Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Bog Asphodel

Now in flower. Something like an iris with stunning yellow star like flowers, related to Bluebell and Star of Bethlehem i.e. of the lily family.
Orange coloured anthers.

Something to cheer you up after you've just started to feel the muddy water coming over the top of your boots.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Thoughts on Management and Dirty Tricks

Something poisonous lurking in the Blacka Moor undergrowth. The veil fragments suggest an Amanita, probably Panther Cap

I've been lucky in that the people I've worked with, and for, have on the whole behaved honourably. But talking to others suggests that this is not a common experience, perhaps getting less so.

Organisations like to tell a flattering story about themselves which constitutes their public face. It's part of the public relations agenda that this story has to be coherent and convincing. The important thing is not to let trivial and unimportant matters like facts and the truth get in the way of the story you want to tell. Effective management keeps the troops under control all toeing the management line. In the event of any independent thinker daring to raise his head he must be dealt with ruthlessly.

There are various strategems available to the assiduous manager.....

no, ………….. false alarm, my bilberry pie was not, after all, laced with tincture of panther cap, but that may yet come.

As I was saying there are a number of devious approaches all useful in marginalizing the opposition who dare to have independent thoughts. Key to a successful approach is a determination, come what may, not to discuss the real issues. If you do this you are almost certainly lost, because the independent thinker is quite likely to be right, in fact he almost certainly is. And this is not about being right, it’s about having power. The really successful people are leaders who get their own way even when everyone knows they are in the wrong.

To effectively marginalize the independent thinker’s valid criticism firstly nod sagely and patronize, talking broadly about philosophical distinctions and implying that we have to live in the real world.
If this medicine is rejected or ineffective move on to stage two. This is to personalize the issue. Indicate in the sketchiest way that you know the individual concerned has a particular interest in this area implying but not saying that they have ‘a bee in the bonnet’ or an unhealthy obsession and eventually maybe a sense of paranoia. At the same time cultivate a small loyal group hopefully not of the brightest intellects, who you favour in some way. It’s useful to talk about the non conformist to this group initially in the most tolerant terms while allowing it to be known that this is causing you untold pain. Once a whispering has been set up the process of isolating your prey becomes a lot easier. Sooner or later the individual begins to see the advantages of seeking employment elsewhere or even taking early retirement.

Oh what a tangled web we weave.................

Sunday, 29 July 2007

SWT's Defamation

This is the text of the disgraceful email sent out by SWT. You can only feel sorry for people who cannot tell truth from fiction.

Dear Councillors,

I'd like to bring your attention to a recent decision to exclude some individuals from Blacka Moor reserve advisory group meetings. I am informing you of this decision as the individuals may be in touch with you.

As you may know, there has been a certain amount of controversy surrounding the introduction of cattle to Blacka Moor. We have been running consultative meetings for the last 5 years. In the most recent 3 or so years, the meetings have been dominated by a vociferous few (calling themselves 'Friends of Blacka Moor') who have in general opposed the introduction of cattle to the moor (some preferring it all to revert to woodland). Their concerns have been taken on board and resolutions reached or further
research undertaken where reasonable or practical.

We are now management planning (for a 5 year management plan) in consultation with local users. In anticipation of further disruption, we asked Dave Aspinall (Area Co-ordinator for the South, who you'll know) to chair the meetings so as to ensure that the meetings are productive. However, despite his best efforts, the most recent meeting was dominated by the individuals in question being rude, aggressive and insulting to other participants (including SWT staff, the Chair and local people taking part in the meetings). This is unacceptable behaviour and therefore Sheffield Wildlife Trust has decided to exclude these 5 individuals (**********5 names removed to avoid repeating a libel*****) from the meetings for a period of 6 months. However, they are not excluded from the consultation process and can contribute verbally, via email or by letter as they'll continue to receive all letters, updates and consultation papers.

Their recent behaviour has run entirely contrary to what is considered to be acceptable, and it is becoming a serious handicap to the group fulfilling its intended purpose (the engagement of interested people in the management, maintenance and enhancement of Blacka Moor). A large number of other group participants have expressed distress and dissatisfaction at their disruptive and unhelpful behaviour and a number of individuals are known to have been driven away from this community participation mechanism by the constantly hostile, confrontational and unproductive atmosphere that they have succeeded in generating. We can no longer tolerate this kind of behaviour, as it is to the detriment of the process and causes considerable distress for the staff, volunteers and local people taking part in meetings.

The local police sergeant has been informed of the situation, and the potential for the individuals to disrupt meetings. They will be present if they can be, and will act in the interests of public order and preventing a breach of the peace.

If you would like further information on the matter then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

Reserves Manager

The story being told here is so far from what happened at the June meeting that one has to conclude that the writer lives in a parallel universe. Representatives of horse riders arrived at that meeting who were unknown to us. They caused something of a stir by insisting that the cattle be taken off the moor because children had felt threatened by them hanging around the gateways. They were pretty forthright, saying among other things that they had signed the petition against grazing 2 years ago so were amazed that it was going ahead. They would not accept SWT's explanations which as usual were on the feeble side. Then they said that SWT were not listening. This was the cue for some explanation from some of the Friends present who pointed out that SWT very rarely listened. We then explained some of the background to the newcomers, certainly my contribution was with the full approval of the chair.

The sinister thing here is the way that SWT staff manage to solicit from some of their members and supporters complaints about 'behaviour' which have no substance at all. This is manipulation of a kind that Joe Stalin would have recognised. They have of course been wanting to find an excuse for getting rid of us for some time. Next we will be banned from Blacka itself no doubt!

A Favourite Bit of Wall

Sometimes the simple craftsmanship of the stone waller seems to transform into art.

Certainly better than anything I've seen by Tracy Emin or Damian Hirst!


As children we used to tell each other that these orange creatures were bloodsuckers. As adults it was a bit of a disappointment to learn that they are quite harmless soldier beetles with the name Rhagonycha fulva. They have a penchant for eating the tiny insects found on the flowers of hogweed.

Path and Shrub Maintenance

The attractive bilberry and cowberry mix here is a tribute to the work of Friends of Blacka Moor who regularly pull the bracken. They have been helped by visiting bilberry pickers who also see the benefits of good unimpeded access to a favourite fruit.

The path here is developing into a delightful semi wild area, just the kind of thing that a good on site worker can achieve with a few brief minutes work every now and then. Part of the attraction is in the way human intervention gradually shades away into a natural wilderness.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Bilberry and Banana Teabread

Self Raising Flour,

Melted butter

About three bananas

Light Muscovado Sugar

Walnuts or Pecan Nuts

3 large Eggs

A couple of handfuls of bilberries

Quantities as preferred.

Each time I've tried this it tastes the same but the fun is in the fact that it looks different. If you put the chopped bananas in the mixture after the rest has been well blended I think it helps to keep the mix fairly stiff.That may help the bilberries to stay well spread out. They of course just get thrown in at the end before cooking (160C for 45-50 mins).

Purple Poos

Walking along the once springy and pleasant paths of Blacka at this time of year it's common to find purple poos. I've always assumed these came from foxes who've been gorging on bilberries. This morning coming round a corner I saw a young fox with it's head in the bilberries. As usual he was off before the camera could be pulled out.

Summer Was Yesterday

I know one person who was in bed with a severe headache yesterday, only to wake up this morning to more of the same weather as Monday (and most June and July). So the only decent day for weeks was missed.

A soggy start on Blacka Moor. This path used to be pleasant and springy underfoot. Now it's all mud and squalor caused by rain and cattle. These badly trained animals just will not learn that paths are for humans. They were supposed to be out in the bracken trampling. Did anyone think to tell them?

They Don't Know Where They Are

D.I.Y. Question Form

1 Then why.................................................................?

2 But weren't..............................................................?

3 If............................, then why.................................?

Monday, 23 July 2007


The pentagonal shapes and the tiny hooks are just two fascinating aspects of burdock. It's apparently the inspiration for velcro.

If you like dandelion and burdock and want to find out more try this site.

Sunday, 22 July 2007


How suddenly you notice that the flowers on the rowan have transformed into bright red berries. Can so many weeks have gone by already?

Sudden Meeting

This favourite path from Lenny Hill to The Hollow is normally one of the happiest places to be. Today's confrontation would have been severely alarming to those of a timid disposition. Even I, an ex cow-worker, was temporarily startled by the sudden appearance of the sullen beasts. When expressing my disapproval of the plan to bring cattle onto the site this was exactly the scene I pictured and in this very place.

At Chatsworth, where cattle graze you can see them well before you get near them. At Longshaw too. Here there is no width to turn round and the standard risk assessment advice to run to the nearest exit is patently absurd.

I've also heard a report of children on ponies being obstructed by cattle blocking a bridleway. Cows may see the pony but not identify the rider as a separate being so will just stand their ground.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Work On Site

Is this a sign that someone is learning an important lesson? The stones carefully laid across the Canon's Path bridleway to divert rainwater looks to me a sensible job done well. Just what we have been saying a site worker could do. Simple patient small scale work, no contractors needed and you can go back soon afterwards to check it's been successful or if some adjustment is needed. The trouble with contracting is that you can't do that. By the time you find out that it's not going to work you've already spent far too much money.

Meanwhile this part of the site is looking more and more like a farmyard. Only three months ago this was open and free with just the gate on the right. The pedestrian gate is now unpleasantly muddy underfoot.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

"Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave.....

Gossamer on bilberry Blacka Moor 18th July 2007

......when first we practise to deceive. "

It is apparently only rumour that SWT are considering using this line of poetry as their new motto. But it's possible they may be scouring anthologies for a different line which includes words like 'equivocate' and 'wriggle' and even 'self-destruct'.

Judging from some of the comments reported to have come from their director in the last week, they have a touching faith in fairy tales. One of the symptoms is to look round for the least reliable witnesses and put all your trust in what they say. If he had done any primary school playground duty it would have taught him a little more caution.

I can just imagine what the burly local police sergeant would have said if he'd received a call:

'Officer those girls over there are not talking about the right thing. Can you help me restore order.'

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

A Little Local Difficulty (2)

Sheffield Wildlife Trust, well-known for being somewhat challenged in the nous department, has now gone to the top of the Own Goal League.

Readers should at this point hold on to their seats lest they damage themselves by rolling on the floor.

SWT have declared that they are excluding 5 people from their meetings about Blacka Moor. Of course these people are those most likely to disagree with SWT's policy. If these five do not attend the meetings it means that they are likely to be two cats short of a quorum if you don't include the teamaker.

Blacka Blogger is one of those who has been excluded. It is of course my independence that is most resented, as always by those who blindly follow orthodox creeds. Should I resent this dreadful affront? Well yes and no.

No, because I wouldn't give a mouldy bilberry on a cow pat for the privilege of attending any more of their absurd meetings.

Yes, because in the course of taking this action SWT has notified a collection of councillors and the local police that I was aggressive, insulting and disruptive at a recent meeting. They have since admitted that this was wrong and some kind of mistaken identity thing when various people said my contributions were polite and measured. But they are so stiffly embarrassed about all this that they can't bring themselves to cut their losses and retract 100%. So they still maintain I was disruptive. It's just that you have to redefine 'disruptive' to understand it.

So this, as I understand it, is 'disruptive' according to SWT. If someone raises something at a meeting that is not on the original agenda of that meeting and you make a contribution on the new strand, even if the chairman has allowed this, then you are disturbing the flow of that meeting. This means that you are classed as disruptive and entitles somebody else who was not at that meeting to feel justified in reporting this to the police.

God help us all!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

A Little Local Difficulty

Blacka Moor time has been taken up with other things about which more later.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Summer's Day

This was the best of the day. At least we got out before the rain started.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Distant Splashes and Closer Ones

Days of 'perfect' sunshine are never such fun visually as those days when odd splashes of brightness are picked out in the distance. Not much 'perfection' about the weather lately anyway. Just in front of the two tower blocks a part of Graves Park reminds us of the link with Blacka.

More palpable splashes after all the rain yesterday.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Dealing with Bracken (2)

As you walk along the path reach out and pull up the bracken stems. They slide out easily with no strength needed. It takes four seconds to learn the technique. Drop the bracken onto the surface of the path and remember to come back next July and remove any in exactly the same area.

Pulled bracken left on the path.

The beauty of this is that it gets ordinary walkers involved in the process identifying with their own adopted section of path. In the above case an area of bilberry, cowberry and heather has been exposed. This is maintenance for recreational value - i.e. it starts at the path, makes it easier to walk and pick bilberries and harmoniously and progressively adds to the scenic value. Once the process gets established year on year you can move further back from the path to deal with a bigger area.


A Star Performer Under Pressure

This is the site of the largest group of bog asphodel on Blacka. Sadly because of incomprehensible decisions by SWT the whole of this area was flooded last year. This left walkers with no alternative but to trample over the wet ground exactly over the spot noted for the best show of Blacka's most lovely flower. Let us hope that future years will bring a recovery.

Further down where the ground is unaffected by the flooding and people have been able to keep to the path there is still a modest display. The star shaped yellow flowers have a special appeal among bell heather and the dull swampy background. Fortuately the cattle haven't been this way yet.

Where They Belong?

Back in the sheep pasture the cattle look more at home than when on the moor. How they got there is anyone's guess. No use asking SWT who have great difficulty in telling anything straight.

My suspicion is that there is local mischief behind it.

Meanwhile in the distance a wild alternative is just visible on the horizon.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Not a Cure for Depression

On nearby Burbage Moor this afternoon. Hardly calculated to lift the spirits, a cloudy July day grey sky above brown heather below - pass the prozac.

Alternatively scour the horizon for a bit of colour.

Or better still make your way to Blacka and find a range of greens.

Dealing With Bracken (1)

This way of dealing with bracken is nature's own way. Trees spring up and shade out the invasive ferns. This is observable in many parts of Blacka.

Note the edge of this little copse where the tree cover ceases:

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Power Station Morning

Not being a fan of power stations the views to the east this morning didn't thrill me. But for the record it was one of those days when early morning cloud overhead and clearer skies in the distance enabled us to see what is usually indistinct, even invisible. Six power stations about 30 miles away ranged along the A1 all clearly visible a reminder of our dependence on manufactured energy. More heartening was the 40 miles away sighting of Lincoln Cathedral.

Trees Are The Enemy !!??

The dispute about Blacka Moor’s management is fascinating for the light it sheds on the way ‘expertise’ is wielded as a weapon. This usually amounts to promoting your viewpoint by parading your qualifications. At the point that we become aware of how learned they are we are expected to stop thinking for ourselves and bow to ‘superior’ wisdom. These supposed ‘experts’ usually operate in a very narrow field but expect us to accept their judgement over a much wider one. What has become obvious is that quite a few of these people can be very very silly.

We had Mike Harding an ecologist from Ipswich brought in to tell us about the benefits of cattle grazing on lowland heaths – a completely different kind of habitat. He was amazed that we didn’t just accept the ‘expert’ view and that we had the cheek to ask pertinent questions. “You wouldn’t question your G.P. like this would you?” he asked. “Yes we would - even more so” we said.

We had a letter from Dr Simon Queenborough in the Sheffield Telegraph telling us that bilberry and heather had to be managed like SWT proposed when he obviously wasn’t aware of the impact of grazing on bilberry.

Not long ago correspondence in the same newspaper about the destruction of trees on Loxley Common brought a letter from Professor Derek Gladwell O.B.E. (how important these letters after your name are!). He expounded about the importance of the habitat and how it should be managed. It turns out his field of expertise is in the management of hotels and tourism!! One of the arguments put forward by the professor was that trees should be cut down because people are frightened of walking in places where suspicious characters could be hiding!! Perhaps the Friends of Ecclesall Woods and those who walk in Limb Valley and other woods should be on the alert for a mad professor with an axe to grind and one to wield.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

On Burbage Edge

Not far from Blacka Moor and very popular is the walk from Burbage Bridge car park. It's got some fine features including plenty of fresh air, good climbing sites and a clear view of Carl Wark and Higger Tor. But almost every time I visit I am disappointed and come away thinking it has lots of potential that some day may be realised. I have always preferred Blacka Moor.

The high path today over the edge smelled depressingly of sheep's urine despite the breeze. The plantation below has never looked attractive with its unnatural arrangement of trees in straight lines: why is it taking so long for something to be done about this? Is it simply that those with the power to act have just not got the vision to see what it could become? And why, oh why does the vegetation have to be so unremittingly predictable? Bilberry exists here among the heather but don't come along with any containers to pick fruit - it's all cropped to within an inch of the ground by the sheep. Local conservation types have developed a defensive cum sentimental attachment to the woolly mowers.

Bilberry that will never fruit.

Those who claim that livestock grazing helps to prevent bracken getting a hold should be forced to come here and below Stanage Edge where sheep and bracken between them reign supreme. Just below the trig station at the highest point of Stanage is an ideal spot for a picnic with an excellent view and sheltered at the back by cliffs. Very romantic, except there is not an inch that's unpolluted by sheep droppings and the smell is akin to a sewer.

If you turn to look behind you on your walk over Burbage Edge you can see one of the great wastelands of the region. Such a sight brings tears of joy to the eyes of all supporters of English Nature's moorland conservation strategy- those very people who wish to eliminate the trees on Blacka Moor.

Can we really have any hope that those who find this appealing will raise a finger to resist a line of pylons or a wind farm?

Monday, 9 July 2007

DIY Bracken Removal

This is the path known as High Voltage Terrace which runs down towards Lenny Hill and for a time below the intrusive power line and above the cascades of the higher part of Blacka Dyke. It is a prime site for bilberry and also for cowberry.

By July bracken can push through alarmingly and hide the fruiting shrubs below. The easiest and least problematic way of dealing with this is central to our proposal for managing the site.

The fringes of the path rising to right and left should be the focus of walkers attention. Simply pulling out the bracken shoots as you walk along in successive years eventually leads to a weakening of the impact of the ferns. This is best done by individuals and small groups of users adopting a path for a number of years.

Nobody wants poisons to be sprayed here and nobody wants cattle churning up the paths either - they will have no positive effect on this issue and it is dishonest to suggest they would.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Lenny Hill on Sunday

This gnarled old hawthorn is still doing its bit for the species. Already there are bright red berries among the sparse foliage

Meanwhile some of the young oak, as predicted, is looking miserable after a recent visit from the bovine heavy brigade.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

A Question

A Question For Ecologists, Conservationists and Other Sundry Enthusiasts for Conservation Grazing.

If it is so much the RIGHT THING TO DO to put grazing animals on all open land why do we so often finish up with little more than a load of manky thistles?

Just thought I'd ask.

Now only 9 cows doing what cows do to land, making a ****** mess. All reservations before the introduction were met with blithe and superficial assurances that they would be kept away from paths and gates. They would be busy where they could make a significant impact on the chosen areas of vegetation.
How was this to be accomplished asked those with a lifetime's experience of observing or working with cattle? Ahhh! the magic ingredient in the whole operation is the mineral lick - this was the story. They stay near the licks and keep off the places we don't want them to go.

A mineral lick in this elegant container positioned conveniently close to a main gate on a bridleway. One animal has been using it for target practice.

I have now walked past this lick 6 times since it appeared. At no time has there been a cow anywhere near. Where could they be?

They were of course walking around the site on the footpaths, now reduced to squelchy mud, as they ate the grass to either side.

There will certainly be two reactions from SWT after this years cattle grazing.

1 They will tell us what a wonderful job the cows are doing while being totally unable to point to any 'improvement'.

2 They will plan to increase the numbers of cattle as this year was always intended as a softening up exercise for local people.


Three stags watching us from the relative safety of the cover at the edge of the woods.

Two were clashing antlers suggesting they are past the sensitive stage and ready for contests to come later in autumn.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Water Spectacular

How many people know about this grand waterfall, so secret and yet so close to Sheffield? I suppose there must be many hundreds who drive out to see the water cascading over the dam wall of Derwent Reservoir near the National Park car park and Information Centre at Fairholmes for each one who comes here. (See the picture in today's Sheffield Telegraph)
And this one is wholly natural!!! And I have the wet boots and the soggy socks and bramble scratches to show for it. But I wouldn't change it for anything.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Underfoot and Underhoof

There were many reasons put forward for not wanting cattle on this land. One was the potential impact of heavy animals on the soft peaty structure of the paths. In an area that even in normal summers gets higher than average rainfall it was always likely that pressures on the paths would follow. It did not need particular insight to forecast this and it has proved correct. To me the really sad thing about this is that the paths on Blacka have always had a special and distinctive appeal because of the absence of livestock on them.
Another example of a reduction of diversity caused by unimaginative and fundamentalist conservation management.