Wednesday, 31 October 2012


FACEBOOK has a page for Sheffield Moors Partnership.

So I’ve reluctantly decided to allow myself to be dragged into the 21st Century and the dumbed-down world of social media and its jolly japes milieu of anodyne trivia designed for college chums - not knowing quite what I’m letting myself in for.

Little hope of getting any serious discussion of the issues or indeed any comments at all, especially as all the partners are in hiding, afraid to show their faces. And that’s why  Facebook is used by SMP and others who want to give an appearance of democracy and engaging with the public while delivering nothing of the kind.

The format of Facebook contrives to disperse and diffuse (therefore effectively defuses and emasculates) comments criticism and complaints across a wide canvas even in one screen making contributions from the public easier for the managers to deal with or ignore. It’s ideal for slippery management stratagems.  In this it’s completely different to a blog or a public meeting where at any one time the focus is totally on the one point being raised making it much harder for a manager to avoid. No wonder they like it. Its scattering effect gives them another managerial tool for avoiding debate and accountability.

Over a hundred people attended the initial meetings only to be told they were not part of a consultation just being given a chance to write some ideas on post-it-notes and then go home. Considering their age profile I doubt many of them are users of Facebook. So it can't be claimed that a Facebook page is part of a consultation.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Scheming Colours

The contrasts can be shocking. While gold and burnishings get the headlines it's the greens, where they still cling on, that startle most. One beech may have gone over completely to its luminous autumn character while nearby another beech is still vivid green.

It's similar with the ferns. Many on the woodland floor remain green over the fallen bronzed leaves. Bracken, though, is now at its most seductive, doing for autumn what heather does for August.

Alder catkins are another exotic wonder. Who would have said that powdery pink is a characteristic of the end of October? This and the ballerina waxcap make that claim.

Partner Ploys

None of the partners turned up to the ‘Roadshow’ at Blacka on Sunday. So again we couldn’t ask them questions. Absence must be good for your career.

Who are these partners anyway who are paid by the public but don’t have enough respect for the public to turn up? Let’s start with the Peak District National Park Bureaucracy Authority. The manager who is playing the part of PDNPA is Jane Chapman. So what do we know of her? I first heard her name some years ago when we were arguing with SWT about whether Blacka should become farmland and have barbed wire and cowpats visited upon us. Jane Chapman had never been to any RAG meetings nor tried to make contact with us in any way but felt authorised to send out a press release to the papers giving a bland statement that this grazing scheme would go ahead. We were so thrilled.

I’ve only met this lady once. My impression is she likes to think about "the economy". So I’m pretty sure she’s the one who got the word ‘working’ inserted at a late stage into SMP’s banner heading for the vision. “A Cherished and Working Landscape”.

At a short group session as part of the 21st April meeting it was evident she didn't like ideas that challenged her own. She chaired and scribed for a small group that I sat in on. She did a pretty rotten job, speaking very quietly so I couldn’t hear. She fixed it so the only topics that got discussed were those she felt safe with. She allowed two other ladies to ramble on, going over old ground interminably about safe subjects (signage and archaeology) leaving barely time for me to get a word in. I eventually got in a few comments about land management and the economy which were excluded from the summary notes she wrote and from the main document. They were obviously too radical a departure from her and SMP’s pre-formed agenda. Meanwhile the tame comments of the two ladies which must have been duplicated scores of times previously were faithfully recorded once again. Later on a grossly overblown document was uploaded onto SMP’s website about this rather insignificant and underpowered meeting. That document amazingly made it look much more than it actually was – inflated to look like a week-long conference in fact. With its multiple photos it’s one of the most blatantly fraudulent examples of corporate misinformation I’ve ever come across; goodness knows how many office hours it took to put it together. All was clearly planned by the partners and if they are not ashamed then there’s no hope for them.
They may never have come away from the shops without paying for goods but it would be a rash person who trusted them more than certain TV presenters.

Jane Chapman is Head of Environmental, Cultural Heritage and Recreation Strategy for the Peak District National Park. Not for the first time I'm calling for a cull of managers.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Grouse can occasionally be heard on the moors but no chickens. Maybe because the chickens, aka the Sheffield Moors Partners, have something better to do than turn up for consultation events on the moors. Perhaps they are just frightened that someone will ask them a question. Such a question as

How do you 'farm' a 'wilderness'?     or
How do you fix it that you ignore the comments and views that don't fit in with your pre-formed plans?

That means the whole consultation period will have gone with absolutely no chance to make them explain their Master Plan. It is in the interest of their careers to keep quiet and carry on, preferably well away from scrutiny.

Did we seriously expect anything different?

Double Speak

The final 'consultation event' for the Sheffield Moors Partnership’s Master Plan for designing all the country’s uplands is to be held today at Blacka Moor’s Hathersage Road car park. This is your last chance to tell the partners what you think. Forget that they tend not to turn up at these events because they don’t like answering questions. It will be inspiring of course consisting of a table and a banner and staffed by those who would dearly love to be elsewhere than the coldest and draughtiest part of Blacka.

The Master Plan is their Managers Charter created via their Ministry of Truth approach to propaganda. It is full of Orwellian nonsense that bamboozles the unguarded public into a state of despairing weariness. Freedom is Slavery and War is Peace are the origins of phrases that litter the document. Examples are ‘wild and open’ and best of all a ‘true sense of wilderness’ which they intend to manage via farming and fencing! Some people hear this and accept it!

Anyone daft enough to swallow this double talk deserves the kind of third rate unnatural landscape that we already have on Burbage Moor and many other parts of the moors. Because they will certainly not be getting more of what made Blacka into the most attractive and romantic of the local moors. And Blacka itself is not safe in the hands of these  unimaginative bureaucrats and their dessicated 'visions'.

Once they get their Master Plan in place the Master Race of 'career before care' managers will have another excuse for ignoring the wishes of local people - that is those local people who have not been indoctrinated with the 'land must be managed' dogma.

So it's up to you. Remember 'Ignorance is Strength'.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Ashes to Ashes?

We could be looking at a large scale wiping out of our ash trees following on from  the calamity that befell the elm. Blacka Moor does not have large numbers of ash but there are some fine examples down near Shorts Lane. What is so puzzling is why the authorities and their advisers are so slow to act on such threats. Banning the import of ash from abroad could have happened a couple of years ago. But the government's doctrinaire reluctance to put any restriction on any kind of business decision could now mean that it's all too late. Contributing to this reluctance may be the supine nature of the conservation industry charities who sometimes appear as if their eyes are only on the ball of grants and subsidies that keep their jobs in place. An interesting comment from the article in today's newspaper.

The Woodland/Wildlife trusts and Natural England have all suffered the exact same fate as most of the Charity Industry as it should rightly be called now. Those that cared were replaced by those that careered. When positions like these are filled by people who value their job more than they value what their job should involve,little politics and big Politics will castrate even the most powerful organisations. There was a time when even rather stately organisations like these would openly criticise Government policy and mobilise their members for a fight. Sadly not any more. 

Rather apt that line : those that cared were replaced by those that careered. Blacka Moor's regulars will easily recognise what is meant by that.


Over the hill and away. He's quite a large animal but it's hard to imagine him getting in close combat when you hear the Baron's impressive roars. Each morning the atmosphere is charged with hormones as he strolls from side to side warning off any nearby stags. You wonder if gets any rest. It's said that they can lose a lot of weight during the rutting season. He snatches a few bites while the hinds are continually eating. It's a stressful life for the male.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Anybody There?

Just another typical October morning.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Where Are They Hiding?

Has Anyone Seen the Partners?


This could be your chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime competition.
Friends of Blacka Moor is offering a truly wonderful prize to the first person who shows evidence of having got an answer to a question from one of the Partners of Sheffield Moors Partnership on the subject of their draft Master Plan.

Despite assurances previously given that the launching of the draft Master Plan would signal the beginning of a proper consultation, disturbing claims are being made that the SMP ‘Partners’ have gone to ground in order to avoid answering questions on the document. 

Can you find them? And can you get them to answer questions? Be the first and get the reward! A bottle of M&S wine awaits the first successful response. 

(Terms and Conditions apply) 

So far there have been no independently confirmed sightings of partners at any of the so-called ‘events’ or indeed anywhere else. At the car park events Rita and her assistant, on temporary contracts, have been charmingly holding the fort in draughty locations. However those planning to attend any of these car park events may have to take pot luck as to whether they are actually taking place after having made the effort to get there. Even then don't expect to see the decision makers. 

But then, after all, life’s a lottery, is it not, and it’s everyone for himself when public grants and subsidies are to be fought over. Meanwhile it is being denied that the partners have holed up in an underground bunker somewhere on the Eastern Moors and the best bet, so it is said, is that they are sitting comfortably either at home or in heated offices hoping nobody asks awkward questions. And there is no shortage of them.

Now, in the public interest, Friends of Blacka Moor is offering a reward which can be claimed by anyone who spots one of the partners at a publicised consultation event. A bottle of M&S wine goes to the first person able to show proof that a partner from PDNPA, NT, SCC, SWT, NE, has been seen answering questions about the plan. There is an extra premium (more expensive wine!!!) if the partner turns out to be from Natural England. There is also the possibility of a discretionary bonus of  a whole crate of wine (assuming funds at FoBM allow) if the partner is shown to be at director level.

To qualify for the reward you need to show that among the questions the partner has answered is the following one:

What are the full details of public money in the form of grants and subsidies being received by each partner for management on its sites and what is the best estimate of how much will come from further grants and subsidies once the partnership is in place? Answers please on a year by year basis.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Just Lucky

Blacka Moor lovers who get up early are lucky. Many days do not quite produce the feast of natural beauty that we saw today but when it comes it is worth the struggle to get out of bed.

Cloud early meant that the magic woods had a slightly threatening look, an effect added to by the distant roars of The Baron coming over the moor.

The group could just be made out on the slope, the other side of the bog. Frequently his head came up and another fearful challenge penetrated the calm.

A rival stag was the cause of this demonstration  He has been hovering around for several days but, large as he is, he's no match for the dominance of The Baron.

Another younger stag was a bit further off. His rudimentary antlers mean he's no serious contender.

The clouds parted a bit allowing the sun to reveal the elegance of the hinds and their young.

Looking back as we left, the scene on the hilltop showed us why this place is marked out for natural beauty not that cursed 'working landscape' spuriously labelled 'cherished'. Which reminds me that another reason we are lucky just now is that there are no farm animals around. Would that this could be permanent. Working landscape indeed.

Friday, 19 October 2012

"Too, too" pretty

Not easy to dance in walking boots and outdoor clobber so it's welcome to see  reminders of those who do. Darcey Bussel puts in one of her infrequent appearances on Blacka. It's been ideal conditions for waxcaps and other fungi this autumn so not so surprising to see this 'too, too' pretty example. Rather lucky in one respect. The grazier's vehicle only just missed it - his tyres went about a foot away. But then we all have to remember that it's a working landscape and everything is secondary to the importance of conservation grazing, even what they claim to conserve (!)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Question Sidestepped

The question was put at the South West Community Assembly and then at the first Moor Views Post It Note gathering at Totley:

What is the best estimate Sheffield Moors Partners can make of the income they will get from Agri Environment Grants and CAP subsidies and other public grants?

We were told that this information would be made public at the time of the publication of the draft Master Plan. No sign of it, though looking back at the report of the question in the Moors Views document, I now see that a figure has been given of £276,000.

What is best estimate of how much  money (will be) coming in via HLS, CAP etc.?

The total value of the annual payments that will be directly received by the organisations within the Sheffield Moors Partnership(excluding Natural England) in the 2012-13 financial year is £276,000. A range of other grants are also received directly by a number of the farming tenants within the Sheffield Moors.

This is for all partners and covers just the present year. It does not indicate what each partner gets but obviously includes SCC, PDNPA, RSPB, SWT, NT. It also does not include separate grants for certain works and does not give an indication of how the amounts will increase with the partnership's working together which was one of the main points of the question. There are special grants on top of increased HLS funding from DEFRA for landscape wide projects and also from HLF.

So we're not getting much of a picture and that, I'm sure is the intention. We after all are only the public and only those who pay the money that gets to keep these managers in their jobs. Why should we be told? None of the discussions behind this policy ever gets into the public domain. They go on all right. They carefully tell each other that they should only give out a minimum of information (and then only when they can't avoid it). It becomes obvious sometimes . Like the time that it gets into the minutes of a meeting that they should all remember the Freedom of Information legislation. And the careful judgement that certain things are 'only discussed informally' or on the telephone and then not recorded when previously they would be on paper or electronically saved on email. Managers thrive on secrecy. It's not 'good practice' of course but who are the enforcers?

Cherished Controlling and Culling Landscape

The SMP managers want a "Cherished and Working Landscape", or so they say.

Managers are there to crush the delight in the happy accident, the free spirit, the serendipitous. They want to control everything and kill off the pleasure we get from discovery and replace that joy with their own artificial enthusiasm for the artificial.
They want to kill the thing they claim to love so as to replace it with something they’ve created or recreated to their own pattern. They then go out and claim that there’s something new and wonderful they’ve manufactured. This sums up the attitude of the conservation managers.

The message is: Wild red deer must not be allowed to stay wild. They must either be culled/killed or harnessed to the plans of the managing class, reprogrammed to fit their purpose. Their appeal to the visitors who see them is exactly that they are free from a management agenda. But to the managers that will not do. Wild animals coming to the land of their own free will is a threat to the top down instincts of managers like those in the Sheffield Moors Partnership.

It’s been evident in their whole approach from their tentative uneasy acceptance of the deer when they first appeared, from their virtually ignoring them as if they wished they would go away, their organising a shooting party to rid themselves of them, their failure to acknowledge them in their literature, for some time concentrating on promoting their imported cattle instead. It’s been written on their very faces, until finally they had to accept that the public regarded the wild deer with delight. It’s been amusing beyond measure to watch them. Now they want to manage them and squeeze out as much of the pleasure we get from them as they can.

Quote from the Master Plan that has been concocted by this Master Race:


Appropriate grazing to achieve conservation objectives
Extensive grazing including appropriate livestock and the resident red deer herd is the primary land management tool on the Sheffield Moors.  

Notice that word ‘herd’. It’s a stage in the control process. Just saying it has an impact. It immediately makes us think of controlled herds of farm livestock which is what the managers want.

Next look at this quote from 


Develop an overall deer management policy for the Sheffield Moors and adopt by 2015

Think about this. It means controlling and culling. It's playing to the paranoia about wild animals that has been fostered by the farming industry many of whom see all wild animals as vermin. But what the managers want to have is something akin to the deer in large estates which are regularly controlled. The free roaming animals that decide for themselves don't fit in with the world of management planning and office based tasks where they feel at home.

Underlying this blog is the belief that we need in our landscape places that are free from managers and the curse of managerialism. One function of these posts is to exercise a kind of Managerwatch in one place. The managers invade and wreck the charm and beauty of places that would get along well without them. They are corrosive of the natural integrity of places because it is in their nature to intervene and stamp their own will on them. Managers are a class apart driven by needs of their own quite distinct from the place or the organisation they find themselves in.

Now they are out to manage the remaining free–spirits in the natural world. All in the interests of a " Cherished (!!) working landscape" and plenty of grant money to keep their office roles ticking over.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Bent on Manipulation

We always knew that the SMP "Master Plan" consultation would be an exercise in manipulation so it's disappointing, but hardly surprising, that this turns out to be the case. Evidence for this is to be seen in the summarizing of comments - views from the public amassed at the Post-It-Note evenings - carefully filtered to show what the managers want to be seen - in the Master Plan draft.

You should read the full document (Moor Views Combined Workshop Summary Report) recording comments by accessing it from this page. (The relevant part of that document is on the subject of 'Sustainable Land Management' pages 24 - 29.)
The draft Master Plan gives its own account of those Post-It-Note views and summarizes the public’s views under a heading referring to ‘Key Issues’. That’s reproduced here.
But what happened to all the comments received asking for a more natural landscape with less management? There were plenty of these but are they reflected in the managers' summary which claims to summarise the comments that came in ? The answer is 'No'.

It’s really time that we established beyond doubt that the official job title of these managers should be ‘manipulators’.

On the subject of 'Sustainable Land Management' from the 'Moor Views Combined Workshop Summary Report', there had been 141 Post-It-Note comments, most of them about individual details and quite a few wrongly included in this section because they are about access issues or archaeology and not strictly on land management. Some were about specific wildlife interest, e.g. deer or adders. But there were two groups of comments, the two largest, coming separately from each of the three 'Post-It-Note' meetings along with others sent in afterwards that were definitely about land management and which can be identified as having a particular angle.

Having gone through the 141 comments I've counted a group of 21 which are clearly coming from the 'traditional' farming 'we must manage the land' lobby. Not at all surprising given the way the farmers and managers organize and lobby for their own vested interest.

Typical comments from this group are:

“The old style management of the moorlands should be kept. Farmers and gamekeepers are the best conservationists”,

“Active management of heather through burning (rotational) and cutting to preserve area and increase biodiversity mosaic”

“The SMP should consider ways in which it can support the farming community and the valuable contribution they make to land management in the area”

It may be said that these comments are reflected in the following statement in the Key Issues part of the draft plan:

"There is a need to reconnect the historic farming system links between in-bye grassland and moorland."

But on the other hand there are another 26 comments that can be broadly categorized as coming from the opposite perspective: i.e. the land should be more natural and allowed to go its own way, less top down management etc.

Typical comments along these lines are:

“More natural land where nature and wildlife go their own way”

“Let the vegetation grow if it wants to – less burning and grazing”

“Have the courage to escape from the comfort zone of more farming and make the land really special – a large area free from command and control. Be free. The only way to be distinctive”

These comments and the ideas behind them are simply not referred to in the ‘Key Issues’ in the Master Plan draft. So why have they been swept aside?  An argument was put forward that it was essential for more debate and discussion and partly because of the difference of view and the need for getting closer to consensus.

One commenter is quoted in the Moor Views document who  might have seen little to be gained from such debate. But I have to agree with his other sentiments.

As I came to this process very late in the day, I have not had the time I would have liked before the deadline for comments to go into the depth that I would prefer in formulating my comments. However, I have read through the documents on your website and I have to say that I cannot see a convincing case for creating another layer of bureaucracy, nor for a “master plan”. This seems to be another excuse for top-down management to impose uniformity across a very large area, with a minimum of accountability. It is astonishing to imply that the existing public authorities and charities who hold the land on behalf of the public cannot collaborate when necessary, without the formal establishment of a new over-arching body. I have also ploughed through the numerous comments which have been collected. In many cases comments are diametrically opposed and often appear to be the product of people pursuing their own particular agendas and there can be no hope of reconciliation between them. My own position is that, unless there is a pressing need for intervention, Nature should be allowed to take its course. If that means the return of vegetation, including trees, to places where it grew in the past, even millennia ago, so be it. Nor should policy and management methods be determined by the facility to obtain public money in the form of grants and without regard to the desires and needs of the local population. As I don’t see the need for a master plan, you will not be surprised that I don’t see the need for deadlines. They are just a stratagem for pressurizing people into acceptance of your proposals without giving them too much thought.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Give Me Courage

"The following related key issues emerged from the community and other stakeholder engagement undertaken to date:
The Sheffield Moors are often perceived as a ‘wild’ landscape. "

(from the draft of the SMP Master Plan.)

NB - these people consider themselves to be "professionals".

Saturday, 13 October 2012


Today eyes were on the sky.
After a new moon we had a half sun.

Then the free-flying commuter traffic started, always impressive.

One or two disembarked early.


We look out for these each year and they come in the same fairly small part of the enclosure. There are other waxcaps but these are the special ones.

I have seen a Ballerina near here; not, so far, this year. Others are common and will be found on many bits of unimproved grassland, even on my own lawn. One of these is the yellow Meadow Waxcap. Another waxcap is the Blackening Waxcap. This could be the final phase of one though there is another that also turns very black.

These pretty fungi go some slight way to compensating us for the utter dreariness of the appearance of this livestock-chewed-over grass during all of the year. Those who claim that grazing is necessary to produce the fungi are indulging in our now commonly recognized scam of conservation grazing justification. The sheep crap does nothing for the fungi which is reliant on roots of the plant life, mainly grass - a mycorrhizal association. Another conservation misconception. As for short grass being necessary rather than long, well how short does it need to be and for what period of time? The red waxcaps are mainly in one small area that could easily be cut by hand a month or so before their appearance in October by anyone worried that they might not be easily seen.

Now we know the way the conservation industry works, hand in glove with farming and grouse moor owners we are wary of listening to people who tell us that biodiversity is dependent on a system of farm style management - as if it was not industrial farming practices that caused the decline of so many species in the last century.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

How to Bellow

Stags bellow and sometimes bark. There are proper ways of doing things of course and the true stylist aims to impress having practised the technique many times. As with many skills there is a preparation stage, then the wind-up or coiling  before release of the full delivery and the follow through and recovery stage. Not sure why but Fred Trueman comes to mind.

But the most impressive of all despite being seen in poor grey light very early is the 'fearful symmetry' of a head on view.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Baronial Rights

No encroaching on our baronial privileges was what the barons demanded from the King at Runnymede.

The monarchy no longer poses the threat to Blacka’s Baron that it may have done when Royal Forests existed. But ‘no encroaching’ may be his message to Natural England who wish to claim sovereignty via an interfering HLS scheme. No consultation with him, nor with his hinds nor with the rest of us it seems.

Let’s hope when the mistrusted Wildlife Trust and Unnatural England arrive the Baron is in a bad mood and they get their come-uppance.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Decibels, please!

No chance of a quiet Sunday morning with the Baron in this mood. Some of his bellows were of a quality and volume that would have gained him a full house at Covent Garden. But with the extra ingredients of being earth-born and untutored. Other stags were wandering round but he had chosen his spot well, on a mound where the hinds were grazing in the copse. One of the less experienced young stags made a brief move forwards but was seen off more by volume than brawn.

 The Baron moved from one side to the other looking for a chance to prove himself. 

The only other stag who might have made a sporting challenge was wisely biding his time further off.

One of the hinds on the edge of the group looked particularly elegant. After a while she was joined by a young calf. This picture of wild deer suckling was the first I’ve been able to get.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Bottoms Up

What a turn of speed. What a desire to be off. What a leap and a kick! They are not usually away as timid and quick as this. And why no stag with them? The clue is the shape of the white on the rump. They thrill with their spectacular jumping over  the tall leggy shrubs. Well worth getting up early.

Colour Change

In odd corners the bracken insists on joining in the gold fest and can't wait for beech and birch to have their turn. But it is always an impatient plant.

Late Rising

The day gets out of bed later when there's a heavy bank of cloud in the East. Half light and three quarter light much improves the view.

Late Entry

The wild flower show was held in May. This cow parsley is a late entry, but still deserves a prize, for perseverance. It always fascinates to see spring flowers in autumn and I can't remember this one before


Russulas are commonly found but it's rare to find one that has not been found first by slugs.

Local mycologist Patrick Harding was enthusing ( when did he ever not?) about the local fungal features in last Saturday's Guardian.

And the magic mushroomers have been around now for a while.

Friday, 5 October 2012


Why would anyone not want to have trees in a landscape? I can understand that there's a value in open areas between trees but the idea that there should be a default treeless character kept that way by importing sapling-munching livestock is perverse. Take away trees and you take away character.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Gold and Rush

The morning rush hour on Blacka is the migration of birds to the west. Suddenly it's October and autumn's specialities just need a blend of mist and sun to create a spectacle. Those who are gold fanciers will be looking to the birch and the beech.

Later on bracken may also gild the hillsides but not yet. It knows its time and place if anything does and is content to allow the true trees to have their moment of glory.

It's the members of the crow family that are the most reliable commuters. There's a relaxed freedom in their flight that always catches the attention. Just now other smaller birds are busy making to the west. In recent days only geese have been seen going east.

More Cattle Grazing Controversy

The local Friends group at Loxley and Wadsley Common have been fighting Sheffield City Council’s plans to put cows on the common plus fencing. This is the plan of Sheffield’s Parks and Countryside’s Ranger Service which has fallen in behind the dreary conservation industry orthodoxy that would have every available bit of land designated as farmland. Money of course is at the root of it all and the FAQ’s on the P&C Ranger’s website denying this only serves to fuel the suspicion. We had this with SWT too. The argument is that manual control cannot work because it’s too expensive so farm animals need to be brought in. That designates as farmland and farmland automatically qualifies for grants on several levels. So the denial by P&C is disingenuous. SWT did a calculation in front of our faces years ago when people suggested manual management but it was based on a ridiculous over estimate of the costs of an onsite employee. This idea of making cows do the work has several implications. One of these is that there’s an understanding within the plan that you know exactly what you want the place to look like and an assumption that the cattle will do just what you want and no more. Experience on Blacka affirms that this is plain twaddle. Cattle do what they do in fields up and down the country: they graze and chew and excrete and leave land looking like rough boring grassland unfit for anything but for cattle to graze on. I learned that in the far away post war years when we tried to play cricket between the cow pats in the local field. You can experience it in a similar way today when you try to find a picnic spot on Thistle Hill.

The other key implication gives the lie to P&C’s FAQ

Is the motive to change the management purely financial?
No, the motive here is to manage the site for its ecological value and to sustain this for our future generations. Any grants from managing the land in this way would only be for further improvements to the site.

The word to watch here is ‘purely’. They get away with it because they don’t say ‘largely’ or ‘mostly’; they are well practiced in this kind of guile. In fact the idea of the grazing is that the cows do the work and that means you don’t pay people to do things. That brings in money in two ways. The first is the Single Farm Payment from Rural Payments Agency (RPA) which hands out the huge farm subsidy budgets from the EEC’s CAP. The second is from Higher Level Stewardship paid through Natural England. Worth over £100.000. It is further disingenuous to state that the grants would only be used for improvements. Experience at Blacka suggests that the bulk of this goes on managers costs and that much of the ‘improvement’ that is done is no improvement at all and often done in a very haphazard sort of way with little if any benefit to the site by people whose heart is not in what they are doing and show little understanding; not a lot different to the cows in fact.

Anyway at a public meeting last week at Wadsley Church there was a 2 to 1 majority against the plan to put cattle on the common and the Rangers and managers went off saying it’s councillors who’ll decide and they won’t be bound by the views of the people. I’ve suggested that councillors who may decide at the Northern Community Assembly on 17th October should be reminded that it will be Local Democracy Week and the will of the people should prevail.


There’s a lot of tosh spoken by representatives of the farming industry about farmers being custodians of countryside and guardians of the beauty of the landscape and that it’s their grazing of livestock that means we have lovely countryside. It just doesn’t bear looking into. That doesn’t stop it being repeated time and again on media programmes such as Countryfile and Farming Today. Such attractiveness as they might be referring to is down to the general shapes and patterns of the fields and in the smaller wilder patches of ungrazed land just over the fences and old walls where weeds and wild flowers grow because livestock can’t reach them and within the copses and water margins which are also out of reach of the cattle and the hedges which have minimal intervention. The grazed areas are uninteresting in themselves and mostly very boring indeed. This is mainly because the livestock have been intensively bred over many generations to eat colossal amounts of vegetation to create bulk and meat, leaving nothing worthwhile behind. As for custodians there are some pretty ugly farms around the countryside and everyone’s seen examples. Witness the plastic sheeting, the decaying farm machinery and the sad looking livestock daubed with identification dye.