Sunday, 23 December 2007

Where Are They?

I've not seen the red deer for more than two weeks. Before then the family group with stag, hind and one young deer had been regular sights on the morning walk.

I hope I'm not worrying unduly but it was reported that a local farmer had shot a deer some time ago and it's not unusual to hear early morning gunshots. I know some farmers do love to have an excuse to use their weapons. It's not as if they are a large presence, and the family group was a welcome and delightful addition to Blacka's wildlife. Not that one could expect the wildlife trust to bother much. They are far too busy trying to find ways of subsidising their jobs with national grants.

Early Morning

Early at this time of year is 8 am which means more people can share the experience without making much of an effort.

The rain and milder air yesterday seemed to have brought a change but then clearer overnight skies resulted in another frost, black ice and a welcome fog free aspect to the hills. This was not the case for lower places like Chesterfield which could be seen miles away under a blanket of fog.

I'm not a fan of vapour trails but this morning's were more dramatic than most.

All rime had been washed away leaving only water droplets on the branches.

Saturday, 22 December 2007


The rime on the trees at Stony Ridge was about an inch and a half broad this morning. A breeze had just begun to get up and was shaking ice down onto anyone brave enough to pass that way at 7.45 am. A car in the car park echoed with the sound of ice on steel.

Further down the poisoned birch looked haunted with white ghosts of once live trees - not a comforting experience.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Winter Landscape

Early morning views over the pasture land. Not much to comfort the poor sheep who still remain on the site. It can't be pleasant having to look forward to something like 16 hours with no proper daylight. Thank God for the woolly coat.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Much Rime But Less Reason

Shards of Rime under the trees covering paths in crystal.

Some spectacularly seasonal views especially on Saturday morning when a cold and foggy atmosphere the previous evening then turned to a still frosty night leaving the sun to rise on trees encased in rime. Only the slightest breeze is needed to deposit all onto the ground below which has happened on the succeeding mornings.

Reading through SWT's latest minutes takes one into a world devoid of reason and overflowing in wish fulfilment. That meeting was an 'on-site' meeting and one has to imagine a party of consultees wandering about Blacka Moor producing collective wisdom. Alas there's not much of that. But plenty of self deception which presumably they wish will become a similar deception for those with time to read it. First it's not a consultation or a minuted meeting at all. It's a 'report' from two people telling the reader a story which they want to put across. If the things reported were actually said it must have been something like a lecture. Just to take one example: according to SWT's manager it was a spectacular year for bog asphodel. No, it wasn't. The last two years have been good but this year it was a poor show because SWT had dammed up the streams making people walk off the path onto the bog asphodel beds. Then they came along themselves and trampled it worse while they laid paving stones down. So why say it was 'spectacular'? Because they know they made a mess of it but want to persuade outsiders that all was well. What do you call this - spin, PR, or just storytelling?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

At Its Best

Blacka is seen favourably on these cold, clear mornings if you can get there before the sun rises.

I am still of the opinion that one of the most spectacular wildlife sights is the morning exodus of jackdaws towards Derbyshire from the region of Sheffield just to the east of the high ground. This is remarkable for the virtuosity and exuberance of the flying, skimming low over the ground as they reach the highest part of the Hathersage Road at Stony Ridge sometimes swooping down in between the cars as people commute in towards Sheffield and the motorways beyond, headlights blazing. The sheer numbers of the birds take the breath away as well as the mix of anarchy and discipline shown by the huge flocks, similar to the roosting of starlings still to be seen in parts of the country.

It's not a sight I've ever been able to get anything like a satisfactory photograph of. For one thing it takes place when light levels are very low; for another the essence of it is movement.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Frosts and Paths

A clear frosty morning brings many pleasures to compensate for numb fingers

The way each section of path takes on a new look and a new feel underfoot is among them. Freeze drying is not confined to instant coffee. There is an open texture and a separation of each of the elements, twigs, leaves and crumbled bracken.

Cyclists who stray off the bridleway ruin all this and make walking along quiet informal paths difficult. Frozen ruts are at best awkward and at worst dangerous for walkers. Cycles are allowed on bridleways but as with so many things a concession means some who benefit from it only want to take more. I've never been fully happy with the mountain bike phenomenon in the countryside. But to allow them on bridleways seemed a reasonable compromise.

I've had arguments with some cyclists along the lines of "You're a walker, we're cyclists, you just want to keep the place for yourself". It's easy to get exasperated with this kind of nonsense. Walking of course is not a hobby or a lifestyle choice. It is a condition of humanity. And cyclists share that condition too - they don't have to take their bikes.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Cup Fungi

Now's a good time to look out for odd kinds of fungi on old wood. these cup fungi are only one of the many that are around on Blacka.
There are even still some waxcaps in the pasture land.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

SWT Plottings - An Update

In July SWT excluded a number of local residents who are regular walkers on Blacka Moor from attending their so-called public consultation meetings. I am one of those excluded. They knew this was anti-democratic and they expected to be criticised for it. So they invented a pretext for their action. They made up a story, one which was a total lie, that those people they did not want at their meetings had behaved impossibly badly to the extent of being aggressive to other people at the meeting they had held in June. There is not a shadow of truth in this. They compounded this disgraceful act by communicating the lie to local councillors and the local MP, apparently in order to warn these public figures to expect complaints. They have caused considerable offence in taking this action and few of the people involved ever want to go near any of SWT’s staff again.

Now it has become even clearer exactly why this unfortunate organisation decided to do what they did. They did not want to have an open and intelligent discussion about their plans for Blacka over the next 4 years. They knew that we have definite views and that these views are well founded and based on regular use of and observation of the site over many years; they also know that we have been able to challenge successfully some of their own ill thought out ideas in the past.

It is now abundantly obvious and should be brought to the attention of visitors to Blacka Moor and other local residents that SWT are not to be trusted.

Reference to the minutes of their last meeting – in September but the minutes only circulated in December illustrate this again. They are intending to increase the number of cattle on Blacka Moor next year and they will probably be older cattle. This exposes what Friends of Blacka Moor believed all along – i.e. that when they were claiming that the opponents of grazing were being unreasonable in objecting to cattle grazing because there were only 11 heifers, this was only the thin end of the wedge. They will increase the numbers, slowly at first but we fear a continuing year on year growth in livestock numbers. We have no doubt that when Sheffield councillors were asked to grant a lease on the land to SWT they would never have agreed to do so had they known about their plans. We believe that on an area as large as Blacka a required number of beasts to do what SWT say they want would be nearer 100 – a number of course which would be unacceptable to users and others and a number which would cause considerable damage to the character of the moor and the fabric of its paths, its bilberries and many other problems.

Being Kind

Ever a sentimentalist Blacka Blogger has strung up a small bird table for our seasonally hungry feathered friends. This is near an entrance to Strawberry Lee plantation.

So far the most persistent visitors are a robin and a great tit.

More Water

After another day of relentless downpours, the morning is as noisy as it gets on Blacka. Getting close to the torrents cuts out all sounds other than the roar of water. This feature below "electric terrace" I see as more of a cascade than the falls in the previous post. As Blacka is a designated public pleasure ground I feel there is an excuse for a little sensitively done landscape engineering here - not much, certainly not enough to compromise the wildness of the atmosphere here. Just the clearing of two or three trees which impede the view of the water from above and perhaps a little levelling below the edge to make a good site for picnics.

As for the power line nearby which gives us the name "electric terrace" that should also go but that may take some time. The campaign should start now.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Watery Walk

Those who rarely venture in the area to either side of the Lea Stream may not have yet discovered that this is where SWT's pet cattle spent a lot of their time during the summer. The evidence is clear to see. A once charming path formed by only human feet and the occasional imprint of a wild animal is now unpleasant to walk over, testing the wax on your boots when wet and threatening ankle damage when frosty.

The falls are in pretty good form at the moment although not up to the drama of certain days in July.

The rain over the last days has left many paths like streams and the streams like torrents.

The Lea Stream can be a mere trickle during a dry or even a normal summer but this year has more than once enjoyed itself with lots of showing off.

A number of paths appear and then disappear in this secluded part of Blacka.

More Likely Lichens

Lichens come into their own when other organisms become seasonally dormant.

The show of lichens is likely to be greater than in the years when J.G. Graves first gave Blacka to the people of Sheffield which was before the smoke control legislation came into force from the 1940s on. Certain species survived better under the conditions than others which had a very low tolerance of sulphur dioxide.
This powdery grey covering (below) is on the lone beech just to the east of Cowsick.

The hopes that a few of us have to see more of the beech seedlings develop into trees here are likely to be dashed by the intrusive management of SWT who will continue with their "we know better than nature" policy of bringing in more and more livestock to eat up all unwanted growth.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Managing the Vegetation

It is a commonplace on this blog that I think the local conservationists are utterly misguided and that they have not been honest with the public about their intentions. The recent 'minutes' of an on site meeting reveal this in a number of ways. This kind of mix of vegetation is what they would like to return the site to. It's quite nice but totally artificial, no less so than the garden in a public park. This is actually part of the fire break from where they cut the long leggy heather mechanically a few years ago. There is now a pleasant collection of cowberry with some younger heather and bilberry. But the work that was necessary to develop this has been a complete negation of the sense of wildness which some of them claim to value here. After it was cut hundreds of small trees, mostly birch, started to appear and were quite tall until only weeks ago. An army of helpers had to be recruited to cut them down..........

..............and later to burn them...............

Meanwhile there is a profusion of the leggy heather all over the moor, all 'out of condition'. It is slowly being colonised by trees a mix of birch, rowan pine and oak. The conservation people think that this is bad and needs managing. Can one trust people who first of all cut the fire breaks, then had to cut back what grew afterwards, then say they will have to have cows grazing in perpetuity to stop the regrowth of birch? (..........exit sadly shaking head)