Thursday, 25 February 2010

An Education

Blogging is a journey of discovery. About three weeks ago I had only the sketchiest knowledge of the mountain biking scene. Now I know some more. Following the concerted assault on this blog by packs of ill mannered and fixated MTBers I’ve begun to educate myself on the subject. It may be early days but so far I’m not that impressed by what I’ve found. (I distinguish between the promotion of cycling in towns and on roads and the promotion of cycling on footpaths in the countryside.)

It’s important to understand the issues. Most questions of policy and controversy are decided with regard to money and jobs and business and profit. Right and wrong, sadly, come well down the field. So if you’re an impartial and independent observer and just want to make your mind up on the basis of the general good you find there are strong and determined voices being raised to point you in the way of sectional and vested interests.

These thoughts arise from the Blacka question of mountain biking. Some of the ways jobs and profit come into this:
a) manufacture of bikes and accessories,
b) distribution and retail of the same,
c) import of the same,
d), advertising products;
e) magazine production and journalism – more advertising.
d) the public and private funded running of courses by appointed officers and others in the outdoor pursuits industry and even in universities.

I’ve probably missed out several elements from this list.
All this adds up to an incentive for many people to promote bikes, to present biking in a positive light and also to show it to be ‘cool’ and exciting, even ‘sexy’ (though I’ve not myself yet seen scantily clad bimbos advertising mountain bikes). This is the norm these days anyway. Anything that’s good for business and jobs and the economy is deemed to be de facto right and good (as an extreme example just ask Tory MP Nigel Evans whose constituency contains a branch of an international arms manufacturer).

Cycling was allowed on bridleways under the terms of the 1968 countryside act at a time when nobody anticipated the coming development and marketing of mountain bikes with their robust engineering and thick tyres. It’s interesting to speculate if it would have happened otherwise. One thing we can be pretty certain of: even that law change would never have gone through if it had been seen that it would lead to biking on ordinary public paths. Now it’s the policy of organisations that speak for mountain bikers to lobby to have the whole network of public footpaths opened up for bikers. That’s no secret, most of them actively campaign for this and have no commitment to the present legal situation. The Single Track magazine is written from this perspective and the CTC (Cycling Touring Club) also encourages its members to get onto Local Access Forums and speak up for their policy. It’s not at the moment legal for bikes to use PRoWs in England and Wales but the growing militancy of MTBers could well lead to a move to allow this. Councils like to think they are ‘bike friendly’ without always making the distinction between encouraging cycling to work instead of driving and the quite different activity of downhill mountain biking through woods and green spaces.

So I was looking for an explanation for the irrational and farcical outbursts from MTBers when they discovered I had criticised some of their number two years ago. The reason is now clear to me. They are promoting the activity and some of them make a profit or career out of doing so. The bike industry and economy needs growth and they can only get this if more youngsters take up the sport. They lobby for public footpaths to be opened up to them and they will only succeed in this if they can so skew the arguments that they can get people to believe what is frankly not credible, i.e. that this would have no impact on the paths themselves nor the experience of walkers. My experience suggests that there are so many feeble minded people in public office that the MTBers may be justified in thinking they can achieve this. So it’s no good keeping mum about it. More people should be alerted to what’s happening.

Blacka Moor is a place where soft peat paths on the upper parts easily get damaged by various pressures (including inappropriately by a herd of cattle). It is located in just the kind of place to make it accessible for those who relish speedy downhill biking. Its essential character as a place noted for beauty wildlife and tranquillity will not survive much longer if it becomes a downhill racing theme park.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

We Know Best

One of the agenda items put forward for the February 10th RAG (and also for several before that unsuccessfully) by FoBM was Evaluation of Cattle Grazing. Why? Because the controversial and unpopular practice of putting cattle on the moor had received very little proper examination. Whenever SWT talk about this they say words to the effect that ...oh we’ve talked and talked on this and we have to move on....or’s had so much discussion and we hadn’t seemed to be getting anywhere. This is a cunning ploy. Yes people have tried to raise it on numerous occasions but SWT have refused to be pinned down about the specifics – that’s why people have continued to raise it. So they wriggle out of it in the aforementioned way – it’s a common practice among the beleaguered deskbound advocates of the unjustifiable.

Over many years now they have never been able to communicate effectively the supposed benefits of putting cows on Blacka. In fact I'm sure they just don’t know if such benefits exist. Anyway the response this time was they would put it on the agenda under 'Cattle Monitoring' – not the same thing perhaps? The way that this was planned was the old chestnut of putting people in groups and asking them to write down the pros and cons of cattle for visitors.

Hold on said one regular user of the moor, what about your evaluation? Presumably you wanted them to do a job before you put them on. So have you been monitoring and recording what they’ve done? By now you should be seeing some sort of results to justify continuing. Well no, they didn’t seem to be able to do that. But, continued the questioner if I was being funded to do some task or research I would expect to have to show some positive results to release funds to continue, etc. Ah but you see you can’t do that over just a couple of years says SWT. And of course we’re into ecology here aren’t we, and these SWT people are the only ones who could really be expected to understand the difficult ecological issues. Well so much for trying to avoid embarrassment. So people come along to these meetings in their own time to be told by (young and inexperienced) SWT they’re not qualified to understand why this is being done and just not up to scrutinising the project.

So who is doing the scrutinising? SWT themselves and Natural England? God help us all. It was their officers who were part of the original plan – saying 'it's just what's done'! Are they going to give an independent view?

Beware of rule by bureaucrats, especially those who claim to have 'expertise'. It's a case of we know best and how do we know we know best? Because we've done the assessments with the help of others who know best (because it was their idea). This more or less defines Conservation Accountability.

The Richness of RAGs

To experience fully the rich mix that is Blacka Moor one must attend a RAG meeting.

I had meant to post about the Reserve Advisory Group meeting (RAG) of 10th February but the bikers got in the way a bit (as I suppose they were meant to).

If you’re an SWT person RAG meetings are not what you look forward to. Does it show? Well yes it does. There’s always the worry that direct scrutiny might reveal something that should not be revealed – such as the managers not really knowing why something is being done or even what has been done and what will be done next; or on the other hand why certain things have not been done when the message had been explicit that they would be done. The people who know about these failings are those who really know the place and walk there regularly and they can be a thorn in the side because they actually see what goes on. So some effort must be applied to avoiding embarrassment.

So it’s helpful to have a diversion or a smokescreen that will enable time to be passed with a minimum of damage or embarrassment. One way of bringing this about is to arrange for a sizeable group to attend who’ve never been before, making continuity difficult or impossible and sometimes necessitating laborious explanations and distractions. The previous meeting in October was conspicuous for the sudden appearance of horse riders in a group who had never before attended over 9 years. This month it was six mountain bikers. Some might have thought they just happened to turn up but it is more complex. SWT had gone out of their way to invite them though this was not made clear at the meeting (I found a copy of a message sent to a biker encouraging attendance and saying that an agenda item put forward by me had been changed in favour of the bikers!). The same had obviously happened with the riders who arrived in force at the previous meeting. These sudden incursions can be defended by pointing out the rich diversity of users who must be accommodated. This is part of the way that SWT manages its meetings. Local regular users have a general interest in the site and lobby for no single interest but the wellbeing of the place as a whole can be marginalised by the sudden appearance of numbers of single interest people. Meanwhile the commitment that SWT made to advertise these ‘public’ meetings at entrances to the site, where the said regular general interest users would see them, is quietly dropped. Again no notices were posted for this meeting. If you advertise too much you don’t know who might come. When, years ago, notices were first put up on the moor encouraging public to attend they were large and clear. Over the years the commitment drifted - they sometimes didn’t appear and then did so but in much smaller print. Now they just don’t happen. So the attendance at meetings gets more and more managed and closer to being by invitation while claiming to be open to the public. I’m sure for example that when SWT reports to a council meeting it will restate its claim that the public are encouraged to attend. I have already suggested a 'by invitation' structure which also encourages public attendance something along the lines of Local Access Forums. I think that would be more transparent and honest. What we have now gives carte blanche to the managers to play games with a consultation – something that has been commented on before. Instead of a rich mix this is a turgid mess.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


At some point on Monday the woolly mowers rebelled against the imposed regime in the snow covered pasturage, stormed the fence and went off looking for something better. I admire their spirit. They have a genuine grievance.

The evidence for the escapade was there to see all around the eastern gate. Cloven footprints had trampled a good area. The gate had been opened to get them back in and another temporary repair had been made near the corner where it had always been likely that this would happen.

It must have been fun getting them back. I imagine it was done by a SWT work party out on the moor to make mischief with chain saws. One or two trees may be grateful for the distraction.

Now which of you lot is going to lead the next attempt?

A Reminder

A word or two directed to OTMers/MTBers. Before wasting time and effort commenting on posts written in 2008 please read carefully what I have written, especially in the last week or so. And if you sign in as 'anonymous' and if you absolutely have to be utterly boring please be boring in one or two sentences, maximum.

Monday, 22 February 2010


Once this route was an old lane and the official way to Sheffield. That is before the A625 Hathersage Road was built. It is now a pleasant enough walk lined with trees, beech being prominent amid the birch. There were many footprints here this morning, as if a party of walkers had managed to get out later yesterday after the disruption of the morning's snowfall. Further out onto Blacka the only prints were those of fox and deer. Let's hope the trees in the picture are not being targeted by the chain saw wielders currently threatening several parts of Blacka.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Saturday Afternoon

Early sun through trees is one of Blacka's great sights. The morning is our preferred time at weekends. There's no problem getting into the car park then (though Friday night's contraceptives are a negative feature).

Recently weekend afternoons have been quite busy for Blacka if it's a fine day. For once this afternoon we saw no mountain bikes - and I disassociate myself from my companion's remarks to the effect that there must be a God after all.

Horse riders were being naughty and riding off the bridleway.
This follows the insistence of the grazier on driving his truck up the hillside. The riders started by following his route. Sooner or later there will be bikes, then motor bikes, then quad bikes and whatever else on wheels that can be manufactured and creatively marketed. Will SWT care? Only if they are made to.

The kestrel on the power line will probably persuade the RSPB to lobby against having them removed. In any struggle with them we will need God on our side!


More cold nights means more pressure on wildlife. The tough winter conditions in Scotland this year are apparently affecting the deer population.

One hopes that those on Blacka are not suffering. The most vulnerable will be those born last summer and perhaps the stags that expended so much energy during the rut in autumn when very little eating seems to be done.

Those stags seen this morning certainly had their heads down foraging. Thick untidy coats grown during the cold can make it harder to see how well they are coping.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Tracks and Tracery

Harsh but beautiful, this winter has given us some fine mornings but not many as memorable as this.

First distraction was the badger prints taking a long route around the woods. Then the fox, both keeping to the footpath for much of the time. Then the fox's prints veered off to go under the fence.

Was it experience that had taught him to go through here where the lethal bottom strand of barbed wire stops for the stile?

Better than yesterday, when mist made the fresh snow more strange and chilling in another way. Today the sun as it came through a couple of clouds blessed the snow covered branches with a hint of gilding. Another reward for an early start.

Cathedral-like tracery was everywhere in the woods, stunningly illuminated but with no artificial device.

Other tracks told us that a larger mammal, red deer, was close by. Would it be the hinds of a few days ago?

This time they were stags. The sense of rightness of the features in a landscape is of course a subjective thing and you can believe something is so natural and inevitable and be astounded that another person can think differently. But I've yet to speak to anyone on Blacka that does not feel this way when it's presented to them as an issue. When deer are running so gracefully as they do in this landscape how could anyone want to change anything?

Only perhaps a soulless bureaucracy that pronounces it to be 'in unfavouarble condition.'

The gratitude of small birds is touching after a cruel night as they welcome the few scraps of grated cheddar.

But the robin got it into his head that there was a store of cheese in my camera case and seemed quite annoyed to be wrong.

Blacka's heroes that make a morning like this happen are the trees. Each one plays its part and shame on those who would want to attack them under the pretext of 'management'

Thursday, 18 February 2010


In view of all the indignant comments from MTBers and OTMs on the subject of the impact of bikes on paths and tracks today's picture is interesting. Fresh snow was on the ground and no walkers had been through the pasture land before us. Some 6 or so bikes had been through judging from the imprints on the ground. There is a point on the wide track where there is a dip and it is slightly muddy for a foot or two. The main route is marked on the picture with a blue line.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Back Yards

A few words in response to one of the MTB commenters. This fellow calls me a NIMBY, one of the more repeatable of the insults thrown at me by these polite OTMs. Now I’ve always believed that people should care for their immediate area and places they know well. In fact I would call it a duty. Should anyone plan to build an airport with its boundary fence at the top of my road why should I wait for people in Aberdeen or Bangkok to protest first? The problem with the worst nimby attitude is when people don’t want certain developments in their own area but are quite sanguine about them happening in somebody else’s back yard. Well should this happen my conscience is clear. I don’t travel by air and don’t support airports anywhere. So I’m an INBY (in nobody’s back yard) not a nimby in that respect. And I think I’m pretty consistent on other matters too though well short of the saintliness that some MTBers claim for themselves.

Anyway back to Blacka Moor. If I see things happening in the place I value particularly and which I know better than most I see it as a veritable duty upon me to comment. If the character of the place is worth keeping and that character is being changed so that some of the better features are being lost then I speak out and do so on my own blog – my blog incidentally is my own work and while I offer hospitality to those who comment, generally I do expect them to behave as I would in someone else’s house, i.e. not abuse the host. When people come along accusing me of being opinionated and worse after others have also thrown expletives at me then you might expect a short answer and maybe to get chucked out. I object to mass commenting from people who have been set up and just have not had the decency to read carefully what I’ve written.

Still in the Grip

The cold hangs on. Useful in some respects. It's easier to avoid muddy boots for one. Day after day with no need for wellingtons.
The other side is the ice itself always threatening to bring you down to its level.
An ice rink has formed on the public footpath across Blacka Hill. This was once a one foot wide path only slightly damp. Now it's either a flood or a skating opportunity.

A little sunlight would have cheered us up but there are still attractions. The bird gang around the feeding station get increasingly fond of us as the winter drags on.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Cut Down In Their Prime

I wonder if it's SWT's covert intention to gradually cut down all the mature trees growing on what used to be grouse moor? You certainly can't trust what they say. Several areas over the last 18 months have had the chain saw treatment. Two areas I asked questions about several years ago and was told there was no plan to cut trees just there. Now mature trees have been eliminated or rather left brutally plain to see with several feet of trunk projecting as if pressing home the lesson that all vegetation must obey the conservation agenda or else. I have requested a copy of SWT's Tree Felling Licence with conditions. Doubtless it will confirm SWT's carte blanche to lay waste what they want. My impression though is that the whole tree cutting operation is random, as if there's nothing else to do so "Let's go and cut some trees down" .
Much conservation in this country is farming. Here it's farming for heather - creating bits of grouse moor. Not very good farming either. Something's growing in the wrong place, well get rid of it. It must be a depressing job for anyone who thought they went into it to promote natural landscapes and vegetation.

The latest part of Blacka to suffer is Lenny Hill. Not long ago I was told that trees would not be cut here. Too late to bring that up now. I might have expected the copse of thin tightly packed birch to get thinning treatment.
But these were tall mature birches with a special role in the landscape. From the hill above the copse now looks isolated and faintly ridiculous like a shaving brush.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Private Party

It's more rare to see hinds. They are more timid and more private, making off early when you betray your presence. Before then they've usually been suspicious and anxious for a time something telling them to be on guard. This morning there were five of them, the biggest party of hinds alone I've seen. As usual they were part hidden by trees and only the slowness of our progress allowed us to see them. One of them must be the calf born last year.

Wonderful to see that it's survived the harsh weather and interesting to see the thickness of its coat. Later the sun came up and they moved carefully into a more open area.

Bridleway Erosion

If you are to believe some messages on MTB boards (it's just possible some people do) then there's absolutely no case for thinking bikes cause erosion. In fact such is the intensity of the self delusion that the commenters in question have persuaded themselves that boots worn by walkers are the real problem; that and horses as well. Anyone but themselves in fact. It's only fair to say that other MTBers are far from persuaded by the fundamentalists and express more caution, being the kind that ride with their eyes open. There is even a website where you can download supposed academic research papers to back up the arguments supporting the fundamentalists' view. I guess that the point of these is not what they actually say but that they exist at all. Most will not read them but the fact that they know about them bolsters their opinion. The ones I've read are actually ambivalent about the causes and anyway relate to certain specific areas with conditions that aren't replicated everywhere; and they are also American.

You're better advised to rely on the evidence of your own eyes in places you really know. And this morning's example is the Strawberry Lee bridleway heading down towards Totley. This is the White Canons ancient route from the small agricultural settlement in the pasture land leading towards Beauchief Abbey. You can see the original stony track on the left. What's happened is that in recent years traffic has increased, largely bikes and many are going off to the side to avoid the stones, preferring where the ride is more comfortable. The tracks tell it all. And the result is that the bridleway gets closer and closer to looking like a trunk road before the surface is put down. Now before the hysterical and indignant comments come in, I'm not saying that every MTBer goes off to the side; some do ride over the stones and probably prefer it - one did this morning, but he knew I was watching! Nor am I saying that no walker or horse rider ever goes off to the side helping to widen the path. Once a route is there all sorts of traffic uses the full width. But the motivation for the change is MTBing. It's going downhill and it's just where you can start to gather a bit of speed by going on the smoother surface. The question is how long will it stay smooth and what's the impact on the character of a route which is important historically? The other question is what is the limit on a human's capacity for self- delusion?

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Another Cock-Up

Anyone looking for examples of good efficient land management should probably avoid Blacka. For 2 years or so FoBM have been asking for the 'temporary' hurdles to be moved from their prominent position in the pasture land visible for miles around. SWT and their farmer ally finally got round to moving them to a less conspicuous place yesterday afternoon. Somehow in the process the fence got broken. We had warned that it was in a poor state and a breakout was imminent. Looking at the scene this morning it's likely that the following happened, conjecture but possible:

1 The livestock gathered in numbers around the fence as the men were trying to assemble the structure. Pressure caused a collapse.
2 Cows excitedly set off on a tour of the hillside on the other side.
3 The fence was pulled back to make a gap wide enough for them to get back on their own.
4 One of the cows had previously calved (I thought all those 'in the club' had been taken off?)
5 Somehow the calf was gathered up and put in the new enclosure so it couldn't get out - in the hope that the mother would be drawn back bringing the other cows back with it.

6 The men went off for the night and returned first thing this morning.
7 This morning the calf was on its own, the sheep were scattered each side of the fence and the cows were somewhere on the moor. Their footprints showed they had covered a lot of ground on several paths.

On the subject of the dead ram referred to in a previous post, apparently the farmer told SWT that it was the fault of dogs! This is pure nonsense and not the first example of denial and trying to avoid responsibility by pointing elsewhere.
I've come across this before when results of poor animal welfare and practice has been blamed on dogs. It's credible of course. Some dogs certainly worry sheep. But the scenario is often rather different. A sheep may die from causes arising from neglect. Dead animal meat gives off smells that are a powerful magnet to dogs who are natural scavengers. Someone seeing a dog standing over a dead animal may jump to conclusions. I've no doubt that some farmers have shot dogs in just those circumstances.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


New growth of grass at this time of year always catches the eye. It's a reminder that the crucial thing is light rather than warmth. There's time to put on a few more inches before the grazing starts. Unless the cattle are persuaded to go somewhere else as they did in 2008 when grasses were a feature. Something that Blacka used to be noted for.

The Acceptable and Unacceptable Faces Of......

Unfortunately for regular readers who are bored with the subject, there's a lot of unfinished commenting to deal with on the mountain bike issue. Doubly unfortunate because it may only confirm the MTBers in their self-absorption (pointed out by Mark).

Last night's RAG was, not surprisingly, attended by six bikers most of whom had never been before. This meant a disproportionate attendance out of a total of sixteen (I think). Of the others three were SWT people, three others SWT members one from DVS and two FoBM and another 'local resident'. I've raised this before and will again but that's a subject for another post.
The bikers were, I guess, keen to show they are responsible and law-abiding although for my taste and delicate constitution some of the interruptions were a bit loud. I also don't enjoy meetings when people don't speak 'through the chair' but conduct a kind of conversation directed at the last person to speak. The things that struck me most about the bikers were: first that they were there at all and in those numbers ( I've already mentioned a tendency to 'hunt in packs'); second that individually they were likeable enough - as a group I'm still making my mind up; third that they seem to want to promote the sport yet express (presumably with sincerity) disapproval of certain other MTBers who let the side down by going off bridleways.
It's the last of these that puzzles me most. At least two have a financial or professional interest in the sport as bike shop owner or 'bike officer' for a transport organisation. It's no secret that when your living or your job is dependent on something you have to market the product or accessories. And you can see some of the ways that MTBing is marketed on newstands and magazine websites. There's a high premium on excitement and gear and an ever changing range of products. I would say a lot is designed to appeal to young males who, common sense suggests, will often be just the sort who won't like being told where they can and can't ride. So no surprise that we get the problems we do. And when the Single Track movement campaigns for access for bikers to narrow paths that are, by their nature, not bridleways we begin to see that the message of responsibility these bikers seemed to want to put across is dubious. Does it really matter to them that paths are being cut up in the way they are? I suspect they don't give a damn. So why didn't they say what they really thought ? Well perhaps it was as well they didn't going on some of the comments today on their message board: there you see them for what they really are - with a few exceptions, scoring points according to the level of immaturity shown. Pity, and I had thought I could have liked some of them, but as with other adolescents they probably wouldn't want to be approved of by old *****s like me.
So where does that leave us? I had started by believing that there could be an accommodation. But now I think they're only interested in listening to each other. A pity really because it makes MTBing all round bad news. I would like to be wrong on this but at the moment it looks depressing.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


The capacity of this blog to offer hospitality to comments, literate or otherwise, from inhabitants of mountain bike websites on the boring subject of litter has now reached saturation point. The degree of saintliness protested by those who have never once dropped so much as a toffee paper is beyond my powers to contest. Obviously all have undergone a radical conversion in this area of behaviour since my observations going back two years ago that have only now been discovered by those wanting to claim they are now clean, pure and doubtless chaste. And of course those containers of energy drinks associated with biking must have been illusory and I only imagined picking them up and taking them home for disposal. But I can't leave this subject before thanking people for some of the best laughs I've had for many days. The commenter who believes I blame all the litter in the UK on mountain bikers gets this month's joint prize alongside the one who read so carefully what I'd written that he believed I had blamed MTBers for a roll of paper that had wrapped itself round a tree after a gale. So that's it. From now on I delete all comments about litter and those from 'anonymous' first.

Memo: now the readership of the blog has changed make sure sentences are shorter, words have fewer syllables and there's no ambiguity (not a good start).

All is however a distraction from the main charge against those I suppose must be called 'Single Trackers'*. They wish to promote cycling on PRoWs. As far as I can see it's their raison d'etre. Frankly I'm not inclined to discuss this with anyone who is unable to be balanced. Biking on vulnerable soft paths does ruin the paths in several ways and those who claim otherwise are in denial. I'm sure there are some who will protest that they personally are so amazingly careful that their tyres hardly even touch the ground. But I'm serious. There's several kilometres of bridleway on Blacka alone that you're allowed to ride on. Leave the footpaths alone.

*..... or should that be One Track Minders - or OTMs?

Monday, 8 February 2010

Eye-Catching Beech

Beech is a feature of the woodland that stands out at this time of year because the young trees low down hold on to their bronzed leaves when there's a general shortage of colour. Without their presence it would be duller in the woods before spring flowers start to appear. They are specially prominent when snow is on the ground and bits of small snow powder were falling again this morning.

Let's hope that the wildlife trust tree hackers don't take exception to beech. They've been around elsewhere recently with their saws. Not long ago I made a request. If you absolutely must go round cutting trees there's one place you could take your chain saws where I might not complain so much: this is the area below the terrace path overlooking the top of Blacka Dyke. A couple of trees there and also a fallen older tree were obscuring the view of the water plunging, sometimes dramatically, down between the rocks to the stream below. They have kindly done this revealing the waterfall and making a recreational feature which visitors will enjoy. Yes, it's interference with nature, but it's in the interests of revealing an aspect of wildness. I would have preferred the timber to be removed and all signs of the operation as I had asked, giving an impression that this was not man's work. But one must be grateful.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Why So Touchy?

I seem to have touched a raw nerve in the mountain biking ‘community’. I’m puzzled that what I thought were mild and run-of-the-mill comments have attracted so much attention. If they over react to what I’ve said, how on earth would they respond to some other comments I’ve heard. I’m intrigued by this phenomenon. It illustrates the way certain groups gather together virtually via the internet to reinforce their beliefs and shut themselves off from a wider perspective. One of the results is a group defensiveness that’s invoked when members identify outsiders who dare to scrutinise what they do. Hackles rise and hunting is usually in packs. There are those on the ‘Single Track’ message board who do try to appear more reasonable than others but even some of them use dismissive terms like ‘pretentious tosh’ and as usual it’s the extreme ones who make most impact. Groups feel more cohesive when they identify a common threat and some go out trying to find one even when it hardly exists: A little collective paranoia can be good for the cause. But just a minute how many of me are there and how many of them? – suddenly hundreds of hits on this blog and a rash of ill mannered comments. Am I really such a threat or are they actually a bit unsure of the rightness of their cause? What an insecure lot.

I’m quite happy to be called an ‘old git’ or ‘a fart’ or ‘a prick’ by people who sign in as ‘anonymous’; that says a lot about the mindset of the people we’re dealing with. It’s tempting to play the same game - but I’d better not allow myself to get pulled into the slime.

I do, though, take exception to being told that I’m wrong when I’m accurately reporting what I’ve actually seen. Some examples of what some contributors have denied: Litter left by bikers: Am I really the only one who has watched as a biker takes a drink from a bottle and throws it over his shoulder? Or were my experiences the only times it’s ever happened? Why was it that the sudden appearance of bike tracks where they’ve never been before coincided with fresh drinks containers found at the side of very quiet paths when there’s never been litter before? Maybe the mountain bikers who chucked the beer cans were slow learning youngsters who hadn’t yet worked out that fizzy drinks aren’t suitable for bumpy rides, but other containers found were of the type specifically marketed to mountain bikers. When I took a holiday in a Scottish glen the week following a major mountain bike event why was it that there were scores of empty drinks containers lying over the wall over a long stretch of the road? Is that the result of an obsession of mine? Or do these people have such certainty that they actually know what I’ve seen cannot possibly be true? And what motivation might I have for making this up? I would dearly like to see more done to help cycling in cities and also more ‘quiet lanes’ in country areas where walkers and cyclists could feel safe. And I would be happy to keep my car to 20 mph to enable this. I’m sorry, but some of the contributors here remind me of the self appointed motorists’ groups who insist that speeding on our roads is not a problem. But perhaps some of them are also just that kind of motorist themselves? I’ll now run for cover before the flack starts up again.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Cold Bed

Plenty of prints in the fresh snow, so a good chance that we would see deer.

They were lying down where few people would see them, partially hidden under the trees, but able to see anyone approaching in the more open land to the north. The largest of them had chosen a bed a short distance away.

We were then treated to one of the great wildlife sights.

A flock of fifty or sixty geese in formation moved over noisily but with immense elegance towards the north west.

It's interesting that snow in itself lifts the visual appeal of places like this but often other things happen as well, some of them spectacular.