At the lengthy 2006 consultation (Icarus Process) there was agreement among the participants that Blacka should be managed as wild land with 'minimal intervention'. No argument was raised against this by SWT or others from the conservationist industry, though it's fair to say that one or two of them did look just a little uneasy. Since then we've had cattle on the moor, barbed wire fencing has become a fixture and a previously open section of the moor has been walled and fenced in with awkward gateways imposed on hapless visitors.
This autumn much chain-saw activity has been ongoing with whole swathes of mature trees falling to the fervent management agenda. The notice seen at entrances shows that this has not finished yet. In fact the text invites members of the public to come along and help in this compulsive activity. Blacka Blogger opposes this for several reasons, chief of which is the inability of SWT to effectively explain their actions with anything other than a kind of 'it's the thing to do' defence. What is usually trotted out when you complain is that they have to manage the area as heathland and if pressed they tell you that heathland and moorland are key habitats for certain species. Heath is of course an artificial landscape and nature long since determined that it was not to have a pure future on Blacka Moor. The spread of native tree species here is largely responsible for Blacka's landscape and wildlife appeal. After all those who want broad treeless spreads of moorland are spoiled for choice in the northern Peak District and then on up the Pennines to Scotland and beyond. The suggestion that all this is endangered, putting it on a par with rain forests, is frankly disingenuous. And as I say it is an artificial, man-made landscape. The trees are bringing back some of the spirit and the nature and wildlife of many centuries ago.
Querying this with SWT's reserve manager has elicited the fact that cutting trees on Bole Hill will not be confined to young birch ('scrub') but will also include taller mature trees some of which may be oak, scots pine, beech, rowan and anything growing near heather. If I'm the only one who finds this to be draconian then perhaps it's time to stop writing this blog in despair.
Much could be said in arguing against this cull of wildlife. But just to mention two. The spread of trees over Blacka has resulted in two wonderful wildlife phenomena that some of us are out here enjoying when SWT's staff are crouched over their workstations filling in grant application forms and compiling management schemes. In spring the arrival of migrant songbirds brings a heart melting medley of optimism to the newly greened foliage of birch, rowan and other native trees. They are not to be heard out on the purer and less interesting moorland of Burbage and Bleaklow etc., because they love deciduous trees. The reappearance of red deer is due almost entirely to the cover the trees provide into which they can retire when people are about. You cannot easily get close to deer on Bigmoor. On Blacka the groups of trees, the isolated scrubby growth gives deer a sense of security. We've seen deer more often close to trees on the moor than anywhere else. (Click on the picture below to get a larger image, and see the hind.)
The small birch woodland at the base of the western end of Bole Hill (picture below) is a regular and secure haunt of Blacka's red deer and should be avoided at all costs by those wielding chain-saws and other tools of destruction. In fact they should stay away completely
So to the appeal. If anyone reading this post is even considering a bracing activity out in the open air this Saturday helping a wildlife trust (and what could sound more healthy and worthwhile, put like that?) please think again. Better still write to the trust or phone them saying that mature trees and other native species should be spared, whatever they choose to do with small birch growth.
If this is minimal intervention what would maximum intervention be? ...ploughing it all up and planting cabbages?