Sunday, 30 September 2012


Looking through the minutes of the Sheffield Moors Partnership’s Steering Group (obtained through FoI because they are so slow at putting them online**) you can see that the focus in these gatherings of conservation officers has been on presentation and branding. All salesmen know that having a dodgy product means you have to work harder to sell it so they are all keen to get the right pictures and the words and phrases that they hope will resonate with the kind of people who they wish to impress. So, more important than responding to important issues, which get very little attention, they concentrate on how to present and put across their product, the PR of the process.

Members agreed that the masterplan was clear and concise but that the  document will needed more images and the front page needs the SMP logo and branding adding. These can be added before issue to the public.

Branding for the Masterplan

Many ideas were put forward during the meeting. These summarised here.
Video clips on the website.
Artwork to be included in the final document
 Images of what the various areas might look like by 2028.
 Use of SMP logo on front page of masterplan (to be referred to NT design team for advice).
 Needs to differ from Easterm moors and not be ‘NT’ branded.
Web-based consultation and feedback needed
Images required for the consultation period – to use on posters.
Competition for what the public wants the landscape to look like.
Use of QRT codes on poster, postcards etc to link to SMP website for further information.

This leads to a predictable surfeit of adjectivism in the draft Master Plan and there are times when you feel you’re reading the rejected early efforts of an anti-ageing cream commercial or perhaps a 1980s junk food ad.  The intro gives us ‘amazing’ and ‘spectacular’ and ‘very rich’ and ‘wild-flower rich’ and ‘incredibly rich’ and ‘huge passion’ and tells us that the moors “can provide a true sense of wilderness”, (a slight moderation of previous statements mentioning wilderness after criticism from here and elsewhere, using the word 'sense',  though why say ‘true’ when it's demonstrably ‘false’?)
I must look back again because I’ve not yet spotted the word ‘iconic’, normally obligatory in these documents.

Note the buzz words too in the aims of the partnership:

To establish a clear vision and strategic direction, steering delivery across the sites through integrated and holistic planning and thinking.

You might hope that the thinking would precede the planning but you can’t have everything. 
Some may be disappointed not to find  to something along the lines of “This Master Plan helps you to smell like the man every woman wants to meet”. Maybe in the final version; it’s going that way.

Since the draft plan indicates that they intend to 'manage' the wild animals on the site, maybe we'll find that they will all be branded too with multiple ear clips and bright dye splashes or even the letters SMP branded on their sides?

** after earlier FoI's SMP said they would automatically put the Steering group minutes up online on their website. It's just that they take several months to do it.

Master Planning and the Master Race

I have to say that I've tended to dismiss arguments by those of a certain political persuasion that we have a bloated public sector. But the list below of those attending an Officer Workshop for the Sheffield Moors Partnership Masterplanning Process is changing my mind. The word that comes up again and again is the word 'manager'. This is well beyond a joke. Nobody wants anyone to be kicked out of a job but why so many managers working on more and more paperwork when the stuff done on the ground is so often derisory in its incompetence. When we need nature to be allowed to go its own way why do we need all these office workers?

No wonder that the comments of the public are so easily ignored when you can get together a group of these people with a group identity.and a shared vested interest. Bring on the revolution.

Roy Taylor Peak District Area Manager RSPB

Annabelle Kennedy South Sheffield Greenway Manager Sheffield Wildlife Trust

Roy Mosley Head of Operations Sheffield Wildlife Trust

Nicky Rivers SY Biodiversity Co-ordinator Hosted by Sheffield Wildlife Trust

Danny Udall Site Manager Eastern Moors Partnership

Rachel Bennett Project Manager Eastern Moors Partnership

Anthony Willder Business Development Manager National Trust

Rachael Mora-Bannon Volunteers Programmes Manager National Trust

Simon Wright Countryside Manager National Trust

Nick Sellwood Projects & Grants Manager (PD) National Trust

Chris Millner Senior Warden (Longshaw) National Trust

Rita Whitcomb SMP Project Officer National Trust

Ted Talbot Woodlands Manager Sheffield City Council

John Gilpin Woodlands Officer Sheffield City Council

Jenny Gerrans Learning Officer National Trust

Mick Hanson PROW Team Leader Sheffield City Council

Sam Beaton CROW Officer Sheffield City Council

Julie Westfold Ecology Unit Sheffield City Council

Richard Harris Ecology Manager Sheffield City Council

Brian Armstrong Biodiversity Officer Sheffield City Council

Tom Wild Director South Yorkshire Forest Partnership

Jenny Campbell Agri-Env Adviser Natural England

Ginny Hinton Team Leader Natural England Midland Land Management

Matt Croney Director of Living Landscapes Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Lynne Tidmarsh Environment Officer Environment Agency

Alison Baker Sen Landscape Architect Environment Agency

Jane Chapman Head of Environment and Economy PDNPA

Judy Gould Recreation Team  PDNPA

Mike Rhodes Access Manager PDNPA

Sarah Whiteley Archaeology Team PDNPA

Rhodri Thomas Biodiversity Team PDNPA

Jon Humble Ancient Monuments Inspector English Heritage
So do these people have such a fund of wisdom, exercised from their office workspaces that they can constitute themselves as Masters of the Moors whose views are much more important than those people who walk on the land and see it regularly?

The other question here is: looking at the Sheffield Moors today and looking at this list of 32 managers, would the moors really be 32 times worse off if these people were re-deployed growing cabbages? Or 10 times, or actually worse at all? Or, I might suggest, could the appearnce start to improve? No doubt at all in the case of Blacka Moor.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Morning and Afternoon

The sight of a group of deer on the moor in the slanting light of an autumn morning is one of those things that pulls me back to Blacka again and again. Only when the conservation industry can promise something as memorable as this will they ever gain my support. Because this is something unplanned and unmanaged and that is what increases the pleasure many times over.

There were a dozen with one stag, the worthy Baron and a mix of hinds and young. When the hinds became twitchy at our presence the stag looked up and gave voice magnificently. 'Leave my property alone' could have been the message.

In the afternoon we might have expected them to be gone but they were still there, only for the hinds to dash off in some panic followed by the Baron. No sign now of his two comrades of a few days ago. On our way back we caught up with them again in the trees.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Roadshow Thrills for a Managers' Charter

While our Prime Minister is struggling with the Magna Carta we are presented with a Managers' Charter.

No secret that this blog holds Sheffield Moors Partnership master plan nonsense to be a conservation industry scam.

You can read the list of SMP's stop me and buy one roadshow events at which you can ‘stop by’ and say what a spiffing idea it is that all these  nice conservation people have found a way of funding more office work. It's now on their website. And the document itself, the 'draft' Master Plan is also there.

There’s one of these 'roadshows' at Blacka Moor (somewhere at Blacka Moor presumably the car park off Hathersage Road) this Saturday 29th.    We can hardly wait. Expect long queues.

SMP has now produced its Masterplan and  it may be that there’s someone eagerly awaiting it with a sense of keen anticipation. Prepare to be bored to distraction. This is as sterile a bureaucratic exercise in job preservation as anyone could expect to see.

What is there here to inspire coming generations in the potential for natural beauty in the landscape? Nothing but promise of a few more routes for mountain bikers. In other words compensate for the desiccated and dreary experience you're offering by encouraging visitors to speed through on wheels.

There should be no misunderstanding about the real purpose for this exercise. It is intended to distance the public from involvement in decision making about the land. And it is to secure the status quo. Nobody in the land management organisations wants to discuss the serious issues that were raised at the preliminary exercise of stating views on post-it notes. They are predictably swamping the issues raised by the public in a glossy brochure which repeats the industry dogma in every pre-formed newspeak available in the thesaurus of land management bureaucracy. Nowhere in this document can you see any of the concerns raised most passionately in early meetings. It is as if those concerns do not exist. As long as you litter your document with pictures of mountain bikers and heather in bloom the dimmer of our politicians will swallow it. A Managers' Charter.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Still Coming

There must be those who love the rain.

For myself I enjoy a good downpour if it's not accompanied by strong winds, if I'm reasonably sheltered among trees, and if I don't have to stay out in it for long. It can also be an occasional treat to watch the furious transformation of normally sedate streams.

A Silent Prayer...

.... or a Chief Whip's rant? Of the two, which reaction is deserved by the latest awful decision of these truly awful managers?  With Lincoln still in mind we should just pray that the Philistines at the gate go away and take their grant money with them. If this is another example of stewardship then why have stewards? Here we had a piece of enchantment on Blacka. They were told about it. They knew about it and they did not care one little bit because they  don't actually like the place. If anyone doubts this they should explain why it is that they never choose to come here of their own accord. To them coming here is a duty, part of their work which they prefer to leave behind at the end of the working day. Has anyone seen these 'managers' up here during a long holiday weekend?

The shrubbery here was part of the delightful experience of entering the woodland. It was a narrow darkened evergreen corridor and when you reached the end a wonderful woodland vision suddenly revealed itself before you: however many times you came it was always a surprise and a delight. But SWT's workforce would not even have noticed it. Such things do not matter to them. Not content with laying waste the area of evergreen just inside they have now destroyed the imaginative experience of entering through the narrow green corridor. They knew about it and they were told about it so cannot plead ignorance. But even if then what defence is ignorance? If you don't have that sort of imagination what are you doing hacking away at the evergreens?

I have never understood why they could not just leave this rhododendron alone and make a line actual or virtual marking the limit beyond which no more of it would be allowed to go. They prefer making a mess and then not having a clue what to do with the distorted cast off limbs of their butchery. Another bit of mystery gone. But those who like grouse moors and treeless heathland have nevr been keen on mystery.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

West Front

It's always worth looking for a good view of Lincoln Cathedral when there's a stormy sky overhead just spitting with rain and a long spread of orange light across the east. The west front of the cathedral is arguably its finest architectural feature. It's pretty good even from 44 miles away. More uplifting than the power stations anyway and warming the spirit even if it doesn't warm the toes. This view would have been there for anyone to see for over 600 years. In fact the only difference would have been that the building itself would have been even more prominent in the past. In 1548 the central tower's spire blew down.

Monday, 24 September 2012


Good to see that above the homes and gardens there's another world where different things go on.

Our robin at the wall was looking sad and a bit threadbare. Now he's more trim ...

.. even sprightly.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

In the Birch

The coldest night yet and a ground frost has helped bring stags down into sheltered parts where the sun warms first.

They spend a lot of time browsing around the young birch that spreads across the moor. Cows were supposed to do this job for the managers. That was the most touted reason for their presence along with allegedly dealing with bracken. Then we saw they did neither of these.

The managers then told us the cows were improving the structure of the vegetation (as well as producing processed grass in the form of cowpats). We believe all this of course just as we believe everything we are told. The cows meanwhile have been removed with no explanation. They went off the moor into the sheep enclosure at the beginning of August and now they've gone altogether, leaving the place to the deer, who are better looking.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Apologies to anyone who's frustrated with the changes in presentation in this blog. Fonts and size of text adjustments don't respond to my instructions at the moment so I've changed the template. I really don't want to spend any more time on it.

Fine Bromance

It's the norm for stags to show brotherly companionship outside the rut season. They move around in groups sometimes quite large and mostly get along fairly well together. These two are among the bigger contenders for the prize. Down below but not visible today are the hinds over whom we can expect some fighting in weeks to come. Today the stags are just friends.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Moors for the Children

Let’s have Moors for the Children. And let the moors be where the enjoyment of natural and wild beauty comes first, land which is exciting in itself rather than just places where certain grown-ups go to shoot birds (in season) or to ride mountain bikes or for climbing and bouldering.  If, in the future, we are to have a landscape that helps to get children away from all those screens then it needs to be very different indeed to heather covered slopes managed by bureaucrats to stop nature doing what nature wants.   If we had more wildness and more wild animals then you would be struggling to keep children away from the hills rather than having to persuade them to go for a walk with you (or bribe them with a new mountain bike).

Experiences will vary. People too. But many have found that children have to be kept amused on country walks and that the walk itself and the place where you're walking count for a lot. Climbing high hills with challenging rocky sections such as many in the Lakes could be guaranteed to keep active children interested. They had something to aim for and they got a sense of achievement afterwards. Other countryside expeditions were not so easy: they could compare to a long car journey when you had to have a series of games and observation activities to amuse and distract them.
But long stretches of tree-starved moors could be guaranteed to bring on boredom to a unique level of intensity. Farmed landscapes and monocrop over-managed under-featured land areas going on for ever with nothing much to look at but heather and sheep were anathema to my children and others I knew. Large areas of useless land like Burbage Moor or the those stretches of boring heather back from Brown Edge and Flask Edge towards Totley Moss are places where nature should have the freedom to be itself.  Even for adults many can only enjoy them when they're firing guns across them at some hapless birds or riding bikes at speed or driving 4WD vehicles.

Rocky areas like Higger Tor and parts of Stanage are better. The wooded sections below some of the edges can be fine places for exploring as the trees and large boulders add a dimension. But even then the problem of grazing can ruin the effect as I always feel it does at Longshaw. If you do see a few flowers and a range of ground vegetation you feel they've been accidentally left behind. Generally the prevailing effect is the usual one of 'crop and crap'. And management never fails to leave its stamp.

Blacka Moor was different in that it was wilder: an over managed shooting estate where nature had fought back and was prevailing over anti-nature philistinism. And that is just what appealed to children of my generation and of my children's and I believe all. There were trees to climb and hide behind, also bracken and tangled undergrowth through which streams bubbled. And even when you did not see a wild animal you thought you could at any time. The imagination was not short of nourishment. Every part contributed, the path fringes were natural and uncropped, the lavish growth of shrubs like bilberry and heather, bulging and leggy their character unconstrained, there were flowers and fruit sometimes in abundance at ground level, and the air smelt sweeter - unlike the urine flavoured aromas often experienced at Burbage and Stanage with sheep never far away.

But instead of Moors for the Kids we have Moors for the Future - which should have been named Moors for the Landowners and Managers. Moors for the Future is another of those groupings that seeks to entrench the status quo. Remember that anything to do with land ownership and management is potentially controversial and the owners and managers are very well aware of it; so they seek to institutionalise the perverse and the unjustifiable and thus to ward off any attempts to scrutinise. And anything that is supported by the Moorland and Shooting lobby should be very seriously and forensically scrutinised. But how do you do that? Just exactly how does one 'cross examine' M. of the F.? It is a partnership organisation but a partnership of various public bodies and other publicly funded interest groups ( plus a couple of water companies). The question that springs to mind is where is the accountability. And where is the management transparency? Each of the public bodies is, in theory at least, accountable and somewhat transparent but how does one access key information, accounts etc of this partnership a setup which I'm sure is absorbing lots of public money and should therefore be totally open about its funding and costs and its management. The trouble is that once these groups get together in this partnership way they effectively distance themselves from public involvement and hence public questionings. And they certainly know that. That is why this kind of arrangement is becoming more and more popular with managers - see Eastern Moors Partnership and Sheffield Moors Partnership. The partnerships are outside the public bodies which are themselves under a requirement to be accountable yet as a partnership accountability is obscure.  What may happen is that each body is persuaded to contribute funds, usually waved through after a brief presentation or report. Probably the only place where discussion takes place about whether the money should be spent one way or another is within the partnership management structure which is not transparent and not publicised. At least there's no sign of such information on their website which is mainly given over to telling us what a fine job they are doing. I cant find information about accounts, nor of committee or management meetings. An example of how funds get allocated is in this paper. That also gives some idea of what our councils have contributed.    

Saturday, 15 September 2012


Every morning the cows have been at the top of Thistle Hill standing out against the morning sky like a collection of misplaced monuments. Perhaps they have been sent there with a management mission to defecate over any edible mushrooms that might be appearing, and then to kick over the prettier waxcaps?

At least their absence from the moor has given the ground there a chance to recover. It’s also given some space for deer to start to return.

So why were the cattle moved? My guess may be wide of the mark and may be doing SWT an injustice but I would wager several CAP euros on it being accurate. If it is an injustice it's one that's eminently deserved; if they decline to tell people what's happening and even when they do we can't trust them and they show no commitment whatsoever to transparency and accountability, people will make their own judgements based on past experience. The real reason could have something to do with the disgusting mess the cows  were making near the gate. Why would SWT bother about that? They never have before. Well it's the end of the Countryside Stewardship 10 years and SWT want to have another even more lucrative scheme starting soon - Higher Level Stewardship. Nothing must stand in the way of that. After all SWT's main mission in life is to garner as much grant money as they can. And seeing as a complaint had been made to Natural England that cows on site had led to sundry examples of rank uglification on land intended for public recreation all paid for with funds distributed by NE,  the local NE officer was about to visit and take a look.  So what did SWT do? Insisted that the NE officer only visited with the SWT manager present and then made all sorts of excuses that the visit would only be convenient at such and such a time. And that visit was delayed several months until they had pulled the cows off for a fortnight, a warmer spell of drier weather had allowed the cow-puddled paths to recover, evidence of trampling of bog asphodel was faded and to cap it all the sun was shining and the heather in bloom. Don't we just love managers?

The reason that the cattle were taken off the moor and planted in the sheep enclosure remains unknown and anyone inquisitive enough to ask SWT is likely to get the usual response, i.e. what they want you to believe rather than what is accurate. You wonder why such a simple thing should be the cause of misinformation but that’s the way their minds work. They once answered a similar question three different ways to three different people. It’s a longstanding fear with them that the simple truth could damage them, probably because they are aware of misjudgements and cock-ups so by default launch into cover-up mode: it’s a way of trying to stay in control by giving nothing away and confusing the public in the hope they’ll go away in frustration. Their model is the South Yorkshire Police of 23 years ago.

Young and Old

Quite an age gap between these stags. The mature one could be the same one that was with the hinds earlier in the week, assuming he would move away having seemed to stake his claim. Or it could be a potential rival in which case he looks to be no pushover; unlike his companion, who is elegant but not big enough to offer a serious challenge.


Business hours at The Old Wall Caff may be limited but it remains popular and highly valued by its regular clientele.

Their loyalty is rewarded with preferential treatment including fast service and choice of breakfast delicacies.

There is  no shortage of customers in fact there's often a queue before opening time.

Occasional new guests do appear and are normally welcome, with only one or two exceptions and conditional on good behaviour.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

In Defence of Managers

Re-writing reports to reflect favourably on managers and the firm is a thing of the past century surely?  That sort of thing could not possibly happen nowadays. Could it? Cover-ups and the closing of ranks to agree a convenient version of the Truth because it serves vested interests could not possibly occur anywhere else in Sheffield (that is outside South Yorkshire Police or Sheffield City Council or South Yorkshire Ambulance Service or the South Yorkshire Coroner’s Court, or…) We are now in the 21st century, an era of transparency and integrity in public life, are we not?

Anyone making links between those quite distinct and distant events and the behaviour of today’s impeccably conscientious cohort of managers across the whole range of public bodies would be just wrong. To suggest so would be to declare oneself to be an obsessed and deluded fantasist and to imply an ongoing and well entrenched culture of misinformation and that would be nonsense. Of course it would. Those responsible for various services from public service organisations and council departments or charities linked to them or locally based offices of national quangos are, we know, utterly trustworthy and incapable of anything but the most impartial, unbiased and disinterested  judgements. Not for them the lack of transparency, the slanting of reports and minutes to reflect well on themselves, the fraudulent manipulation of consultations  the misinformation and the defamatory statements that are associated with the behaviours of 1989. That was after all another century. And we’re all too shrewd to believe that sort of thing could be still rife anywhere that managers get together in public services and it would be laughable to conclude there would be remotest chance of this kind of manipulation in the conservation industry.

Somebody has to stand up for managers and as can be seen from the blog statement at the side under 'Where What and Why', this blog has always been fair to managers. Where would we be without them? Or rather where would they be without people to manage? Because even land managers spend most of their time managing people.


I don’t think that any sight gladdens the heart and restores the spirit so much as unconstrained nature. More places, far more places, should be giving visitors this experience. The elements are basic and not extraordinary: eminently achievable, and I can see no reason why they should not be in combination an essential part of everyone’s life if not daily routine.  Their combination is less common but not rare, just needing the luck that comes from persistence and being prepared to deflect occasional disappointments into other less intense pleasures. When they come together we have a cocktail of delights. The seasonal changes from week to week recorded in trees and low shrubs and the colours created; the varying light qualities at different times of day but especially in mornings; land and vegetation breaking free from the shackles of exploitation and management; wild animals living out their own existence beyond human control; and the whole is a part of the world which is other to the preoccupations of human affairs and not dependent on them.

All of it needs looking at with an eye for simplicity and a wonder that such things can still be found despite the artificial distractions that obsess much of the world. But nothing can beat the surprise when the last element falls in place. 

This morning it was the heads above the bracken which could easily have been missed. Movement on the right betrayed the presence of the male. 

None wanted to be observed but all were wary. That’s as it should be. There are those not far away who would like to control them just as man himself is controlled.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Early Stirrings

Separate for the summer, they are now getting together again. This stag could be the father of the calves who are still showing clear markings.

But he's not here out of some sense of paternal duty. The group he's come into is ten hinds and calves. The stags will have been wandering the moors in groups and this one has taken an early decision to stake a claim doubtless having inside information about where they have been spending the summer.

It certainly confirms that summer such as it was is behind us. Male and female on the Alder don't have to go far for their seasonal activities. They are found on the same tree.

Our old robin now looks worn as if overcome with the stresses of bringing up a family in a difficult year. The prospect of winter cannot be welcome. And should an incomer from the continent challenge his place at the feeding station it's hard to see him putting up much of a fight.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Plans and the Public

Two things this week are giving the upland managers cause for concern. How easy it would be, they must think, if we didn't have the  public to deal with. They can be so annoying. Land management organisations feel this more than most. The public can be difficult. And you're expected to have consultations. After a while some of the public out there get to see behind the tricks of the trade - you know, how you can set up consultations to get the results close to those you want.

One of these consultations is about the Sheffield Moors Partnership. By now the draft Master Plan was supposed to be circulating and gathering lots of positive comments aided by guest appearances at various events where people would be sure to be in a receptive mood. Now the publication of the draft plan has been delayed until somewhere near the end of September. We can only speculate about the reasoning for this. Has it been less easy to get agreement from the partners? Is there a funding problem? I remember a pledge given to me that all projected figures for income to each organisation from farm subsidies and other grants would be made public when the draft plan is launched. I'm waiting with interest. I hope SWT are not invoking commercial sensitivity. I'm told that the draft will be about 30 pages. That has to be put alongside management plans for each organisation that can run to 2 or 3 times that, though the recent example with the EMP  was much less - more a summary with a 'technical' document somewhere unrevealed in the background that the public is probably not clever enough to be shown. SMP's consultation mechanisms will be very interesting to see.

Another plan being consulted on is that for Wadsley and Loxley Common where the managers want to install highland cattle. A letter in this weeks Sheffield Telegraph from a horse rider gives an indication of just how Sheffield's Parks and Countryside service sees the role of consultation. The approach is familiar to many of us. The writer expresses concerns that the meetings were unsatisfactory because different officers gave contradictory messages and because those at a specially organised meeting didn't really want to respond to all the questions. When have we heard this before? Local users are wondering how the cattle and people will interact. This is the usual problem of farmification. The managers are just holding their breath crossing their fingers and obeying orders to get on and do it while going through the motions and compiling anything they can put together that helps them claim they have the backing of enough of the public. Their main weapon of propaganda is the press release, usually repeated near-verbatim by the under resourced local newspapers. This is the story as it often is with the conservation land managers. Almost certainly the next move will be a replying letter in the Telegraph next week from somebody full of reassuring  noises and expressing support for the intervention. This will probably from the local 'quisling' group, one of whom once claimed that the management there was necessary because otherwise too many trees might grow where evil men would hide waiting to jump out and frighten respectable ladies.

They might even get someone from SWT claiming that highland cattle at Blacka Moor have created no problems; these groups have a habit of closing ranks. If so they will be skating round the incidents where young girls on ponies were prevented from getting through the newly installed gates by cows clustering the other side and then blocking the bridleways. Not to mention turning much of the place into a brownfield site, destroying displays of wild flowers and creating a broad quagmire where there was previously a nice narrow path.  It is a simple choice: do you want the place to be for people or do you want it to be a farm? Very simple really. Farms get lots of lovely farm subsidies that the managers want to get their hands on.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Patience Rewarded

The Indian Summer this week has brought all into focus. And we could not have predicted that the alien farm animals would be taken off to heighten our pleasure. What is really so special about this place? The first thing to say is that the wonderful colouring of the heather in these few weeks is even more enjoyable for those of us who see it close up daily throughout the year as a drably coloured interest-free zone. It's everything else that's self determined and unplanned that allows the purple to make a greater impact. Without them even its purpleness is unimpressive, like a temporary coat of paint for the queen's visit.

The trees spreading onto the heather are the real beauty of Blacka and the age of trees show that this is not a stable situation, it's part of a process towards a more wooded look. And those who exploit the fear of people that this uncontrolled succession might be disastrous are only defending their own role as managers, one that has already been discredited here many times.

If the managers had arrived here fifty years ago instead of just ten with  their farmland strategies, management plans and barbed wire  driven by agri-environment subsidies much of the beauty we see now would not be here. The trees that bring landscape perspective, seasonal character, songbirds, deer and much else to the moor would simply not have been allowed to grow and the farmland approach with many more livestock would by now have been ruthlessly established. And all would be so utterly dull. Just look at the ground on Whimble Holme Hill and on Burbage Moor to get an idea of this, both over-farmed and lacking in essential components of landscape appeal.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Feeding Party

When cattle have been on site they've spent a lot of time in the area around the first gate onto the moor south of Cowsick and alongside the sheep grazed enclosure. They’ve been off the moor now since the middle of August though nobody has said why. I have several theories, one of which is that the Natural England Officer was visiting the site two weeks later and might have seen the effects of the cows on the paths.( She would then have found it harder to dismiss my comments.)

Before the cows were brought on deer had been regular visitors to this part of the site. Afterwards they were rarely seen. The same happened last year. Is this causation, correlation or coincidence? Deer have tended to be seen more when cattle have been removed. Last autumn was a little different in that the hinds were occupying the eastern woods and slopes and stags from the west needed to get to them, so a party of one dominant stag and several hinds became established for a time during the rut also attracting other interested stags from time to time.

Now with the cows being off a party of hinds and their young have been happily enjoying some of the more wooded parts of Blacka Hill not very far from a favourite crop and crap zone for cattle. Would they be there if the cows were back? Maybe now they've established the habit. Anyway we may find out soon.

There's not much better to be seen than this. You might think that people working for conservation organisations would put a premium on scenes of natural wildlife such as this. But it forms absolutely no part of their agenda.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Managed Ugliness

Blacka's Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) has now come to an end,  Sheffield Wildlife Trust (SWT)badly want a nice easy transition into another lucrative scheme, that of Higher Level Stewardship (HLS).
The result of the CSS has been quite a lot of money coming the way of SWT and quite a lot of managed ugliness being visited upon Blacka Moor. HLS we have to assume will bring more of both. That is the way of it.
The stock in trade of the conservation industry is jargonized bamboozlement. If we need to see examples of this kind of stuff we might try reading an ecological assessment of the land under CSS, such as this one. By the time we've finished with this we will have had the wool pulled over our eyes. There really is nothing to be beat academics in the service of bureaucracy. Alternatively we might use our own eyes minus the wool, even that flying around the pasture land that seems unable to stick to the backs of the livestock these days.  Protecting their own backs is what conservation bureaucrats like to do. So we need to do our own assessments. See what you actually see is good practice. Very few people do so. NE officers are prone to see no evil and therefore no ugliness. If they did look critically it would cast doubts on their initial judgement. I must try a freedom of information request on the subject of how many CSS schemes have been deemed to have failed because of poor initial presciption. Prediction - nil. Follow up question: who did the evaluation?

So, we should create our own evaluation based on what has been ugly during the CSS and what has been beneficial. Already there's a problem of balance. But we must try.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Eyes Have It

... or the ayes, as Mr Speaker would say. They are noted for their deep and compelling eyes but the difference between hind and calf is interesting. The hind's can be penetrating, more so than a stag's with a touch of righteous indignation. The calf's, in common with eyes of young of many species, show innocence and vulnerability; though this one already has a touch of wariness in his gaze.

But we should all say 'Aye' to this. Scenes like this should be commonplace in this land and in miles of other public land around here. This is a natural scene with nothing contributed by agri environmenmt schemes. On Blacka the Countryside Stewardship Scheme has brought managed ugliness while the natural beauty here owes everything to lack of management. All we need is to use our eyes.

'Aye, Mr Speaker. I'll vote for that.

Saturday, 1 September 2012


After the sun goes down the eyes open wider. Facing east Blacka does not see the last minutes of the sun. No youngsters, the two hinds on the hill may be those that did not breed this year.