Tuesday, 31 January 2012


Perhaps it was just a distorted nightmare vision brought on by shuddering word associations: the Sheffield Moors Partnership's 'Masterplanning Process' creating Lebensraum for the master race. Would that master race turn out to be the woolly mowers or are they now so out of favour and being forcibly replaced by the bovine defecators? Or is it indeed the race of empire-building managers themselves?

Whatever, the less chilling prospect, but hardly endearing, is a series of dates for the Moors Partnership's 'workshop' meetings called
"Capturing your ideas for the future of the Sheffield Moors"

and the other information is

"The Masterplanning process for the Sheffield Moors Partnership if now entering Stage 2. This is to Gather Information From Stakeholders and Prepare a Draft Masterplan. So that local people can contribute to this process a number of workshops are being held during February and March, all will run from 18:45 – 21:00, details are as follows;

• Wednesday 22 February – Totley Rise Methodist Church, Grove Road, Sheffield, S17 4DJ
• Thursday 1 March – Quaker Meeting House, 10 St James Street, Sheffield, S1 2EW
• Tuesday 13 March – Hathersage Memorial Hall, Oddfellows Road, Hope Valley, S32 1DU
Draft workshop objectives – By the end of the workshops – you will have:
• Found out more about the Sheffield Moors Partnership and the proposed Master Plan for the area.
• Had an opportunity to share your views and ideas for the development of the draft Master Plan;
• Understood the stages planned running up to the production of the final Master Plan and further opportunities to contribute.

Each of the three workshops will follow the same format so please choose the date and location that is most convenient for you. Workshops are free to attend but please book in advance.*"

The above information comes from the South West Community Assembly's blog. Neither I nor FoBM have been sent this information and there is no indication with whom you should book. I have to assume the Community Assembly.
CORRECTION clicking on this link brings the following information
Call Lucy Chadburn T: 01433 670 368
or e-mail; peakdistrict@nationaltrust.org.uk

*Remember to prepare well. Only those with level 3 post-it-note writing skills qualify.

Sunday, 29 January 2012


A good scrap here. Predictable posturings from the grouse shooting lobby of course who need shaking up every so often. And if this is true of the Scottish moors what about Burbage and other sites closer to home?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Seasonal Gear

Impressive the headgear may be, but the warm scarf is more useful when winter does come.

Badgers would find meagre pickings and might wish they had stayed in bed.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

New Vistas

Previously avoided because of the intrusion of the hated power line a whole new area becomes available for the painter and photographer. This is as clear an argument as you could get for the supremacy of a natural feeling in the landscape.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


There's not much that's as boring as a grouse moor. So the twigs of small shrubby birch and rowan that push up through the heather are a welcome addition bringing some variety. Though it has to be said that those who claim (falsely)to speak for wildlife do not like these natural and wilder intrusions in the artificiality they promote. The small trees are there because for many years sheep have been off the moor and it's been allowed to go its own way.

And those twigs can take on a life of their own.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Next Job

Now we've got rid of the power lines the next target is to remove the barbed wire; unless, that is, the long term plan is to turn much of the local moorland into a prison camp theme- park for wildlife.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


Saturdays, from experience, are often when the weather breaks down after we’ve all been working indoors during the week aware of glorious sunshine outside. In recent months my impression is that it’s sometimes been the other way round.

A cold start with white frost, a great sunrise, little or no wind and a cloudless sky is what we need in January to fend off the seasonal depression tendency. Even some of the over-managed landscape is improved on days like this.

Friday, 13 January 2012


When Sheffield Wildlife Trust sprayed the bracken on this part of Blacka Moor in August last year they must have known that the spray they were using, Asulam, was about to be banned by the European Union; that ban came into force on January 1st. From what I’ve seen the result of bracken spraying is unattractive and should not be continued. Bracken, as I’ve written before, is a problem in areas where trees have been cut down and that have suffered over exploitation by humans in the past. Its spread is a sign that nature is regenerating. Eventually, if it is left, native trees will return and biodiversity will not be impaired. The photo above was taken this morning as was this one below of an area of bracken that has not been sprayed.

I can't think anyone would prefer the sprayed area. What on earth is a wildlife trust doing, preventing nature regenerating with poisonous chemicals?

I have only just seen this article in The Guardian from September. The comments below are particularly interesting, especially those from MarkNFisher and PondDragon. I quote the former’s contribution below.
More than one application of asulam is usually required. If it works, it just leaves a wasteland of thick decomposed bracken mulch that smothers any other vegetation regeneration. Like all herbicides, its use is the lazy route and it will kill many other ferns as well. Pretty much sums it up that it is both the conservation industry (spraying heathland) and the grouse shooting fraternity (spraying moorland) that favour its use. Spraying from a helicopter is a disgusting practice and more than a few walkers on moorland have been caught by it - including myself on the PUBLICLY OWNED Ilkley Moor. Like we were asked whether we wanted herbicide sprayed on our moor????
Bracken spread is a result of farming use of marginal land. The best solution for bracken infested areas is either to plant trees - or better still, take the grazing pressure off and watch the rowan spring up through the bracken after the seed has been pooped out from birds. That's what is happening on my local moor, now that the sheep don't graze. The life is returning to the landscape

Bracken is like every other aspect of wildlife in that it can be irritating at times. But it can also give immense pleasure at others. I'm not suggesting we either annihilate it or over-protect it. Simply allow nature to take its course.


The relentless rise in illicit mountain biking activity is set to cause significant and increasing damage to some of our favourite places in times to come and has already done so. There seems to be a total absence of responsible authority prepared to intervene to stop or limit the harm being caused. We pay more money each year to public servants who inside the system cannot act with the necessary speed or perhaps just don’t want to or don’t care enough. We saw this with off-road vehicles in the national park where an appalling level of erosion was caused over several years while a Ranger Service which should have been doing something about it was utterly stalled. Officers around here think they can put an A4 notice up on a tree and congratulate themselves that they’ve addressed the problem. Until recently they resisted even doing that.What I wonder is the point of the public employing people who simply do not do the job the public requires. The concessionary bridleway is meant to be closed at this time of year but the bikers ignore the notice resulting in disgustingly slippery footpaths which the bikers presumably enjoy. They then move onto more informal footpaths that they have never had a right to be on at all eroding and rutting them. All the signs are that the people involved are obsessives who do not see the possibility that there could be an alternative view to theirs and that they will never be moved from their conviction that they are pursuing a valid cause. There is some kind of political motivation behind them.

Much of the concern in relation to mountain biking has been focused on illicit riding on footpaths. We know that mountain biking groups believe they should be able to use any route that walkers can use. They have this in their policies and have put in a recent petition to parliament to that effect.
I’ve always made it clear that bicycles are allowed on bridleways. They have been for more than 40 years. This does not mean that there can never be problems even on bridleways. On and around Blacka several bridleway sites are problematic and some are a disgrace; this blog has raised the issue before.
The bridleway going down towards Totley is what remains of the route used from the fourteenth century by the premonstratensian canons of Beauchief Abbey who kept animals up on the pasture land at Blacka. Use of this in recent times by mountain bikers and horse riders, but mainly the former, has led to significant widening of the old route. This has been raised several times over a number of years with Sheffield Wildlife Trust but to no avail. When we suggested action they said they would monitor the widening but their starting point was after the track had already and obviously been widened. They’ve now forgotten they said that action would be taken. The picture shows the widening with marked indications of the width as it was up to about 5 years ago. If it is permissible to ride your bike on a bridleway the public should expect that you keep to the bridleway and not extend it to several feet (or even yards) to the side.
Rob has mentioned that the bikers of Ride Sheffield are involving themselves in repairing the bridleway going down from Devils Elbow. This needs watching as some groups of bikers increasingly see this as their route and a downhill speeding one as well. SWT of course want the bikers to be on their side.
Another concern raised by Rob has been about the resurfacing of paths and tracks. Apparently tarmac is being used in Greno Woods, presumably this is ‘road planings’ taken from road surfaces where new tarmac is to be laid. If the current plan of the well paid managers is to do nothing to stop mountain biking until the condition of the routes becomes worse than unacceptable and then cover them with offensively inappropriate material then we’ve been right about them all along. They are worse than useless.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Fashion and Seasons

Practicality in clothing revolves around weather and temperature. Thick clothes for cold spells and so on. Deer put on lots of extra layers at the first signs of cold weather. Lately they've not been needed. So the scruffy appearance could mean a moult. Alternatively it could mean simple wear and tear from movement through wilder parts of the woods. It's unlikely to be a human-inspired fad such as that for designer stubble.

But of course it could be the result of too much of this.

Why restrict the pleasures of a good scrap to the rutting season?

Saturday, 7 January 2012


While it's true that many people walk over Blacka and rarely if ever see the deer, those who look carefully get to know where the likely places are. They are large animals and it's not like the process of tracking down small mammals, reptiles, or even badgers. Nevertheless deer prefer to stay hidden if they can which is why they like the woodland and the woodland edge.

The penetrating winds this morning suggested they would be in the more sheltered parts and it was not long before tracks were spotted.

Children could easily become expert stalkers at this level. Some of us remember spending happy hours being 'red indians' complete with home-made and pretty harmless bows and arrows.

They looked like the same three stags that were out in the open yesterday when the air was calm. How much more like the wild woods they are when live wild animals stare out at you through the branches. However many times you see this it is always a thrill because it's something we have mostly lost during all the years that wildness has been systematically attacked and all but eradicated from our lives. We have been the poorer for it.

Friday, 6 January 2012

In Due Course

Sheffield Moors Partnership claims to exist to ensure a unified approach across the whole of the moorland to the west of Sheffield. It is supposed to be doing this through a plan - a 'Master Plan', no less. One of the reasons for scepticism about this is that the Eastern Moors Partnership, a core member of SMP has gone ahead with its own plans irrespective and only months before the supposed Master Plan is produced. So what will happen I wonder: will the SMP's Master Plan be carefully crafted to ensure it fits in with the EMP's already written plan? For those of us who've observed the conservation industry at work nothing could surprise us. What's truly amazing though is the lack of embarrassment at the the exposure of their phony claims.
The consultation on the EMP plans closed in October. Final plans will follow, we are told, "in due course". Sheffield Moors Partnership consultation starts in the next few weeks. Friends of Blacka Moor's response to the EMP consultation, sent in October, can be read here.


With no cows and the power line all but gone Blacka Moor has a cleaner feel to it. It's as if all those reminders of flawed human interventions are distanced and all is more natural. We don't need to go far to see evidence that those things are still around but for the moment, this morning's fresher colder air coincided with plentiful evidence of what there is to gain from a less managed landscape.

The last thing we want is more of this:

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Something Achieved

It was to be expected that SWT would want to publicise the removal of the power lines. I don’t wish to be mean to them, they are quite capable of being their own worst enemies. And in this case they are careful not to claim all credit for the project. But I can’t help remembering the RAG meeting when I first raised the idea of looking into the undergrounding. It was met with indifference by SWT managers and their friends until one newly appointed and senior SWT employee, seeing my disappointment and embarrassed by the attitude of the others, agreed to do what she could to raise it with CPRE. From there, between us, and chiefly with the assistance of CPRE, who were excellent once they realised the effect this would have, things went very well. Interestingly the helpful SWT person did not stay long. I always wondered why. (Two others left at about the same time).

The Gazette is an odd sort of paper. Sometimes it comes sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a distributed free offshoot of The Star and it claims to be edited to reflect local parts of Sheffield. Ours is supposed to be for Dore, Totley, Ecclesall and Nether Edge, but often I can find no news in it relevant to those districts and a few items from other parts far distant. Most of it is ads of course.

It’s always nice to see a working horse though I wonder why it was being used only where they couldn’t get a vehicle onto the moor. I would have preferred the other way round - that they only use vehicles when the horse could not cope.

To me anyway the result is as good as I could have wished. The test is when you look at the space where the power lines have been. It is inconceivable that anyone would allow this to happen again.

Monday, 2 January 2012

First Song

A mild January 1st and a mistle thrush was singing in the new year. Several big stags were in the woods.

Today was colder and brighter with a fine sunrise and a dusting of snow but the mistle was still at it. Several prints to be seen includinga a fox.

Is it Natural? Naturally.

What do we mean by the word natural in the context of landscape and countryside and in particular the landscape of the moors around Sheffield? Those who want to lead us by the nose are fond of trying to use words in their own fashion and define them as suits their purpose. We’ve had plenty of evidence of this already from Sheffield Moors Partnership for instance in their use of words like ‘wild’ and even ‘wilderness’.
If you re-define words and phrases to suit your own agenda that helps to put you in control and get to decide what happens. So you tell people you’re in favour of Burbage being a ‘wild’ place and people think “ cor, yes I’ll agree to that – sounds great”. It then turns out – several years later – that you didn’t mean what they thought you meant: you actually want to control it using typical farming methods. Meanwhile most people have forgotten what you said originally and the focus has moved on. This is standard managerialist practice. Keep changing the rules and terms and move the goalposts around. Above all, move on.
Natural is another of these words. I complain that what they’ve done is unnatural – e.g. in cutting down trees and making sheep and cattle eat all the wild flowers and the response is, in effect: “Natural! Nowhere’s natural in this country.” This is the kind of sloganised response that is encouraged by Sheffield Wildlife Trust and their fellow conservation managers who don’t want intelligent discussion. Delving further into the dogma that delivers this kind of talk you soon come across the well-rehearsed statement that “all countryside is the product of human activity.” These statements should then lead to a dialogue, examining whether they are true and what are their implications, true or false. Instead they go the way of all dogma and sloganising, as intended: who shouts loudest and most often prevails.