Thursday, 30 June 2016


I've always thought the erect and smart looking Melancholy Thistle deserved a more cheerful name. But it pays to look at my old edition of Culpepper from time to time. It has the explanation for the name.

It apparently works wonders for a gloomy disposition.

Culpeper tells us, under "Government and virtues":

  "it is under both Saturn and Mars. One rids melancholy by sympathy, the other by antipathy; their virtues are but few but those not to be despised; for the decoction of the thistle in wine being drank expels superfluous melancholy out of the body and leaves a man as merry as a cricket"

More sad to look at are the thistles on sheep pastures which are ignored by the white plague when they're scoffing all the wild flowers. These are Creeping Thistles usually. .

It's even sadder when the local management appears and cuts them down for lack of anything more useful to do


The more delicate flowers and blossoms of spring and early summer may suffer badly, getting beaten down in periods of heavy rain.  Ragged Robin is one that looks more at home in these conditions though sometimes bedraggled would be a better word than ragged.

Cow Parsley anyway is nearing the end of its season. So common that many don't give it a second glance but a miracle of natural engineering, even looking good with rain dripping from its stalks.

But those who like to see a favourite place in all conditions and all seasons still find rewards in the common plants and birds.

The tougher specimens that emerge from midsummer on can be better adapted to the thundery downpours.

It would take some seriously stormy weather to get the better of Spear Thistle and Burdock.


Herd animals like red deer don't always stay together. It's quite common to see a lone individual.

This young stag with an attractive summer coat has a vulnerable and innocent look, something that changes when antlers lose their velvet covering later on..

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

"Keep it Under Your Hat", the Secret World of Conservation

If a public body refuses to disclose basic information it is a strong indicator that something unacceptable is happening. If you can't be open what do you have to hide? For public bodies such as SCC and publicly funded charities to refuse to disclose basic information tells us something else. It shows that officers supposedly serving in public roles are shockingly badly educated in the fundamentals of how you go about your duties in public positions. Do they even understand what transparency and accountability are and why they are of vital importance?

God help them if they ever get into a situation where their own civil liberties are under threat.

Both SRWT and SCC have refused my request for details about their public engagement group known as a 'conservation group', even the most elementary information such as who they are and when they meet. As it was officers of both SRWT and SCC got together to agree to set this up they both know what's happening. Yet SCC our own 'democratic' council whose officers are paid through public taxation refuse to tell me anything at all about this group. Officers go further and claim they hold no information about the 'conservation group'. This is either a deliberate lie or it is evidence of complete disfunctionality within that department or both. The most obvious evidence of this is that they had previously given me a copy of an email which showed conclusively that they did receive information about this group.

One thing I've noticed about some of the more challenged post-holders I've tried to discuss things with is that they try to hide unprincipled behaviour behind an admission of inefficiency and incompetence. There's always some credibility about this because they are generally pretty incompetent anyway.

My Freedom of Information request to SCC asking for details of SRWTs 'conservation group' meetings was responded to with a statement that they have no details. I have now asked for an Internal Review. Response to that should be within 20 working days.

Friday, 24 June 2016


The unplanned, the unmanaged and the serendipitous are the features of wilder land that we value most. Nothing against the glorious artifice of those highly managed gardens of country mansions, festively adorned with artistically selected imported species. But what nature does with native flowers and no recent human intervention has a purity and an innocence that can't be beaten. That innocence can't survive once man steps in to place a nestbox here and some bramble clearance there.

That's why the weeds colonising the patio merit respect.

Each year we stroll along the boundary below the wall along the A625 seeking out the flowers that thrive where road limestone has sweetened the soil and which we normally find in the White Peak.

Meadow Cranesbill is found nowhere on Blacka but this place.

The Twayblade Orchid also and the delicate Crosswort.

 Those Forget Me Nots against the wall look delightfully unplanned as they combine with native grasses (above).

Strimmed Away

We love you SRWT, we really do. It's the setting of new standards for environmental competence that clinches it.


It's good to have something to do in the garden and these days it doesn't feel like it's a real job unless you're using a power tool. On Blacka it's a chainsaw or a strimmer  -  or even a helicopter?

The edges of selected bridleways have already had the strimming treatment so the operatives will be well satisfied.

They didn't forget to do the place at the base of this gatepost.

I went there in the hope of seeing the wood vetch, the only one on Blacka referred to last year in this post.

Now let's not be negative. Think positive. There's always another year, and should we really expect a nature reserve to give precedence to nature over tidiness? Be reasonable. It's SRWT in charge, don't forget.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


It's purple's turn to set off the greens. More common ...


Freedom to Poison

The dark shape is the stump of a tree cut down in winter last year. This area had been protected from bracken by the large mature trees. Now the bracken is returning and will soon  dominate unchecked by the natural competition from birch.

"Well we can spray weedkiller on it as you do in a nature reserve"

"But I thought that the EU had banned Asulox weedkiller?"

"Oh no we can get round that. Anyway we're voting for Brexit. We're sure Govey and Bojo will make sure we 're allowed to poison as much as we like.

............ after all it's a nature reserve you know"

Villain and Hero

The local crows usually get few marks for altruism and some class them as heartless villains. But they are largely tolerated by the other birds who feed at the wall even when they perch above watching proceedings while the smaller birds take first sitting. They never come down until the coast is clear of humans.

But perhaps they are appreciated because they act in the role of sentinel high up in the crow's nest, as it were. This morning he turned hero as he spotted a buzzard closing in on the wall. By dint of loud noises and some daring flight he saw off the interloper in style; much to the relief of the blackbirds and others.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

He Calls Cuckoo

Not she, notice. The female has a different call but generally keeps quiet as befits her secret mission. He was calling across much of the woodland and other parts this morning. He tends to like sunshine as I've said before.

This is not a cuckoo, in case anyone was deceived.  But I could not get a photo of the cuckoo this morning so substituted this crow. Substitution is something cuckoos know a lot about so should not be offended. The crow anyway needed recognition for the patience shown when being pestered by a noisy offspring of its own.

I was away from Blacka staying in Shropshire, surrounded by farmland, attractive enough in its way. On return, the first thing I heard not a minute after stepping onto Blacka was a cuckoo calling. Seconds later I saw him flying off to another perch. This made me realise that in the whole week away I had heard no cuckoo at all. Hard not to draw a tentative conclusion that this bird and much other wildlife does not enjoy farmland as much as land that is less managed, preferably very little managed at all. Even the depredations of a restless and relentless conservation agenda has not yet reduced the whole site to the level of farmland. The ghastly sheep enclosure apart that is.  Time will come doubtless for the rest of it, so enjoy it while we can.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Moving On

Some of the charm of Spring has moved on while we have been away getting wet in the west. Blacka has also been wet since the previous post commenting on the spell of dry weather, and the precious jewelled whites on the trees can't survive downpours.

But all must move on or we would have no berries to use for the jellies that grace our tables in winter.

A withering flower though is not such a pretty sight so we need to seek out the cow parsley along the paths - where no cows walk.

They are occupying the sheep enclosure. How lovely they must be making it. More than half way through June and they are still thankfully off the moor at the expense of the desert here.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Rowan Celebration

Blossom loves a dry period and this year's Rowan has been spectacularly picturesque. Nothing sets off the greenery of the mixed woodland so well as these lovely flowers.

When there's been no rain they can appear to be perfect balls of white. Close up the  creaminess is explained.

A few days to remember.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Weather He Likes

He didn't seem to like the cold north-east wind very much. He was hardly to be heard after his first return. Other birds were not put off so easily.

This is more like it as far as he is concerned, always looking for an easy life.

So perhaps Hardy was right. Today, like yesterday, in the bright sun, he was calling regularly. No chestnut spikes for the showers to betumble, in fact no showers at all.

Back view, too.

This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
 And so do I;
 When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
 And nestlings fly;

Hardy was a countryman but pedants will point out that chestnut spikes are seen in autumn when cuckoos have long since returned. And they prefer nests before the eggs hatch! Oh well.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Winners and Losers

What makes days like today so enjoyable is that nature, for now at least, appears to be winning the war. The war has been going on between nature and the managers since the latter arrived. In winter when much of the moor is in dormant condition the destroyers get their own way. Once spring gets into its formidable stride the power (and beauty) of nature prevails.

 That's where we are now with all the unplanned bottom-up attractions making their show. Flowering Rowan and Whitebeam, swelling and flowering Bilberry and an invasion of Cotton Grass put the Philistines to the sword. The shame is that to win the war rather than just the seasonal battle the enemy needs to be vanquished for good and nature itself is no match for industrial armaments

Many flowers which should be on the moor never get a chance, even common ones would lift the spirit at ground level. So we see wildflowers where the stormtroop 'conservation grazers' can't get to such as this tall meadow buttercup, safely behind the wall.

The horror of this war is in the militarized zone euphemistically called a sheep pasture. Here nature is losing spectacularly even in summer.

There are elements here of bombsite and prison camp with post-battle chaos leaving the army of the winning side wandering about dazed and stressed to the extent that their coats are falling bedraggled from their backs.

Never forget that we pay for this ugly scandal.

Sailing By

I always think of herons as ships of the air.

Possibly two adults and one young.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Goldfinch Mystery

Goldfinches are a puzzle. Years ago we saw them so rarely that it was an exciting time when they appeared, usually on teasels or thistles. Now they are often seen. Numbers must be up. But they turn up in unusual ways and places. Around the rhododendron on the west side of Blacka is where they turn up in the first week of June. Perhaps the shrubs provide good cover, a convenient place to fly out from towards the food plants they prefer.

Almost the same day they suddenly turned up singing from my TV aerial. Then they came down and around the rhododendron in the garden. This rhododendron incidentally is also currently favoured by scores of bees so doing its best for insect life. There are numerous theories as to whether certain species of rhododendron are poisonous to bees particularly the ponticum variety found at Blacka. Nothing seems proved either way.

Pull the Other Leg .....

It takes a special kind of person to swallow the nonsense that gets posted up on gates around Blacka. The true term for what sheep and cows do, as I've pointed out before, is Crop 'n Crap. The idea that this has anything to do with conservation is not even Hans Anderson but the Disney version.

We apparently need to be careful of the cows and sheep here, doing a sterling job in covering the place with their ordure and wool litter leaving the grass looking more like a bombed site than the car park. 

Immense sums of public money have gone into the reconstruction of a boring stone wall, caring not for the disturbance of small mammals that live in it, supposedly to keep the sheep from escaping.

Yet the site has been left in such a state that fences are easy for the white plague to get out and through a wall section that's left open. Dog walkers who have avoided the enclosure for obvious reasons are then confronted with farm animals their pets would love to chase.

I'm told that the farmer who uses this land has recently been in argument with groups of recreational users who have been carrying out their activities in accordance with the conveyance which gives precedence to recreation. Meanwhile his animals are wandering around on the moor outside the enclosure or if inside devastating the wild flowers. All goes on in the name of nature conservation. Sanity is in short supply around here.

Fair Shares

Don't take it all.