and influence management – not something in this town you can expect councillors or officers to do. But for SWT this was seen rather differently – as a kind of feeble Focus Group at which they contrived to inform 'the public' – a small group of users hopefully paying little attention- about their work programme. 

Blacka Moor’s Reserve Advisory Group was set up when SWT took over management in 2001. Meetings went on until 2012. At first they were held every two months but gradually frequency declined to twice a year then stopped altogether. 

The RAG meetings were indoors and could be attended by anyone who found out they were happening. There were many problems with the way that SWT ran these meetings leading to a dwindling attendance of those who were there at the early stages.

When SWT took the decision that there would be no more RAG meetings they didn’t bother to tell those of us who had regularly attended over more than ten years -  thus demonstrating our commitment to Blacka - and we were left waiting, fobbed off by delays and excuses as we waited for the notification of the next meeting. These managers and their backers feigned not to understand why this left a somewhat bitter taste.

It later transpired that this example of consultation and public engagement had been deemed a failure and would be replaced by something else. The 'deemers' were the SWT itself and certain officers of SCC who have never themselves been subject to serious scrutiny. 

This new post RAGnarok public engagement world order turned out to be a two tier system (this could be where the Ragout stew comes in.) 
a) a public Users Forum for anyone and 
b) a Conservation Group for those people who supported SRWT and were fully behind their management plan. (slavishly?)

But we are now three years later and that system is still not happening. At least there's no evidence that it is; unless, and here's a possibility, it's working secretly in some darkened rooms. After all that is the consequence of handing over public assets to private groups with no built in requirement for transparency. Can this get any worse?

 Don't hold your breath.

At Your Own Pace

It's colour that makes autumn what it is but there's no agreement among trees and their smaller companions about when to put on the new habits. Humans wait for the new season from M&S or Primark to tell them what to wear and when. Nature obstinately goes at its own pace.
Here oak has hardly moved from what we saw two weeks ago, while birch is clearly changing.

Bracken can't stay green when colder nights are around and will continue to make a colourful contribution to views through much of the winter.

Bramble here plays harlequin but must be the most bi-polar of native wild plants. A few become dazzlingly extrovert while often there's much green bramble leaf well into the new year.

Alder traditionally declines to join the party, remaining glossy green until it's time to turn dull brown before leaf-fall.

Others are more inclined to exhibitionism.

Saturday, 3 October 2015


Keats got it about right, I'm sure he'll be glad to hear. But just a couple of things I would mention from a present day perspective; the email's on its way.

The "full grown lambs" he heard "loud bleat from hilly bourn" are unlikely to be heard round here in autumn. We all know where they've gone, and pretty silently too. Was it different in 1819?

The other thing that very slightly disappoints me is his failure to mention one of the most characteristic features of autumn: threads and fibres.

Maybe his consumption kept him indoors in the early morning which makes the omission  forgiveable.

Thistles and Willowherbs are conspicuous now, and somewhat soggy it must be said. Yet that is still a strong autumn feature.

Webs too are at their best and a morning walk is made more entertaining by a search for the most picturesque.

Waffle and Whoppers

Some more on the Sheffield Cabinet Meeting of 16th September, the report on Burbage, Houndkirk and Hathersage Moors and Cabinet’s decision to fall in with the recommendations.

Warning!!  More may follow later.

This is a Report to Cabinet, therefore in the scheme of things within the City Council that’s pretty important and, being about the handing over of one of the biggest areas of land, if not the biggest, held by any local authority you expect it to get significant attention. It’s headed Report from the Executive Director Place. He must certainly have read and approved it, but the authors are two named officers, Head of Environment and Countryside and an officer responsible for Capital and Major Projects. I would expect the Executive Director to have endorsed this and also there must have been involvement of the Director of Culture and Environment (whose role includes being line manager to the Head of Environment and Countryside) before it was approved to go before Cabinet. Each have respectable salaries, £141,000 in one case and £89,000  in another; and of course they have PAs.

That leads me to say we should expect this report to be well written, coherent, clear, to the point, and reassuringly accurate with no loose ends.

It’s not.

This report suffers from poor presentation including textual inadequacies that can render parts of it meaningless. There’s also more than a smidgen of inconsequential flannel alongside the language of hype that pervades SCC conservation language; and some of the loose ends are significant. I don't regularly read Cabinet reports, but is it possible this can be typical?

We must plough on and it’s unlikely that any satisfactory answers will follow from the questions but they simply must be asked; so here goes:

In no particular order or priority, they could form part of a Freedom of Information request or questions to Council committees.

1 In order to be able to approve this have all members of the committee actually seen the full terms of this lease which is not appended to the report and remains confidential and unavailable to the public? A map is also referred to but not included. It would be helpful to learn the names of those who are entitled to know the full terms of the lease.

2 It appears that officers of the Council are to be responsible for holding the lessees to account in certain management details meaning that there is a likelihood  that things could be approved or not;  so what steps are being taken in the public interest to guarantee the complete independence between officers of the two organisations to ensure that valid concerns are not glossed over? Does the Council and Cabinet consider that a conflict of interest could arise if there’s a possibility that officers from the Council could in the near future be employed by the lessees?

3 There are no firm proposals for public engagement as yet, so we must assume these are not included in the lease (which we’re not permitted to see). We’re just told that the lessees are "required to make proposals".

Will the public be informed of these proposals before their acceptance? How will that be communicated? Will these proposals then be incorporated into the lease? And will we get a chance to comment before they are finally approved? More likely, will the proposals be an informal arrangement that is allowed to wither on the vine as the lease progresses and SCC's officers and elected members lose interest. (a big assumption that they ever had any)

4 Reference is made - in Section 1, Summary - to the ‘Masterplan’ of Sheffield Moors Partnership approved by Cabinet in 2013and its headline hype statement that its “innovative approach” will “deliver the vision of the SMP area as the UK’s leading model on how the uplands should be managed in the future”. Has there been any sign since 2013 that others involved in policy in the uplands across the UK have visiting the Sheffield Moors area, to help them copy what SMP is doing? From Scotland for example?
While we are considering this, how many meetings of Sheffield Moors Partnership have been held since 2013, if any?

5  Section 2 is headed “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SHEFFIELD PEOPLE” (absent question mark noted)

Under this heading precisely what do the following mean and did any councillor ask?

a) “The recruitment of  ……. a warden-focused on-site maintenance and management”  ? (copied exactly as it is in the report)

b) “real conservation benefit” (as opposed presumably to the unreal kind)   ?

c) “delivery of visitor experience” (did visitors previously not have experience?)

d) “the provision of a variety of stakeholder forums”  (how many and covering what? and do these get specified in the lease?)

6  Section 3 is headed “OUTCOME AND SUSTAINABILITY
It is stated that “the proposed lease will ….. support the emerging outdoor economy strategy
Has anyone been told that the Council is developing an 'emerging outdoor economy strategy'? Are elected members aware of this? Whose ‘outdoor economy strategy’ is it? and how much further does it have to go before we find out about it and it fully emerges? Is this disposal the only way it might be supported?

7 One significant whopper occurs in Section 5.5, bullet point 2

The proposed leasing arrangements formed part of the wider consultation on the Eastern Moors Partnership in 2010, have been reported and discussed at the former South West Community Assembly..”

How does the author of this report reconcile this with what he said to me during the aforementioned consultation when he denied there was any known intention to dispose the moors?


Really I wonder how anyone can give a report like this any sort of credibility. For some time I had thought it was just SWT (SRWT) who were beyond respect but the meaningless waffle used in this report - and to be honest - other nonsense I've had from the same source just defeats my efforts to describe it. 

UK's leading model ...... emerging outdoor economy strategy ...... sense of wilderness ...... robust framework of consultation .... long term sustainability ....... co-ordinated approach to visitor management ......
Who are these people lining the highways applauding the Emperor's clothes?

Quote of the Day

"O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!
I would not be mad.
Keep me in temper. I would not be mad." (Lear)

Friday, 2 October 2015

Eye Delights

A morning for seeing. Best without a camera which can be an encumbrance. But once you have one the temptation to use it is hard to resist. Those camera users in the Dark Peak love these conditions. Expertise is often amazing. What is to me often a boring landscape is transformed by the low cloud, shifting mist and low sun much as someone we see every day becomes stunning after an expensive makeover.

Here on Blacka photographic expertise is lacking but we more than compensate with the greatest  advantage the landscape can offer - trees.

This is what brought us to Blacka in the first place and continues to.

We watched year by year as they regained the land from over-management mirroring the brutalist architecture of the city.

Trees in the uplands represents an article of faith.

Crossing Patrols

It's getting harder to recruit Lollipop People to help our small folk to cross roads near to schools. It's not just the pay. Many can't take the stress and some actually give up because of bad driving and often shocking manners of many drivers.

I found one this morning who had excellent qualifications on Sheephill Road. As I drove along Sheephill Road 20minutes before sunrise a cyclist appeared stationary on the road ahead. He put up his hand signalling me to stop which I did. Immediately a badger walked across and disappeared in a ditch on the other side of the road.

This led to reflections on the strange relationship our National Parks have with wildlife. That badger in my view has more of a right on the road than I have in my car. Perhaps there should be 24 hour crossing patrols at regular intervals? Extreme? But not as extreme, surely, as having not even a single sign or reminder to motorists to be aware of wild animals being around and no speed patrols on roads where there are many roadkills and serious collisions.

Time to have a public conversation about what a National Park should be for? It's always that.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A Scene

These woods are the place to be in the mist. The trees come to life and a scene is set for a mystery drama. Apart from that the trees here are individually beautiful

It seems suitable, now October has arrived, that even in mid-morning fog has not shifted . Some of those driving on Hathersage Road thought it was still high summer; they'd  not worked out that they couldn't be seen without lights on.

These trees are some of the best on Blacka. Someone was once at pains to say they were not 'natural'. God knows why. Naturalness in a scene for me and I think probably most people is a sense that what we see owes little or nothing to human intervention. At least in recent times. More please.

Commercial Sensitivity

A statement in the report on the leasing of Burbage etc

the Director of Legal and Governance advises that the detailed lease terms are commercially sensitive and would therefore fall within an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act.
When Council officers invoke the Legal Department it's as well to be suspicious. It usually means they are trying to keep something hidden. Freedom of Information is regarded as a terrible imposition on officers and, sadly, many elected members too. Some outside these groups will be intrigued that commercial sensitivity needs to be raised at all seeing as the organisations involved are non-profit charities and public bodies.

One can assume that certain commercial operations are carried on by RSPB and NT and those are well known to visitors to their sites around the country. But it would be helpful to the public to know the headings related to the areas of commercial interest that are being withheld from the public for reasons of commercial sensitivity, even if they won't tell us the precise details. Are RSPB/NT paying the Council anything beyond the stated peppercorn for being able to carry out some of their activities which do raise funds for them? We have to assume not otherwise it should be stated, but is anyone asking why not? There is some measure of competition going on between the wildlife and conservation charities with the wildlife trusts doubtless being disappointed that it's the RSPB/NT, not them, that are furthering their empire-building.

It's usually money involved when somethings being kept secret. There's a good deal of money to be considered here. There's the large amount of Higher Level Stewardship and the Single Farm Payments to start with. Those should anyway be open to public scrutiny and some of it can be looked up but the process I find less than user friendly. Both are substantial amounts. Another area is personnel. The practice of passing employees across from Sheffield to the National Trust has been remarked before. Will there be more of it?