Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Power Play

The latest news is the much awaited beginning of the power line removal. Several YEDL vehicles this morning were positioning themselves as the sun came round the woods. Will this be a good opportunity for spectators? We are taking bets on how long this will take. They can't afford to go slowly on the cable removal for reasons reported before. But the poles could take longer. The other question is about the extent of the damage to the ground. Discussions on this have taken place with Natural England. I suspect that less consideration may have been given to the appearance of the site during and following the removal than to any perceived impacts on biodiversity. That despite the fact that the whole reason for us asking for the exercise was to enhance the appearance. Still, we shall see and very soon.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Managing for Money

In yesterday’s Guardian once more the issue of farm subsidies is raised, making the point I’ve often made about wildlife charities and their reliance on handouts from these subsidies that keep them tied in to managing our landscapes as boring farm land.
Among the top blaggers are some voluntary bodies. The RSPB gets £4.8m, the National Trust £8m, the various wildlife trusts a total of £8.5m. I don't have a problem with these bodies receiving public money. I do have a problem with their receipt of public money through a channel as undemocratic and unaccountable as this. I have an even bigger problem with their use of money with these strings attached. For the past year, while researching my book about rewilding, I've been puzzling over why these bodies fetishise degraded farmland ecosystems and are so reluctant to allow their estates to revert to nature. Now it seems obvious. To receive these subsidies, you must farm the land.
Let’s hope this may at last be getting more of a national airing. If that happens it had better come before the Sheffield Moors Partnership gets such a stranglehold on all our local moorland that it will be another 20 years before we are able to discuss the issues again.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Fair Comment...?

Now on first sight I thought this interesting attachment to one of the many Sheffield Wildlife Trust papers pinned to gates around the moor meant something like “No Cowpats Here, Thank You”. Doubtless the person responsible thought it amusing. It is. But following a little research I think that there could be more to it:

When buying men’s socks over the internet you may come across this.

An identical symbol is labelled on these socks as ‘No Bullsh*t’. I imagine this line is very popular with those who are obliged to attend meetings at which they may have to listen to some material that's hard to take. At a suitable point the wearer nudges his neighbour and lifts his trouser leg hoping the reaction will be a suppressed guffaw and a welcome distraction from the tedium of the meeting.

So to return to the appearance of the symbol on Blacka Moor it is a comment not just on the defecation of cattle but also on the content of the notice itself. Neat.

Bullsh*t is an interesting concept and from here on please take the asterisk as read. And I think it’s fair to say that much of the spurious self justification used by the local conservation industry could be described as bullshit.
The Professor of Philosophy at Princeton, Harry G Frankfurt once wrote an essay ‘On Bullshit’ which is printed in a collection published by Cambridge University Press called ‘The Importance of What We Care About’. The whole book is worth reading but this essay has become famous. Chambers Dictionary describes bullshit as a verb meaning simply ‘to talk nonsense often with the intention of deceiving.’

But Frankfurt goes further than this, spending some time in his essay unpicking the various meanings of lies, humbug and bullshit. While lies and bullshit are similar in seeking to mislead they have important differences. A key one, according to Frankfurt, is in the relationship with the truth. As he says, the bullshitter
‘does not reject the authority of the truth as the liar does and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.’
So the liar at least acknowledges truth to the extent that he tries to conceal it. The bullshitter misleads because he doesn’t give a damn about the truth being intent only on communicating what suits him; he is self-serving.

More quotes from the essay:

“Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.”
“For the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony.”
“It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter however all these bets are off. He is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all as those of the honest man and the liar are, except in so far as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

How much of what we read from the local conservation people can be called bullshit is arguable. Certainly much of it can, but a proportion of the nonsense may just be excusable because they or some of them actually believe it. Which, in its way, is equally depressing.

"The Importance Of What We Care About" by Harry Frankfurt. Cambridge University Press 1998.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Seeing them through the mist standing by choice in the middle of a very large patch of thick bracken, with head down most of the time, it makes sense to believe that there is more to bracken as a habitat for deer than simply a great place to hide the young calves in summer. Deer are often to be found just so. Cattle are not often seen in the large patches of bracken or heather. When cattle have gone through the tall shrubby growth it has been to get to water or to a patch of grass where the wildlife trust has cleared all other vegetation to make a grazing area specially for the cows. In order to do this the cattle will rarely plough through unless there’s already a discernable route and this, as often as not, is a pre-formed deer track. Sadly once this happens the evidence of the deer track is gone and with it a chance to see the pattern of deer behaviour as distinct from that of the cattle. The cows roam over the paths eating the grass to either side while deer are just as happy, happier even, in the natural spaces inside heather and bracken stands. This is puzzling. Why would a deer not prefer to walk on paths? It must be easier going and less trouble even for as athletic an animal. But the number of times that you find deer on paths is very few indeed and the sightings of prints on the paths is nowhere near as many as one would expect to see. You have to conclude that there is a deep seated resistance to spending time on ground that’s associated with people (and dogs?). Interestingly having turned away from the hinds I saw a stag just visible in the middle of a large area of heather. This was not a pretty morning.

Today was much colder and the cows were in tall heather, but there is an explanation: the night had been the first genuinely cold one and they had gathered below the wall that sheltered them from the south-west wind. They were using the heather to give further insulation. Perhaps they had placed themselves in this spot knowing that they would be in a position to see the first sight of the grazier come to remove them to more hospitable quarters? ***

Deer had come up with an even better idea and I was not at all surprised to see them on the well sheltered east facing slopes ready to greet the sunrise (about 7.40 am.). Again they were using bracken as both a feeding ground and shelter from the cold.

This leads once again to the question what do cows do and what do deer do? Do the cattle in fact perform the conservation tasks claimed for them? When deer are obviously having an effect on the land why are cattle needed at all, even if you accept the management agenda and desired outcomes (which of course I do not)? Apart from scuffing up paths and ruining stream banks, the cattle spend a great deal of time grazing on land that is already grassy, the edges of paths and land prepared by managers to create grazing areas for them. They certainly do not set out to search within large heather stands for young birch and other saplings. Nor do they do that in bracken. Any time spent in these areas is when passing through to larger grassy areas. I’m wondering what SWT’s evaluation will come up with? It’s hard not to be sceptical. Will there be an independent assessment of the grazing? Pretty unlikely.

*** Some may wonder why the cattle are still there when SWT's many A4 notices all round the access points indicate that they will be removed in October. I had the temerity to ask this question of SWT last week and was told that they would not be removed until a gate had been repaired and that could not happen before this week. So why..... (contd., wearily, at some later date).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Underground, Overground (3)

.....wombling free.

The dreary turd-infested grassland of the sheep pasture has one redeeming feature best seen in an extended mild autumn such as this year’s. It becomes home to various fungi including examples of waxcaps over which mycologists have been known to get excited. Not that they are all edible, though some are. The lengthy dry spell in early autumn was not so productive on the grassland but more recently fungi have been seen in abundance. The more colourful waxcaps themselves were better last year and it could be they prefer the wet weather to arrive earlier. In the woods fungi generally were doing well some weeks ago but now the damp and mild November days have brought a flush of fungi in both woods and grassland, not always the best examples and specimens but plenty of them. There are some waxcaps ...

...and a fine ring was found on the lower slopes. Horse mushrooms are not often found as late as this ...

... but some collected yesterday made for a fine breakfast. One yellow mould type fungus is plentiful.

I've seen this before and spent much time looking it up without success. It wraps itself around blades of grass; I imagine there's a Latin name that would be forgotten when the season comes round again next year.

But the most common of all fungi on this sheep dominated land are those that the keen fungi lovers care little about.

They are the less favoured dung mushrooms. They are everywhere as is their host the dung itself which adds nothing to the appeal of the site.

This of course raises the issue of management again. Apologists for conservation grazing will claim that you must have sheep grazing or you wouldn't have the mushrooms. I've questioned this before. Sheep destroy the other potential appeal of the land - they eat all the wild flowers before they get to bloom. See the pictures from last year. I fully accept that stopping all management for good would eventually lead to many changes including more trees and less short grass. It would also lead to many other attractions and benefits - not all of them easily predictable. There are other ways to keep the waxcaps than having continuous sheep grazing every month of the year and some of them would enable a more interesting and natural vegetation to develop which would have to be an improvement on what we have now. A little focused management in certain defined parts of the site done quickly at a chosen time of year - say early September - and preferably by hand and by the keen fungi enthusiasts themselves would not have the same devastating effect on the landscape produced by the present policy of default sheep crop-and-crap management. It also would have another benefit: it would lead to a more honest association between modern man and the man-made landscapes. If certain humans want to conserve those attractive aspects of artificial landscapes then they should show their enthusiasm directly using their own labour - not by handing responsibility over to a clumsy inefficient and unfocused farm subsidy bureaucracy that brings all sorts of negative impacts both on the land and generally on the national life.

An edition of BBC Radio 4’s Open Country programme this week revealed that some of the waxcaps were nowhere near as scarce as had been thought. Once it had been put about that the Ballerina waxcap was rare and endangered lots of people went out and found them happily growing. That says something about the biodiversity and ‘saving species’ agenda – one that usually results in calls for more management. The over use of fertilisers is, of course, one feature of management shown to harm these mushrooms. It was also interesting to learn that the nutrition in the soil is not necessarily the key factor for them and that may be an association with the roots of grass.

Underground, Overground (2)

.....wombling free.

The poor old mole gets a bad name for his impact on ornamental gardens. He even gives his name to certain treacherous villains including one in a recently released film.( I doubt it’s as good as the version with Alec Guiness. )

Moles share with fungi the fact that they live under the ground and yet proclaim their presence on the surface in a unique and identifiable way. It would be stretching things though to compare a molehill with a fruiting body such as a mushroom. The mole must be one of the commonest mammals on Blacka Moor where nobody can accuse it of being a pest; molehills appearing on the wasteland created by sheep are a welcome point of wildlife interest. But I wonder if any wildlife enthusiast has ever done a population survey. Or even whether there exists a standard technique for surveying or estimating mole populations.

Underground, Overground (1)

....wombling free

...At some time unannounced and not be announced the contractors will arrive to begin the task of dismantling and removing the power line. I’ve no detail about how this will be done. Obviously the cable will go first and the reason for keeping quiet about the operation is to prevent targeting by metal thieves: once it’s known that the power has been switched off and is going through the undergrounded route along Hathersage Road it will be on its way to the scrap yards. In common with countrywide trends Sheffield has experienced a big increase in metal thefts in recent times.

It’s likely that the removal will cause considerable disruption to the site if we're to go by experience of the contractors from the same source removing trees. Vehicles may disgorge armoured operators with heavy equipment helmeted and clad in high visibility wear. Will they take each whole pole out of the ground or saw it off at ground level? Are they incapable of working at a distance from their vehicles – a characteristic of contractors everywhere these days? There would be more than irony if in the interests of beautifying the landscape it was seen to be necessary to create devastation with heavy vehicles..

Monday, 14 November 2011

Friends, Bikers, Countryside.....

……………………(Lend me your, er, gears?....ouch!)

The quiet narrow paths of Blacka and similar local places are getting more attention from minority groups of mountain bikers who are not content with keeping to bridleways. Many of these paths are of soft peaty structure and the ruts caused by bikes eventually degrade them leading to progressive widening.

The result can be seen all over the area. The effect of biking is apparent at some points on bridleways where mountain biking is of course permitted. The spread of the problem to ordinary footpaths and public rights of way should be stopped. Mountain biking is growing and the numbers of renegade "I'm riding where I want to" characters is increasing in proportion. In time this will lead to more examples of the appalling mess we’ve seen on some bridleways such as the Devil's Elbow route.

There's no problem with those who keep to bridleways and ride within the bounds of the track as is this biker below.

On Blacka alone there are bridleway routes where biking is permitted amounting to more than 5 kilometres and within a very short distance and easily linked to there is more than double that. Unfortunately a minority have developed an attitude akin to warped ideology similar to that of the off-roading 4X4 drivers whose aim is to demonstrate they have an inalienable human right to go wherever they want (and take whatever machine they want with them!). As they see it the more they do it the more they establish their 'right' to do it. And it's true that it gets harder to deal with habitual activities than those that are occasional. Which is why things need to be dealt with early and nipped in the bud. In this case that’s not happening and there’s a reason.

The trouble here is that the land is under the control of Sheffield Wildlife Trust who have no interest whatsoever in doing anything to stop this and are quite relaxed about the impact on the paths and walkers. This is not news of course because readers of this blog will know that Sheffield Wildlife Trust, more an agency than anything else, is hard to shift from their position unless it’s shown to be in their own interest. The problem has been raised at RAG meetings for several years and nothing has been done, not even a single notice being put up to remind bikers where they can and cannot go. Two years ago Sheffield Wildlife Trust came under serious pressure to stop recreational downhillers who had started a route on the east side of Blacka. That needed a concerted effort by local people to get action and eventually something was done. Another similar route elsewhere remains and has not been stopped yet. These ‘downhill’ routes are of a different order to the problem on the meandering narrow paths. But the paths will eventually become so wide and unpleasant to walk on that downhill biking routes is all they’re fit for. That is when SWT will come up with some action which will amount to what we’ve seen with them elsewhere: they will take several years getting round to it even after it’s got to be intolerable and then they will look round for grants from any provider such as the Forestry Commission leading to the dumping of sandy gritstone on the paths. This will look unsightly.

The character of the paths as it has been for many generations will be gone for good and there will still be cycling on walkers routes.

One of the major reasons that SWT don’t like acting on this is because they identify themselves as the bikers’ friends. SWT need friends and supporters and don’t find them in Friends of Blacka Moor so set out to find them elsewhere. Doubtless they would have liked to be on good terms with local users of Blacka who were already in situ but having alienated many of them they have cast wider for support. You could say that promoting themselves and getting supporters and members is their core business. It matters a lot to them to be able to show they have support and this usually means it’s an essential if you want to apply for grants these days. After Icarus in 2006 this was one of their key targets – I remember telling them this during the consultation. “You should reconnect with the community” I said, trying to be helpful after they had alienated people; that was then built into the key recommendations that came out of the Icarus consultation. They took this message away and reinterpreted it not as listening to the community but as getting their message across – telling local people that they, SWT, know best. We should have predicted it but were hardly surprised. Another part of the strategy was to add to their supporters by getting them from elsewhere, preferably those who knew nothing of their performance to date. Hence they spent a lot of time approaching potential volunteers in various workplaces about the city encouraging these people who had never been to Blacka Moor to come along and ‘have fun’ cutting down bracken or birch on a jolly morning complete with hot drinks provided by their managers who have special responsibility for volunteering. A jolly social thing really and a hope that some at least would come again and become a regular supporter and act as a counter to play off against the determined opposition of those who knew what they had been doing before. They probably have organization targets for volunteers and at a recent RAG meeting were showing satisfaction, claiming large numbers. Questioned about this they admitted a lot of them were from the new intake at university who of course did not know what they were coming into.

One source of local support they targeted was the growing mountain bike community in Sheffield. This was helped by the fact that one or two of their staff were already keen bikers. It was an advantage that the bikers, like SWT themselves, incur quite a lot of opposition especially from walkers and walkers groups. The message was then that ‘We, SWT are a mountain biking friendly outfit. We want to see more mountain biking and we’ll help you.’ That’s OK of course if they’re encouraging responsible biking and they would say they are. But the distinctions are blurred and SWT are not the most subtle of people. They fear that any serious attempt to restrict even a small minority of bikers would impair their relations with bikers groups generally. Since acquiring Greno Woods in the north of Sheffield they have been wooing MTBers by developing a network of downhill biking routes there, not something one would think was the normal job of a wildlife trust but we live in strange times.

All in all there seems little likelihood that SWT will tackle the bikes on paths issue. My guess would be that the call for action at the last RAG meeting will lead to nothing being done before the next one (not until March). An artful dodge will then be set up by getting lots of MTBers to attend, a trick they have used before. That will then lead to the kind of semi-orchestrated confusion that managers use to justify doing nothing because "there are many different views".

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Desert Life

It's appropriate that Bedouin tents should appear across the desert of Totley Moor whose conservation managed monoculture is about as alien a prospect as you could find in a temperate country.

I imagine the land manager meddlers are harvesting seed and brash and baling it to aid a restoration project on some other unfortunate moor (Kinder?)where similar land management exploitation has contributed to erosion - just what's happening on Blacka now in fact.


In time even the unpopular bracken settles its account.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Beauty and the Squalor

The contrast is striking. They are out there on the natural land rarely going on the paths. Meanwhile the paths are wretchedly strewn with the waste of cattle, who always prefer the paths, leaving their mark first by weight and size of hooves eroding the soft peat, then putting the finishing touches in the way they know best.

What else can you expect from animals that have been specially bred to do just that? They are machines designed by man to convert free growing plants into huge piles of excrement and put on weight as a by-product in the form of meat for the mass market. The two go together. When you tuck into steak think for a bit of the other.

Then spare a bit more time to consider that this demonstrates the respect for land and nature that is promoted through DEFRA's and "Natural" England's approach to managing our countryside. Nowhere must be free from farm management, nowhere must be there for nature alone. And if anyone dares to disagree tempt them with farm subsidies whatever the cost to the EU budget (40% seeing as you asked) and whatever the cost to natural landscapes.

See below a picture of land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition.
Those who knew this land from the days before it started to attract subsidies find that very interesting.

Friday, 11 November 2011


"What can you say about people who walk on places like this in such depressing conditions?"

"Why bother? There is nothing whatever to see. It's wet under foot. The fog just gets thicker the further you go."

"Mind you, it's just what I've always said about that man. He's completely mad. You would have to be mad to go across the moor on a morning like this, supposedly for pleasure!!. Pitiable really. It must be some kind of obsession. As I say there's absolutely nothing to see."

".....absolutely nothing. You're better off in the office planning the Christmas shopping."

Not Natural and Not Transparent

Those agreeing with the argument that we should know how much of our money is going into farm subsidies should visit the website and read the piece here.
This campaign is linked to another cross European initiative EU which is a non-profit organisation aiming "to shed light on how European Union institutions and policies are working." They have written to the European Agriculture Commissioner - excerpt below....

"In line with the objectives of the European Transparency Initiative, we call on the Council and Commission to agree new regulations to require the publication of information on beneficiaries of CAP funds in a way that improves public oversight of public expenditure and does a better job at explaining who was paid what, and why. As well as contributing to greater public accountability and legitimacy, budget transparency is a powerful safeguard against waste, fraud and abuse of EU funds."

It's important to bear in mind that it's not just traditional big landowning farmers that are beneficiaries of these subsidies. Increasingly the conservation sector has realised that it too can get a share of the cake by going in for more and more farm style management with plenty of livestock. The temptation is there to get grants from anywhere they can bringing the inevitable question - is this option being taken for the good of the land or to help secure our jobs and pay the mortgage on our smart headquarters?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Unnatural Individuals

When they are not planning the laying waste of more natural aspects of landscape at Blacka Moor, Sheffield Wildlife Trust's managers are poring over claims forms and grant applications and engaging in self-promotional activities on their own behalf. Those claims forms are now the target of the latest FoI requests this blog is sending in. Back in September a request was sent in to the Rural Payments Agency hoping to establish just how much public money has gone into the management (and laying waste) of the natural vegetation here. This is proving an ongoing education. If you thought you knew what bureaucracy means, think again. The first response that came back was deficient in that it failed to give information about the grassy pasture land (unit 70 of the SSSI, the moor area being unit 69). It also indicated payments made for claims in 2010 when there were no cattle on the land which was then queried. A second response has now been received acknowledging errors in the first response but adding more confusion into what should be a simple task. An excerpt:

"Following a further search of our records we have identified that unit 70 was claimed by the Sheffield Wildlife Trust in 2010. Previous payment amounts disclosed also included payments made for this area. Unit 70 was also claimed by Sheffield City Council in 2010. However as this area of land is in a Severely Disadvantaged Area and the Council do not hold any Severely Disadvantaged Area entitlements, they did not receive any payment for it.

One other applicant claimed on this land in 2010 however they are considered to be a ‘natural individual’ i.e. their business status is either a sole trader or a partnership. As the information constitutes personal data relating to a third party, we have decided that the information should be withheld under regulations 12(3) and 13(1) (third party personal data) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

We consider that disclosure of this information is likely to breach the first data protection principle in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act, which relates to the fair and lawful processing of personal data, in two ways. Firstly, disclosure would not constitute fair’ processing of the personal data and, secondly, disclosure would not satisfy any of the conditions for data processing set out in Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act."

So why did Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Wildlife Trust and a certain 'natural individual' all claim for unit 70 in 2010? And why is this a Severely Disadvantaged Area? The obvious answer to the last question has to be that any land managed by clowns in the conservation industry is having a pretty hard time but I suspect that is not the determining factor.

But the big question is this: why should it be so difficult for a member of the public to be given accurate information showing just how much public money is being spent making a mess of public land? More Freedom of Information requests on the way.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Is the Blacka management problem down to the fact that some people in management jobs just don’t think the same way?

It was instructive to watch the BBC Tales from the National Parks documentary about the plucky villagers of Great Longstone and their struggle with the PDNPA. The park officers simply did not want to deal with the problem of off roaders on their local quiet lane.

At the start the programme looked as if it was to be about the clash between the off-roaders and the locals. But, it turned out, as the presenter said, to be something else. The off-roaders themselves, frankly, were just doing what they wanted because nobody was stopping them – like a child with his hand in the sweetie jar (albeit one who had been told by a calculating lawyer that mum and dad were in the wrong.)

The programme was really about the mental chaos within the PDNPA professionals who had got themselves utterly tangled up within a flawed cultural mindset and unable to see the thing in perspective. The main responsibility had to be with Chief Executive (yes another one,) Jim Dixon, for his leadership built on an unsound philosophy which led to his Rangers getting themselves into unnecessary difficulties. Consequently a message had been communicated to the off-roaders that they were in the right. I summarise Dixon’s attitude as it came across as this:

1 The National Park is for all.
2 Therefore everyone should be allowed to do his own thing more or less everywhere in the National Park.

Dixon’s attitude seemed to be that 2 followed from 1. He was shown at the end bemoaning the fact that the National Park was about access and here they were setting about restricting access. With thinking like that in a major decision maker what chance do we have of getting a rational approach, perhaps to anything? There can never be any blanket allowance that everybody can go down every peaceful lane doing absolutely what they want and the law as it stands should not be an excuse for failing to think that through. A law that’s stood for years can never be foolproof at least in times of considerable change. And a body like a National park is in a position to get laws and regulations changed. It was so painful seeing Dixon and his two managers puzzling this out that I almostfelt sorry for them - but not quite. The problem for them seems to be that they have adopted certain guiding principles which amount to a few words each, almost a slogan, and ‘the park is for all’ is one of them. Many people these days do think in slogans; it’s a symptom of growing up in a world of advertising. But slogans are no substitute for reflection based on observation, evidence and values.

As far as inclusiveness and everyone doing their own thing is concerned I personally enjoy making bonfires. I could get so far as saying I’m passionate about them, getting enormous satisfaction over building one,watching the flames and hearing the primitive crackling sounds as it flares up. I might call myself a bonfire lover and get a group of similar bonfire lovers together who obsessively each lit a fine smoky fire in their back gardens a couple of times a week. So why don’t I do that? I’ve got enough wood in the back garden to do so. The answer’s simple. It would cause annoyance to my neighbours and if everyone did it life where I live would become intolerable. So I’ve exercised some self discipline and made it my business to develop many other interests, so many that there are not enough hours in the day. Hence I hardly miss my passion for bonfires and restrict my fire making just to the weekend nearest November 5th.
Why does this approach not get followed by other anti-social obsessives? If that’s an argument Jim Dixon doesn’t see, well we are in trouble.

All in all I’m now beginning to wonder if some of the problems we’ve had on Blacka are rooted in the same slogan-style ideology or dogma that may be endemic in publicly employed conservation workers and land managers in the PDNPA.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Orange Pick-Me-Up

Now GMT has returned, the gloom of some November afternoons can be depressing. But a walk though the beeches is a tonic. Even when skies are overcast the leaves appear to glow from within.


Time of sunrise is only relevant if the sun is actually seen to rise. These days it's around ten past seven and getting later by a couple of minutes each day. Heavy cloud makes it feel there's another hour or two to wait. On the more open parts of the moor it can seem gloomier than when you're among trees. But that can be the time of day when the herd of deer has ventured out to browse. Once our eyes get accustomed they're quite clear. But you wonder how well they themselves see. It's often scent rather than sight that sets them running off.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Vision: What You See and What You Don't

The emerging cartel calling itself Sheffield Moors Partnership, marshalled by eager officers of the local National Trust, wanted each of the officers attending early meetings to get agreement 'at director level' in their respective bureaucracies for the statement called the 2025 Vision. This is not, as might be assumed, the result of an awayday trip to Specsavers but a rather gushing collection of sentences designed to tell the outside world that the partners are just what the doctor ordered for Sheffield's outer countryside. The content should have appealed to the director concerned in Sheffield City Council whose agreement was entreated. His remit at the Town Hall is not just environment but also 'culture'. He will therefore have been interested to note the similarities between the language of the 2025 Vision and that of a second-rate estate agency.

As the following meeting of SMP was to be in October and presumably has already happened it was necessary to get that agreement and indeed I'm told it has now been granted and therefore some responsibility rests with the Director of Culture and Environment alongside the Cabinet Member for the same. I've asked if any reservations were expressed or amendments requested but that question was ducked when I received only a brief not very informative reply. (These annoying questions! Whose idea was all this transparency?)

Other documents such as the Terms of Reference and the the Draft Project Plan seem not to have been agreed or at least I've not been told that. Looks like another FoI request is called for.

Just to be clear, the default position is a presumption on management and thus on managers jobs. Prioritising nature in any serious way will never be an option with those presently involved who come with predetermined ideological baggage complete with spun and twisty justifications as seen in the Vision. Oh and cows of course.