Thursday, 29 November 2012

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


It's one time when you can say that all you can hear is natural sound. Hardly tranquillity but refreshing nonetheless.

Monday, 26 November 2012


The weather remains something that can't be controlled. Fortunately. You don’t really know a place and understand its character if you only visit when the sun’s shining. Places have secrets that can be reserved for certain conditions.

Today the familiar paths were unfamiliar, transformed into streams and needing respect. Trees you thought you knew have a changed appearance. We expect that with snow but that’s only the most dramatic of makeovers. Mist and rain work their magic with less contrast and more subtlety.

Hence my contempt for the practice of the local conservation industry whose publicity is always accompanied by photos taken of their managed sites when heather is in full bloom. That is not just symbolic. It’s well known here that certain managers and officers are prone to emerge from their offices on a lovely day. I remember walking once with a senior manager of Sheffield’s Countryside service. It had never occurred that places might be left unmanaged. He pointed to some bramble and ferns at the side. People don’t want to walk there – he said, appalled. I pointed out that there was a path nearby so they didn’t have to. Not the only Council officer with such views. At the Icarus consultation six years ago I had one of those moments when two people fail to understand each other utterly. Sheffield’s Ecology officer was talking about developing this and enhancing that and creating habitats here and there. I said “You want to control everything”. “Yes I do” was the reply. As I said in a previous post once the management bug has bitten there’s really no stopping them. Maybe the wind and rain are next on the list.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A Question

Not  wishing to embarrass the managers of the Sheffield Moors Partnership, but if they are planning to use the red deer as a management tool to graze the moors - and I deplore the very idea - are they going to expect them also to negotiate the obstructions they have put in their way? And are these obstructions something that managers reserve for wild animals to have to deal with in the course of their employment but wouldn't dream of inflicting on humans ? I've not noticed managers in the building trade setting up obstacle courses for brickies and labourers to jump over to make their tasks more difficult, or heard of managers in the Royal Mail deliberately entreating householders to engage savage dogs to make the job of their postmen more challenging.

Farm livestock with similar behaviour patterns would expect to have their habits and needs catered for. Once you decide to utilise somebody or some animal as part of your scheme of management you take on certain responsibilities surely?
The pictures below are from April 2011. Perhaps the deer need a union or a good lawyer.

Adult deer usually but not invariably cope well with fences. Young deer calves may be a different thing. I've heard of very sad incidents.


Must remember to get out that woolly scarf put away at the end of last winter.

He looked surprised, not expecting to see other creatures out with a gale blowing. And those who stayed indoors avoided some of the wettest conditions even this year has brought.

Friday, 23 November 2012


As one of our regulars at the Wall Caff has already appeared on a post today, it's only fair to feature another of the most loyal customers.

The excuse for mentioning him is the news that the great tit is likely to be more vulnerable to outbreaks of avian pox than other birds. This is a disfiguring and unpleasant growth that can affect the eyes and beak of the birds. A good account of the likely impact of the disease can be found on the BBC's website.

How Could They Not ......?

Trying to get through to those who make the decisions can be so frustrating that it hurts. Words just run out. So pictures have to be tried. I recently spoke with Sheffield council officers who represent the biggest partner in the Moors Partnership. I tried. Somebody has to. It is that important. I had taken along the laptop and showed pictures illustrating the difference between land under management and the same or nearby land unmanaged. They seemed genuinely stunned at the scenes of unmanaged wildlife.

How could they not be entranced and moved as I had been when taking the pictures?

This morning, as the sun appeared early, was another when words are hard to find which describe the visual richness that unmanaged Blacka can give us. I hope God can forgive anyone who tries to diminish this with more management. I can't.

Sun on the bracken here in November is a delight that should bring sightseers from abroad. As I feasted on the colours the hind appeared.

Then along came her young calf. And you can still just make out the fading flecks on its side.

Father arrived just behind.


Reds and oranges everywhere. Sometimes we just have to thank God for bracken.

Pink only a month ago now the alder catkins are red.

And nearby our familiar 9 a.m. friend

Thursday, 22 November 2012

"Let's Manage Everything..."

................heard at a meeting of conservation officers?

Free now - soon to be managed*.

In fact it has a certain inevitability about it. Once the management bug is caught they don't know how to stop. They probably can't.
The process (along with the published justifications)  becomes inexorable, propelled by the growth of the organisations behind them.

So managing the vegetation becomes by extension, also managing the wildlife. There's no real argument about this. They talk about managing habitats and controlling vegetation. They encourage everyone in the land management sector to proclaim at every opportunity that our countryside has to be managed. And that inevitably means the wildlife. It starts on the ground with trees and shrubs, grasses (and tussocks!!) and 'invasive species'. Though you may notice that nobody mentions the most invasive species of all, mankind and its fastest growing representatives the managers themselves.  If ever a case could be made.

They already have systems put in place to manage certain animals judged by landowning interests to be undesirable. The methodology becomes cultural. Not just foxes but corvines and mustelids are regularly targeted as not wanted and therefore fair game for the trigger happy. Now the badger is well on his way to being managed. Let's have just 20% of them and kill the other 80% seems to be the call. Someone at a desk must be the one to make the decision.

Deer are next on the list, whipped up by an ignorant muttering campaign from farmers and others for whom the word deer always invokes the word cull.  But the management tendency hardly needs backing. Cattle and sheep can devastate the vegetation in a place but nobody talks of culling them. They are already in the managers' command and control toolkit.

A huge part of the pleasure gained from seeing deer on Blacka Moor comes from knowing that they are free, not managed in response to anybody's plans and self interest. That is now set to change if the Sheffield Moors Partnership's Master Plan gets the approval that the partners obviously expect. They intend to manage all the moors by "extensive grazing". They say that "appropriate livestock and the resident red deer herd " will be used and that this grazing will be "the primary land management tool on the Sheffield Moors." That is a horror story. Wild and free animals are to become a management tool. And the managers will take the credit and assume responsibility for managing them. They may stop short of ear tagging them and dipping them but I would not be so sure.

If this happens that will be the beginning of the end of the attraction of Blacka Moor for some of us. We have already seen the insistence on meddling with the landscape by tree fellings and poisonings, managers asserting their own will on the natural land by spraying and coppicing so that soon we will not be able to say that parts of Blacka are free from their casual and indiscriminate interventions.

They will also be developing "an overall deer management policy for the Sheffield Moors and adopt by 2015".

Let us be clear what this means. These managers are completely under the thumb of the farming industry which will simply not put up with large animals roaming uncontrolled. We know their attitude to badgers. At a meeting two years ago about the Eastern Moors they spoke one after the other in favour of a cull of deer, exaggerating the numbers shamelessly. Some of these people believe it is their birthright to shoot any wild animals and some of them will never be fully satisfied until nothing is left but their own miserable looking livestock. So an overall deer management policy can only mean shooting the deer.

If we do not fight this now while we have the opportunity we will have ourselves to blame. Part of the magic and vital life will be gone from our most special places.

* managed = culled.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Taking Responsibility

Outside the rut stags can be pretty laid back and rarely put on a show of protectiveness. Hinds and their young are usually left to sort out their own problems. Once an excitable dog approached a mixed group and the stag looked on little interested, leaving the senior hind to stamp and exert some discipline: at which the dog turned and wandered off, reproved.

This morning  I disturbed the hind and calf.. The stag then appeared  looking distinctly annoyed.

These 'family groups' are something of a puzzle. During the rut not long ago there were as many as twelve hinds. Small groups like this have been a feature in previous years. Seeing them like this leads one to assume that they are as seems, though they are never likely to go through a legal determination of parentage.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Managerial Blight

It's cry often heard.

"It needs to be managed."

I remember that when I raised the Blacka Moor problem with a councillor years ago I got the instant response "It's got to be managed". She had clearly never thought there could be any alternative. But Sheffield councillors are not noted for their deep thinking.

A senior BBC broadcaster told another BBC broadcaster referring to the present trials at the BBC that its management culture was to blame: When a crisis occurs they just send in another manager.

Not much use when too much management is the problem. 32 managers attended a Sheffield Moors Partnership event, referred to in this post. One of them was unwise enough to suggest a bit less management. He was probably taken outside and duffed up by the others.

Stumbling and Mumbling is a thoughtful blog and consistently bemoans the curse of managerialism. A quote from a recent post.
We now take managerialism so much for granted that we assume that the only people who can possibly be responsible for improving an organization must be managers.
Except I would go further. Try this. A couple of pictures chosen 'selectively' I admit which illustrate the effect on Blacka Moor of a) more management and b) less management.

a) more

b) less

No contest?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Fear of Being 'Structinised'

Officers and Managers are now so scared of being questioned face to face that they duck out of it completely. Consultation is something to be avoided or side-stepped.  Below is an email dating from 5th January this year from Annabelle Kennedy of Sheffield Wildlife Trust to Jenny Campbell of Natural England who had been pressing her for information on when SWT would have their application ready for the Higher Level Stewardship scheme. It was obtained using Freedom of Information. Annabelle’s name had been redacted but it couldn’t be anyone else. (If she chooses to contact me to say it was not her I’ll gladly change this!)

Hi - I have started the FEP as I wasn't anticipating consulting on that. I was aiming to get it done by spring (2012!). Though I haven't got into the meaty bits yet anhd to be honest, still getting my head around it!
This is a hard one. I was fully intending to have the HLS as good as finished as a draft this summer, and then cross-checking it with the management plan consultation results and tweaking accordingly if need be.
I was considering then possibly making the application available to the public for information (and comments welcome) rather than calling it for consultation if you see what I mean. I don;t think consulting on the HLS is appropriate. By consultation I mean discussions around it's formation which would not work.
This could mean we have an agreement in place for Oct but I was hoping there would be a bit more rein to allow some flexibility and so it gives the message that the management planning process has informed the HLS Agreement. I know this will be structinised.

Are the starting dates either 1st Oct or 1st April?

Are HLS agreements made avalable on line to the public anyway?
Annabelle had previously committed at a RAG meeting to a proper consultation on the management plan and the HLS. Since then there have been second thoughts. In this she’s no different to all the timid officers responsible for the supposed consultation on the SMP Master Plan who prefer to hide away from view and scrutiny (that’s the word) and just tell the public they can send comments in. That’s because they’ve discovered that it’s hard to cope with people who know what they are talking about. Rather a problem for those who don’t.

Is there any other reason for saying 'I know this will be structinised (sic)'  than that it would be easy to get away with something unjustifiable if it wasn't (scrutinised) ?

Remember, this is all about public money in the form of public grants relating to management of public land. The level of manipulation to get what they want is astonishing. We can only guess at the strategems they will use to get the management plan they want. We already know a few of them.

Processing the Moors

Who prefers processed food to the real article? The answer is some do but few admit to it. Among those who say they do are inevitably those engaged in the food processing industry. In business few ‘do a Ratner’.

So we should not expect the farming industry and the conservation industry to speak up against their own interests. It’s up to us.

The moors around Sheffield are processed nature and processed landscape. The vested interests spend our public money telling us that the landscape and its vegetation should be managed (read processed) and that it’s good for us that it is. They use specious slogans like ‘A Cherished and Working Landscape’ and misleading spin with words like ‘wild’ and wilderness to describe land that’s among the most managed and controlled in the country. They are shameless in pursuing what they want. A grouse moor described as a wilderness is brazen propaganda directed at the ignorant: In the same class as the marketing of processed food to the masses including children.

There are attractive managed landscapes but not here. Those need some artistry such as the landscape gardening attached to many stately homes.

Blacka Moor's advantage is that we can still find raw elements that feed our imagination.

There is only one week left to let Sheffield Moors partnership know what we think about their Master Plan to over-manage a large area of our countryside. If you’ve not done so do it now.

Friday, 16 November 2012


Minus the sun it could have been disappointing.

But the muted colours of autumn still appeal. This time it's in the eastern woods,

Webs in Trees

Some mornings the low shrubs of bilberry and heather are covered in webs. Different spiders may choose different days.

 It's true we only notice them when mist leaves beads of water on them. The elegant symmetrical webs that every child draws were not to be seen this morning.

The asymmetrical ones were and many of them in trees. So maybe a different species.


No time for relaxing. Mist creates an appetite.

Close up pictures show the food in their mouths. I can't identify it. It surely can't be brown dead bracken?

Thursday, 15 November 2012


You can't be eating all the time.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Being Watched

All the photos posted yesterday were more than a year old. So something of a coincidence this morning. Once again most people would not have noticed this.

Normal view:

Zoomed view:

Friday, 9 November 2012

“A true sense of wilderness” ??

“A true sense of wilderness”!!! Quoted from the Sheffield Moors Partnership’s draft Master Plan.    Wilderness? My artificial leg!!

Where do I start? The old unreconstructed and unmodernised farm I was working on in the 1960s had more wildness than moors like Burbage and Hallam and the Eastern Moors. So had the city bomb sites and disused air raid shelters I played in as a child! These dreary monoculture moors retain the repressed character of grouse-shooting estates long after they ceased to be so, too much so to inspire anyone looking for mystery and excitement. What you see is what you b***** well get - miles and miles of it. That may be fine for someone who doesn't look about them much maybe on a jogging exercise or speeding through on a mountain bike. Many of those will have other priorities such as the activity itself. But we deserve better than this and so do our grandchildren. If we want to bring up new generations  to have some imagination we need to nourish their senses with some genuinely natural landscape, not tell them that what is patently artificial is ‘true’ wilderness. God knows they get exposed to enough lies and spin these days.

Once Blacka started to go more wild after the managers sort of forgot about it, it developed some character and more natural beauty. That’s what the boring moors lack. They’ve been too managed. What’s the lesson? Who said “Sack the whole tribe of managers”?  
A bit harsh surely? Maybe we should just rewild the managers. They've spent too long in their offices. A case for "I'm a Manager, Get Me Into There" ?

Something a bit more wild:
Click pictures.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

More on Farming and Landscapes

Following on from the previous post Farming or Nature:

Why is it that there has to be an either or?
Does farming the landscape have to make it unnatural?
Can't we have both alongside each other harmoniously?
What about the claims from the apologists for the farming and conservation industries that our landscape has been 'fashioned' by farming over the centuries and it's farming that makes it attractive?

That last one is the regular and overworked spin that's put on the situation by the vested interests. It really won't stand up to examination. Behind it is an assumption that every part of the landscape is better for the control and exploitation that has been visited upon it by those who farm, usually with livestock. Are the hills and moors really better looking for having no trees on them? Because that is what farm livestock does: their constant munchings have stopped the natural succession to a more wooded landscape. Those who benefit from the farm subsidies will tell us that we love it like that. And it's conceivable that some people might be tempted to agree without having any idea of how trees could make things worse.

But for once we might look at the valleys and the lower land where farming has a different role to that on the hills. Here are two pictures which should give pause for thought. The first is a recent picture looking to the slopes around Sheffield's Mayfield Valley. This is a favourite view and one much prized by estate agents. Some of its attraction is down to what it's not.

No housing estates for one. But it also shows a pleasing balance between scattered older settlements, irregular field shapes and occasional wooded copses that satisfy the eye when seen from a distance.  The attractiveness does depend though on the fact that you can't see the plastic bales, rusting farm machinery and wind blown feed bags that are standard around many farms. And how pretty is the grass in the fields when you get close up? Usually the range of plant life is very restricted indeed if there have been sheep or cows in the fields. The most attractive parts then are in the lanes where no cows stray. Grazed fields do not have a show of wild flowers. so the fields may be nice to see from a distance but there is nothing to look at close to.

Now look at this picture taken in early June on Blacka Moor a couple of years ago.

In the foreground everything is teeming with interest because it is unmanaged. In the distance is farmland at its best. That is where the sheep and cattle should be not up here in the hills where the deer do their own thing; their grazing has an effect but a moderate one tempered by their needs rather than the artificially engineered needs of meat production for the human market. It is not on the industrial level of specially bred cattle with a mission to lay waste all the vegetation.

We need large land areas where no farming, no farm grazing takes place so that the interest on the ground is maintained. Simply land that is free and unexploited.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Farming or Nature?

It really is a choice though the history of lobbying by special and vested interests has muddied the waters. Supposed compromises have led to certain assumptions being made. It's these that pollute those awful vision statements nobody reads except the managers. But they contrive to hamstring any attempt to have a fresh view.

From Sheffield Moors Partnership's draft Master Plan Key Issues:
"The latest employment figures show farming and land management to be significant, with the sector employing 3,500 people which comprises 18.5% of total employment in the National Park."
This is intended to justify farming the landscape and forestall attempts to get a fresh view of the moors as a natural landscape. That, of course, would not be good news for the land managers who worry for their jobs. Like so much else it's utterly disingenuous. Once again I think that these people are paid with public money to spin for self interest.

The National Park is not the Sheffield Moors nor vice versa. The moors are a part of it.  Burbage Moor, Houndkirk Moor,Big Moor, Blacka Moor do not employ people to any significant extent. In fact the main employment associated with them is conservation managers in offices writing reports and applications for grants. If there is the odd farmer involved he usually lives a long way off (Halfax in one case!!) delivers some sheep and then goes home!
Some parts of the Peak District National Park are overwhelmingly farmland and that explains the quoted figures. It is deceitful to imply that the moors are a vital part of the economy, apart from the conservation economy. But we know where this deceit comes from. As with Moors for the Future it is  about appeasing the shooting industry. The owners of private grouse moors want their exploitation to be part of the mainstream of what the National Park is all about so have worked hard to get themselves into key positions in the various boards and committees. Hence the constant cry that grouse shooting is a vital part of the economy. And because officers have had to accept that it transfers itself into this large area of public land:  "if it's moors it must be part of the economy". Self interest rules all.

What do we have to do to stop these people denying natural beauty in the landscape and promoting more and more years of totally uninspiring artificial land. This morning I went past a field of swedes. It was no more artificial than Houndkirk Moor.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Running of the Deer

The drama has not ended after all. Whether it's The Baron or another new contender there was much running about and plenty of bellowing in the sheep enclosure as 14 hinds were being claimed by a large and possessive stag. The immediate cause of the excitement was a persistent young male refusing to give up. Each time he approached he was driven off, not stopping to engage in combat. But the result was a great deal of hither and thithering across the slopes of The Buttresses.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Moving On

The natural year moves on with the arrival of a new month. Huge flocks of birds fly west. Starlings, jackdaws and other corvines and thrushes are the most numerous.

The Baron was with his hinds just a few days back.

Now he’s left them for some male company and conversation putting aside the recent rivalry. Bromance returns.
A more thoughtful pose. Was it all worth it? 

An alternative theory is that the fair sex has tired of his noise and restlessness and given him the push. Yesterday the two stags were together. Today a small group of hinds in the same place.