Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Finding Gold

No detectorists on Blacka this morning looking down, but those looking up might have found gold in the heavens. Many sunrises have been mainly red in past weeks. This was a welcome change.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Birch Beloved?

If only. But it's just another tweet illustrated with an image with no more significance than a badly chosen emoticon. Anyone reading signs of a changed attitude to birch trees in wildlife trust managers is deluded.  The other, hidden, hand is likely to be holding a chain-saw.

Lucky the birch in Smithy Wood to be loved by SWT; when it suits them of course. Those on Blacka get quite different treatment.

Friday, 24 February 2017


Even those who are tempted to agree with the sentiments will disapprove of the message being displayed here.

But a more important message in the picture could be: if this is what happens to a memorial bench what should we expect to happen to SWT's interpretation boards?

Let's hope the Peak District planners get the message.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Timely Obstruction

Despite today's 50mph+ gusts and horizontal rain, there have been some good conditions this week for a visit to Blacka Moor. This half-term week is always popular and the small car park at Stoney Ridge is often full.

In line with past practice, well-known to regulars, SWT has chosen this week to deposit a load of stone thus seriously limiting traditional access.

No communication, no explanation, not even an insincere 'Apologies for any inconvenience". Communication is of course the nub. They are prepared to spend many hundreds of public and/or charitable monies in erecting 'interpretation boards' (PDNPA comments closed this week). But simple courtesies and consideration are not in their job descriptions.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Making Music

This morning was warm enough for the chaffinch to break into song. Several around the woods and edges.

Robins started singing seriously about two weeks ago in a short mild spell. Then there was a lull during colder weather. The last day or two has brought more music from song thrush, tits and robins. But it may be short-lived.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

At Home in the Trees

Deer are a favourite subject for photographers. But it's noticeable that very few pictures that get published show them in woodland; many don't have a tree in them at all.

Obvious reasons for this are that it's easier to get a good picture out in the open; trees just get in the way. Another is that deer out in the open are less wild, probably in parkland where they get supplementary feeding.

Those that quickly hide in the woods still have the wild instincts and fear predators. On Blacka it could be the presence of dog walkers helps to keep them alert and more prone to run off into the woods. I always think of deer, both red and roe, as mainly woodland animals. They look right among the trees.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Encouraging Nature

Can't trust myself to say how much I dislike Facebook and Twitter, but I'm still signed up for fear of missing something. How irrational can you get?

But here's something I would have missed if I didn't keep my Twitter account.

This looks so much like Blacka Moor looked before SWT arrived and started to crush the rebirth of nature with chain saw and bovine storm troops.

There's even a power line, not yet undergrounded.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Telling Us What To think

There are other words for it, some politer than others. I quite like proselytizing: 5 syllables makes you feel clever for a bit (that wears off very soon in my case); some prefer propaganda or indoctrination - also 5 syllables.

We badly need organisations like the wildlife trusts to stand up bravely for real nature and real wildlife and it's so depressing to see them here waving the flag for exploited land as if it's the best we can expect to get. But this is the content they hope to display on their interpretation board if the planning authorities accept it.

This business of plonking Interpretation Boards across the natural sites around our National Parks is not popular with all people.  Many  would prefer to be left to make up their own minds and  discover for themselves. There's a theory that this obsession with labels on outdoor sites is peculiar to those generations over-exposed at an early age to infant classroom nature tables. Yet I cannot believe anyone would do this to a place they personally loved and valued. And that fits in with what we know.

Whatever the motivation it's telling us how we ought to be thinking and these days we have so many organisations and every lobby group jostling to get their message across that our minds are just as likely to be turned off.

SWT may love their barbed wire, their farm subsidies, their cows and the abundant farmstock defecation proceeding therefrom, not to forget their sheep-scoured grasslands which are the inevitable consequence of their chosen management planning.Some of us prefer the mixed woods and the unpredictable encounters with wildlife most enjoyed where no human projects are forcing themselves on our attentions.

Hard to avoid the impression that these things are really trying to reassure  themselves because, to the extent that they think about it at all, they're not fully convinced. Their doubts mean they simply have to keep telling themselves they are doing what's right (- and using public and charitable funds to force the message home).

These new boards will be in addition to what's already there, not as a replacement. So those arriving at a natural site hoping to leave behind them briefly the world of 'getting your message across' will be disappointed. These new boards are for the those already on board.

Any Inconvenience

One of our favourite phrases is "apologies for any inconvenience".

Sheffield's Streets Ahead (Amey) uses it a lot when tweeting. This is the latest.

Unlikely that the badger received an apology.

Sunday, 12 February 2017


Almost black and white scenes but not quite. In fact it's the odd flecks of colour that are indispensable.

Monday, 6 February 2017


Cold still mornings often reveal a layer of cloud to the distant east while clear skies prevail overhead. As the sun forces its way above this it slightly delays local sunrise time which today was officially 07:43. Colours change rather quickly around dawn and the cloud plays its part. These are the kind of conditions made for lovers of power stations; they may study the varied plumes forcing their way above the otherwise level cloud to create towering effects.

Some are undoubtedly inspired by this.

On any given morning certain power stations are operating and others dormant. More information for those keen on identification on this post from 2012, but be aware that some facilities have been decommissioned and even demolished in recent years.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Worse for Wear

The stag who found himself on the front page of The Times on Wednesday was an odd choice. It's not just that he was a fairly junior animal, no Monarch of the Glen. It's the fact that his coat showed distinct signs of moult. Hardly dressed to the nines.

I imagine that it was the setting that appealed to the editor as much as the animal.

By comparison our red deer remain pretty well turned out as seen in the hind here looking up after feeding contentedly on Blacka's ample supply of bramble.

Different again is the young deer. In their first winter it's common for them to grow a thick and usually dark-coloured extra layer which then falls away once winter is well behind them.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Outside Loo

My grandparents' house had no indoor lavatory and very primitive plumbing generally. When you had to go you needed to cross a tiny yard at the back, go through two gates across a shared passageway to the end of another small yard to find the outside loo. Its position was immediately adjacent to the railway line, steam trains passing just a few feet away. This picture* gives a very accurate impression of what it looked like, though imagination will be needed for the other senses; I can still occasionally recall the combined smell of the coal from the railway engine mixed with that from the latrine.

In that house they successfully brought up eleven children though I believe the older girls helped a lot with the youngest children.

On Blacka badgers use outside loos and in that section of the woods (which I think of as Badgerville) it's fairly easy to find these similarly advanced facilities.

They consist of small scrapes where the droppings are deposited. If you see one you can be sure a badger set will be nearby.

For the most authoritative comment I know on the badger cull and much else beside please read the comments on this link.



* From the Black Country Living Museum

Friday, 3 February 2017

Truth, Interpretation and Cliché

SWT is intending to erect several display boards around entrances to Blacka. They have had to apply to the Peak Park planners for the go ahead and will surely get permission. Nevertheless the public are allowed to comment before 21st February if they have reservations; if anyone does object I would expect SWT to get one of their friends to comment in support. That's standard practice in large organisations these days, driven as they are by corner playground management. See counter petition re state visit of Trump and another counter petition on driven grouse shooting. It's all part of the battle against public opinion now being fought by well-backed vested interests.

I'm surprised they still call these structures Interpretation Boards. After all interpretation is no different to spin and we know that SWT will use the boards for propaganda. The fact that they will further interpret this as education just extends the argument and resolves nothing.  Funds devoted to publicity and self promotion by SWT has been mentioned here before. Those employed to market their brand will hardly be expected to be balanced.

But there's more to this than post-truth and alternative facts. Many people are irritated that no natural site is allowed these days to speak for itself without someone plonking one of these self justifying intrusions alongside it. Can't we get away from this relentless urge for managers to tell us what is worth valuing and what is not and why they themselves are so important, when all we want to do is make up our own minds from our own observations? Conservation cliches don't get any better for being encased in some fancy packaging.

Another issue here is maintenance. We've seen many times that SWT just don't take the care they should in keeping this place looking good and natural. Their own interventions are frequently left unfinished and things that should be done take months or years to put right and in some cases never are. This kind of introduced structure is a easy target for vandalism. How long will it take. I would not dream of suggesting that somebody might coat an interpretatioin board with stuff their cows fail to dispose of properly. One wouldn't wish to put ideas in anyones's mind. But we should perhaps remember that it took the best part of a year before SWT noticed that other offensive intrusion - their barbed wire fence - had been cut.