Friday, 6 October 2017


Other trees may be shedding leaves and joining the rush to autumn but oak is never in a hurry. This one is just thinking about changing colours.

It's one that was missed from the native trees cull last winter. Let's hope it survives another year at least.

Alders have so far been spared, thus allowing us to enjoy the fabulous character of some great specimens.

These would have to be a component of any 'wild' experience that I could enjoy.

The Sycamore Story

I strongly recommend this piece on The Hazel Tree site about the sycamore. It does justice to a tree that has always had a mixed reputation in this country.

I've referred to Blacka's sycamores several times in particular in relation to SWT's controversial plans:

Thursday, 5 October 2017


Even the most patient of regular walkers up here must have had enough of this by now. The one tree is some sort of gesture.

So many of the paths have been so churned up by the cows that you have to walk with your eyes down careful not to slip or stumble.  Not to mention this.

It's many years ago now that Blacka was valued as a place that had been left untouched by farming for many years and all the better for it. We warned that SWT's plans would make it worse. And so it has. I remember the appallingly naive arguments used: "There are cows and sheep all over the countryside, why shouldn't they be here?" And we had to spell it out. And they took no notice of course.


Surprise and disbelief has been experienced on Blacka before. Significantly in respect of those managing the site choosing to call it a nature reserve while bringing in farm animals which dedicate their lives to destroying nature; then adding to our incredulity by themselves cutting down native trees.

But this one was new.

One of the charms of autumn is the chance it gives us to walk on carpets of leaves decorated in innumerable patterns and shades according to which tree species are found nearby. In fact I've been known to take photographs of the ground and hang enlarged images around the house.

Yesterday morning I came across a first, for me. I could hear a mechanical noise ahead but assumed it might have something to do with the repair going on of another section of wall recently knocked down by a car. But no, turning a corner I saw this.

A leaf blower on a nature reserve!

I sometimes wonder if I've been a bit too critical of the managers responsible for Sheffield's green spaces. Obviously not.

Never having understood why people buy leaf blowers I decided to google them. For three pages all I got were sites encouraging me to buy one. Then from the fourth page on and gradually accelerating came those people similar to me who were astonished that such things even existed. Some indeed claimed they were driven crazy by not just the noise they made but by their own inability to come to terms with a world in which a large number of people thought they had to have one.

But on a nature reserve!

How many leaf blowers would be needed in the New Forest here?
And I'm not sure the  BBC has got the seasons right!


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Red Welcome

Bramble is both loved and hated. Hated because of its thorns, its tendency to set traps for the unobservant walker and the way it invades and takes over open land. None of this is so bad it can outweigh its gift of the best tasting free soft fruit, still to be found in the woods.

Another characteristic of bramble that some of us love is the way it occasionally produces vibrant coloured leaves in the middle of dull vegetation in autumn and winter.

In fact there's a lot of variability in bramble leaves now. The healthy glossy green is easily found. Leaf edges can produce some startling effects in purples oranges and reds.

Now that berries are disappearing these reds are welcome.

Perhaps the best sight though is the fly agaric, still quite small as it pushes its way through the tangled grasses.

There are many specimens of fungi in the woods coloured with wondefully subtle shades of browns and greys but red is, well, red.

One day later, pushing higher and larger but slugs and/or small mammals have been tasting it. Can they still walk in a straight line?

A day later still and there's no sign of it. Has it been picked or kicked over? Cows are nearby.


Again the car park at Stony Ridge has been singled out by fly-tippers. The culprits seem to have set fire to their rubbish after depositing it. This time the stuff was removed a bit quicker once the working week began; the likely time the felony was committed was Friday night. I guess its removal was deemed a priority because of the convenience of the farmer whose vehicles were obstructed.

I would think there might be a chance of some identification as some of the papers were not burned. Doubtless once the flames got going they would have feared attention being drawn to them and scooted off not making sure all was burned; among the half-burned debris were Christmas cards!

The increasing number of these incidents here raises a question. This land is obviously the city council's responsibility but they refuse to acknowledge it. The result is that it looks uncared for, a temptation for the likely lads who might be looking for a cheap way of disposing of their junk. And the wildlife trust can't be bothered to put pressure on SCC. If you don't look after what's your responsibility can you expect anyone else to?

Disowned and forsaken.

Saturday, 30 September 2017


These are the days to look for fungi in the woods.
Many of these are associated with birch trees and are to be found close to them,

.. or even on them as is this clamlike common birch polypore.

Few of the fungi are perfect specimens as the local slug population is usually quick on the scene.

Its attraction for fungi is just one of the reasons to value birch. Robert MacFarlane recently asked for ideas for collective nouns for tree species. One that was suggested was a glimmer of birch, good for spring summer and autumn.

Some on Blacka will glimmer no more.