Tuesday, 30 June 2009


The bilberry season is upon us but be aware that so is the midge season. And these moisty mornings are not good times for harvesting. Later in the day perhaps when the warmth lifts the cloud. But in truth the last few autumnal mornings have not been a good advertisement for summer on Blacka or even in the whole region. Each day there are wet boots to be dried out after the morning walk and trousers to be shoved in the airing cupboard.

A Victory for Local People

There is so much fatalism about today with people caving in to the dull intransigence and arrogance of authority and officialdom that when we do win we should celebrate and determine to fight whenever these issues arise. The battle of the lights on Baslow Road has been won by SPACE due to the stand taken by local people who refused to allow officials to get away with cheating and laziness. Well done to Sally who wrote and delivered the speech at the planning meeting and also to those who supported her. Read the account on Sally's blog.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Misty Mornings

Several mornings have been like this. Mist and low cloud at this time of year can be very trying. You have a pretty good idea that when you're busy elsewhere later in the day visibility will improve and the views will open out. And the bracken is now just getting to that stage where any dampness transfers itself to your clothing. But just occasionally you catch some of the wildness unawares.
These animals are much more likely to be found amid the bracken than cattle.
In fact the cattle were also met suddenly and unexpectedly in a dark area under the trees. Unlike the stags, they behaved as cows mostly do, unpredictably and vaguely alarming. This is not the right place for cows. A few minutes later a girl with a dog came on the same path.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


Visitors to this blog are now numbered at over 8,000 since August 2007. This comes to an average of 11.6 each day. All are welcome to leave comments should they wish.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Cattle Question at Blacka

It's no longer possible to sweep this isssue under the carpet after the cattle incidents in recent days. Whether or not you think it's likely that someone will be injured by cows on Blacka there's no doubt that many people now are avoiding walking here because cattle are grazing. The appalling story of the woman who was killed in North Yorkshire and the other story about David Blunkett's very lucky escape have been well aired in the media. And don't forget there were no calves in the field where the former Home Secretary was attacked. Many who were less bothered before will be more doubtful now. And this is a place where dog walking has been traditional for many generations and a place that was set up to be a public pleasure ground. It is frankly unacceptable that this continues. The media is full of the tragic case of the vet killed in Wensleydale and sundry advice in the form of Do's and Don'ts much of it frankly contradictory. Most of this is completely useless in the case of Blacka Moor as is the fatuous risk asessment produced by SWT. How can you stay away from cattle if the lie of the land and the vegetation mean that you can suddenly be confronted with cattle just a few feet away from you? The policy of cattle grazing is made even more irresponsible when those who have made the decision know very well that the presence of the cattle is utterly pointless. The claimed benefits for cattle being on the site have been gradually adjusted over the years until they are unrecognisable from the original claims. Now nobody is claiming that they will eat the young birch trees on the heather or trample and even eat the bracken. Now it's all vague nonsense about soil structure and nutrients. In fact farm machinery has had to be brought in to lay waste the natural vegetation and create grassy areas for them to graze!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Are You Lookering Now?

Cattle Lookerers may have missed this one, at Stony Ridge car park.

SWT planned this year to introduce a mass 'Lookering Programme' to help them keep an eye on their cattle possibly because they rarely visit the site themselves, being too busy compiling vast quantities of self justifying paperwork at their desks and work stations 5 miles away. The scheme has caught on so well that the last count suggests at least one and a half people have enrolled and are conscientiously monitoring the overwhelming success of the cattle grazing scheme (the cows have consumed 13, 426 blades of grass, left 7,324 soggy cow pats, trashed 6 paths and head butted 2 astonished dogs). So far as we know, nobody on this site has been trampled or been forced to leap over the barbed wire.... Yet.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Top Singer

It's now time to announce the winner of the Blacka Moor Singer of the World competition. This is held every two years in odd numbered years and is timed to run alongside the Cardiff Singer of the World. The chief differences are the al fresco location, and the competition being only open to males. The standard this year has been as high as ever with a strong showing once again from skylarks and visiting warblers.

Finally after much anguished deliberation the esteemed award goes to the Blackbird regularly to be heard from the bridleway just up from the bench near Lenny Hill. The judges were impressed with the relaxed melodic approach and unforced tone (qualities interestingly found also in the Czech bass who won the song prize at Cardiff).

In the short clip below the blackcap (who came second) can be heard singing from a flowering Elder with the winner also clearly audible.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Off The Beaten Track

Yesterday's editorial in The Guardian touches on experiences close by.


We may all have a view on the final sentence:

Meanwhile the message of Mr Blunkett's alarming encounter with the cow is not to stay at home, only to remember that dogs and livestock never mix.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Around the National Park

The area around the Peak District National Park is important to the experience of the National Park itself. Blacka is on the edge of the Peak District so visitors are more aware than many of the attractions of the rural fringe to the east. Some of it is so fine that it deserves to be designated as, say, an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The views towards Holmesfield with its church and green fields add considerably to one's enjoyment of Blacka and deserve a greater level of protection than did the area around Whitelow Lane now blighted with Fairthorn. I still await replies to my latest letters to the council on the subject of that monstrosity

In Velvet

Two stags were the first seen on Blacka for more than two weeks, quite a long gap. Occasional prints have been seen and there are two hinds probably present all the time. These were not far from the cattle.
One munched happily on rowan leaves while the other was lying down in the bracken only his large velvet covered antlers visible.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Monday's RAG Meeting

The Monday RAG meeting was one of the two or three opportunities in the year that local people get to put a view to SWT and question their strategy. It’s quite normal to come away feeling puzzled or irritated and this meeting was no exception. Some of the usual tricks of the trade needed to be exposed. One of the better known tricks is the way that SWT use the minutes to bamboozle. No different I suppose to many organisations who are charged with a duty to consult the public; it becomes part of the culture. As an organisation more at home with paperwork than with work on the ground they are well rehearsed in the creation of false impressions and the manipulation of perceptions. The minutes of the May12 meeting were a classic. Everyone knows the strong reservations local people have about SWT’s importation of a herd of cattle onto Blacka and their accompanying barbed wire and scuffed up pathways. Nobody wants them except a small group of SWT members who rarely visit the place anyway, and there have been complaints though SWT are shy of telling us how many. At the May 12th meeting a National Park warden came along and lectured the RAG members about the wonderful success of the cattle grazing on Stanage Edge and this was recorded in the minutes. As Blacka Blogger was not able to be at that meeting it was only when he saw the minutes that he realised that the whole thing was utterly fraudulent. There are NO cattle on Stanage Edge. So all the guff about how well the whole thing worked with the thousands of visitors was just so much poppycock. Yet those who did attend believed that's where they are. Typical of SWT’s brand of cynicism. Those who naively believe that a conservation organisation and a charity must be above this sort of thing are living in the past perhaps a past which never existed. Here’s a link to the main part of the minutes. Read them carefully. Then bear in mind that actually the cattle are grazing on an area of the North Lees Estate called Cattis Side Moor which has no tradition of public access. The area where people go when they visit Stanage is the Edge and the area below the cliffs of the Edge. Note also that a public consultation several years ago at Stanage concluded that cattle would be inappropriate for Stanage because “cattle and recreation do not mix well” and a number of other reasons all of which are equally valid for Blacka. There has been a disagreement about cattle grazing at Blacka and there are strong arguments against it. One assumes that SWT and others think there are also very strong arguments in favour. The trouble is that they have not been prepared to put them up for scrutiny and examination by the RAG. Instead they have chosen to rely on broad statements that it has “worked” elsewhere and by misleading the public and being “economical with the truth”.

This notice has always said No Public Access. It is on Cattis Side Moor. It has now been painted over because the CRoW Act means people must be allowed to roam here. Nevertheless I've not seen anyone walking here, understandably as the popular area is Stanage itself. So no surprise members of the public have made no complaints!

Monday, 15 June 2009


It's much more fun spotting wild deer secretly enjoying the quiet landscape than watching tame animals in a parkland setting. I've been weeks looking for these hinds, morning after morning failing to see them while being fairly sure they were not far away. It's a question of patience and watching carefully.
Often people have asked where should I go and at what time of day to see them. The answer is always the same. I've found early mornings to be quite good but then I'm there more often at that time.
On the other hand I've seen them in the heat of a summer afternoon. And a wide expanse of bracken is often a good place to focus on as a head will come up to keep an eye on the intruder.

Friday, 12 June 2009


A view specially for connoisseurs of startlingly inept local authority planning decisions.

Good Place to Hide Away

Useful stuff this bracken. The stags wander around a lot at this time of year and it's some time since we saw them. The hinds tend more to hide away in the quieter spots. So it was not altogether unexpected to see this one's head appearing over the rapidly growing bracken. This part of Blacka is never busy and gets even less popular with visitors as the bracken grows madly in July and August. There turned out to be two of them. The big question is, of course, are there any young? They are here to be away from people and other animals so it's best to leave them in peace.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Sound Pictures

More examples of the sound of Spring on Blacka. This is such a marvellous time and it is so soon gone. A week or so further on and then some genuine warm summer weather (should the gods relent) and the best of the bird song is over. It doesn't go completely but as the decline sets in I always regret not getting out to enjoy it more even if it would have meant braving the poorer weather.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Cows and Things

Yesterday's post referred to the incident involving David Blunkett's being trampled by a cow. Somebody had placed a notice near the Stony Ridge car park, probably on Monday afternoon. By this morning this had been torn down, perhaps by the SWT Reserves Manager, now retitled South Sheffield Greenways Manager or some such easily remembered job.
I wonder if it's part of the strategy to keep the public guessing and confused by changing these job names every so often. Keep moving and don't let your feet touch the ground has always been a recognised way of holding the pack at arms length, distancing you from the public who if you're not careful will start asking too many awkward questions.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

From the Cow's Mouth

Blacka Blogger this morning interviewed a spokesheffer representing the cattle on Blacka. I wanted a view from an authoritative source on the recent incident involving a local MP and former Home Secretary that is such a major talking point in the area. She chewed the cud with an air of assumed carelessness as I put to her the damage this was doing to the reputation of her species. "It's just more sensationalism in the media," she drawled, "trying to make out we're all the same". "If you were to believe what you hear then we're all at it. Thing is you get the odd bad character in every walk of life. Most of us are working away just earning no more than an honest penny..... now shove off out of my way I've got more paths to scuff up and defecate on if I'm to meet my targets for this morning... and all my expenses claims are legitimate." At which point BB retired helped on our way by a loud methane fuelled eructation.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Hanging On

Heavy rain in early June can bring a quick end to the blossoms. Rowan has suffered most but some trees in more sheltered places are still putting on a good show. Elsewhere the white has already given way to dull browns and the beginnings of the berries. Those petals brutally driven off the trees have in places found a new role in edging the paths


Interest has been added to the otherwise boring grazing community in the sheep pastures by the addition of a number of black lambs wearing white spectacles with their white-faced mothers.
And on the east side of Lenny Hill another newcomer has moved in.

Friday, 5 June 2009


The small Willow Warbler's song is so common at this time of year on most parts that, as with Cow Parsley and Buttercup, it's easy to forget just what a perfect thing it is. Sitting on a favourite rock, well off the beaten track, we were serenaded for a few minutes.


The latest edition of Peakland Guardian the journal of Friends of the Peak District (CPRE) has an article about the removal of overhead power cables which can leave a blight across the landscape. Apparently there is some money available for projects in the National Park. Friends of Blacka Moor are committed to press for the removal of the grossly obtrusive power cables that cross Blacka Moor at the earliest opportunity so we intend to make our case. It seems that some cables have already been put underground using the present funding in locations in the Peak District. Blacka's case is very strong, in fact I can't think of a stronger one. This is wild and semi wild landscape where human artifacts in the view obtrude far more than those places where the land is already much more obviously managed with fences and enclosures well established. There are many places from where you can look across Blacka Moor and see large tranches of natural vegetation and where evidence of man's interference is seen the materials used are natural. The impact of the power cables and their pernicious straight lines is a much more violent assault on the look of Blacka for this reason. It must take priority in any plans to use public money because of the uniqueness of Blacka's situation and history. Only this year, bizarrely at the height of the February snow, maintenance engineers arrived with a remit to cut down swathes of trees on Black for no other reason than that they might at some stage come into contact with the power cables. The result was a rape of the landscape with channels of treeless lanes created through the woods exposing the power lines shamelessly for all to see. In addition we have to put up with the debris being left around to remind us of the desecration and severed stumps everywhere. Could this be another case where a petition is called for ?


Recent morning walks have not been provided views of deer.Though we've been unable to avoid the lumpish bovine characters and their ubiquitous droppings. I had guessed the stags were off on their wanderings. They've been seen in several places around Totley including Gillfield Wood on the other side of the A621. I also strongly suspected they were in the fields bordering Blacka and this was confirmed this morning as they were seen in the steep field above the bank over Meg and Jin Hollow.

Two of them seemed to be having a mock contest inhibited by the sensitivity of their velvet antlers.


A short burst of Blackcap, the Blacka Moor star singer.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

A Seasonal Miracle

The time of year when Cow Parsley and Buttercup are in flower together is soon over. Make the most of it when you can. The sight of these two magnificent native flowers at their best should get everybody out into the lanes and public footpaths of the English countryside daily to feast on a beauty which is readily available and costs nothing. I can think of no more restoring activity than this.

Cow Parsley's intricate tracery makes it a miracle singly and as so often seen en masse lining the edges of lanes and roads. Buttercup also is never given its due for its amazing depth of colour.
But few things are better than seeing the two coming together with the taller Meadow Buttercup rising amongs the stems of Cow Parsley.

Being common is no bar to excellence when the quality is so high. And this is more precious than all the exotic blooms in carefully tended gardens - yet it's wild and it's entirely natural and native. Being outside admiring it all is what you might expect everybody to be doing instead of pointless activities like watching fatuous TV programmes, driving madly up and down the roads and voting in elections for those you've never even heard of before.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


Seeing this kestrel reminded me that the last one I saw over Blacka was several weeks ago.

How Planners Think....

From a letter from Sheffield's Head of Planning:

"Policy BE5 of the Unitary Development Plan stipulates that new buildings should complement the scale, form and architectural style of the surrounding buildings.Within the vicinity of the site at Fairthorn there is a wide variety of building styles and design, and no particular architectural style is dominant. There are, however, a large number of stone built properties beneath slate roofs, of modern design, to which the building of Fairthorn relates, including the neighbouring residential properties."


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

In Occupation

Paths remain the location of choice for the alien invaders brought in by SWT. This path is one of the least spoiled on Blacka being close to an old wall and therefore awkward to ride a bike along. It is also a favourite for the views and the way that you weave in and out among the trees.

Monday, 1 June 2009

A First

I've never before seen three cuckoos at once but did this morning. Are they trying to disprove the rumours ?

When was the last time........

............. you saw a farmer walking across a field?

My opposition to cattle on Blacka does not mean I'm opposed to cattle themselves. They can be an attractive feature of some farmland. I rather like the way they spread themselves across a field seen from a distance, a scattered asymmetric pattern oddly satisfying, though these are more clustered than they will be later in the day.