Friday, 30 August 2013

Oh, Deer!

Can't imagine anything more depressing.

But of all those who come onto Blacka who would I expect to bring large plastic bags? Not walkers, not dog walkers, not bikers. But farmers and land managers? .... it's been known.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Farmland or Nature Reserve?

It can't be both. It really can't. Farmland in the first half of the last century supported much nature that it doesn't support any more. Farming is business before anything else today. No nature reserve should go in for farm management.


Tomatoes outside have had a good year as have most fruits; and the small and sweetest ones look much like these oak apples, though some are now ripe.

Oak apples have their own day on May 29th but it's got less to do with these than with politics and kings. Castleton's king parades on Oak Apple Day but does not usually open parliament. Perhaps he should.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Wrong Target

Instead of engaging in expensive projects funded with our money to spray bracken (and almost certainly making a mess in the process) why do the managers not maintain the access along the paths?  Here bracken does impinge on the convenience of the visitor. In previous years they have made some efforts to cut it back along rights of way. This year not.

Some pictures from today.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Clean Pair of Heels

Yesterday it was the fox who didn't want to be photographed.

Today the shy one was a roe deer.

Baby Watching

As they are able to stand and move within hours of birth the young deer are quite confident by two months old. But trying to bring your friends and relatives to see them can be disappointing. No sign of them over the bank holiday but, just when it's over, there they are again.

Though mums are keeping discipline in a manner reminiscent of a 1930's schoolmistress.

Some more young deer from today.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Fungal Perfection

Nothing is so perfect and so magical as a newly appeared immaculate mushroom. It lifts your spirits to see them. Here is the essence of unpredictable wildlife.


They're certainly foxy. Each time one appears on my walk it's before I've got the camera out of the bag. And  then they're off.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Now it Begins

The badger cull is about to start and you don't need to look far in the media to find polarised attitudes and entrenched views slugging it out.

To my knowledge I've never listened to Brian May's music but I'm tempted to agree that there's been something of a campaign to discredit the RSPCA. To say the charity has become politicised is of course a political act itself. You just have to look at the people who are saying it.

But I have a modest proposal. Farmers and landowners stick together and are very well versed in singing from the same sheet. Let's see them working together on this. TB is a problem in the west country not the eastern side of England. Farmers should swap their businesses, and maybe their land. Grow arable in the west and livestock in the east. I already know the main arguments that would be made against but if they're really bothered the problems can be overcome. They get enough from the state via farm subsidies to be able to fund the changes.  And leave the wildlife alone. And remember, farmers themselves cause more farm animals to die than TB or badgers. To extend Shakespeare's Touchstone they not only get their living by the copulation of cattle but also by their slaughter.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

How Many?

Pictures of red deer on Blacka on 19th August. Follow the link to see if you can tell how many new deer have been born here this summer.    How Many?

Past Their Best

It’s always a moot point with Sheffield Wildlife Trust whether what they do comes from being cynically devious or plain gormless. Someone experienced in dealings with them claims it’s usually the latter, sometimes the former and best to assume a weird mix of the two; then went on to say they think there is some advantage in being perceived as incompetent. (Think about it).

The latest evidence that this organisation still exists is to be seen this bank holiday weekend in a number of notices erected on the moor and detracting from the natural beauty that we all like to enjoy. But that is one of their trademarks:

A4 laminated notices scattered around natural sites which are never taken down but left to fall and be found in the vegetation months, or even years, later in a state of decay.
You feel glad they didn’t bring them on in a supermarket trolley.
It’s a sign of their love for the place – alongside the fact that nobody will see them patrolling and protecting the site they lease - to defend the wildlife at holiday times when the public may be expected to show up in numbers.

The notice does the job – it makes a show of informing people when something undesirable is about to happen, so they can say they’ve conformed with legal requirements. But in such a way that no concession is made to the public’s ability to read or understand what they say or are up to. You have to go down on hands and knees to read the map and it isn't user-friendly anyway.

It’s about bringing heavy vehicles on to Blacka and spraying and cutting bracken – a perfectly natural native plant. They’ve decided to do it because they get money from organisations to do it – organisations like Unnatural England which is in the pocket of the wealthy grouse shooting lobby – they hate bracken because it doesn't help them breed more ground nesting birds to shoot. The grouse moor owners have lobbied determinedly to have the ban on this chemical spray removed with some success; not surprising when some of them are actually in the government.  Now SWT and National Trust and others are shamelessly taking advantage of that and the sundry grants available to go in for more intrusion in what should be a natural publicly owned site.

Bilge about Bilberries:

Once they decided to do it they look around for reasons to justify it in the eyes of the more gullible sections of the public. So the notice reads:

Priceless is the sentence:

"This'll take place when the bilberries are past their best, as requested by bilberry-pickers"
Should we call this bilge or be kind and say mendacious nonsense?

'Past their best'? The bilberries are close to their very best now and will continue to get sweeter in September. SWT have always intended to spray in the last week of August and will not allow any considerations of  public or wildlife to change that.  But do they care that their ignorance is exposed? Or even know, as they do not value the site for itself but for what they can get out of it. And 'requested by bilberry pickers'? Who are they? It's as if there's a definable group of bilberry pickers set up to be stakeholders. But Friends of Blacka Moor members who've picked more bilberries on the moor than anyone else have not even been asked about it. It's tempting to say that it's not the bilberries that are past their best but SWT; except it's hard to think of a time when they were at their best. Best is what they can get away with.

Friday, 23 August 2013


Only the long caravan in front of the farm building spoils the view. Unfortunately once you move away just a short distance everything changes. Dozens of white caravans are hidden behind the trees from this viewpoint but become all too obvious from most other high parts of Blacka.

You can't but think that any planning department worth its name would have sorted this out by now. Doubtless they would say they have to work by the rules. But couldn't Dore Village Society raise some money to plant trees around the offending vehicles? That's always assuming the owner would cooperate; maybe a big ask.


Will productivity in the fruit harvest carry over into a bumper year for mushrooms?

These are only early signs. But warmth and moisture are a good sign.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


One day in August the air is full of thistledown. Not surprising when you see the number of thistles in the sheep enclosure.

The spear thistles are not without interest and character but it's a poor reflection on ten years' management of this as a nature reserve that there's so little else to see. Can anyone seriously claim that conservation grazing is successful when they are walking through this sheep ghetto?

In The Red

Quite as impressive as the purple of the heather is the red of rowan. It's everywhere.

You could be walking in an orchard. But this is natural - self-seeded, self-willed.

This is a typical August scene on Blacka. The more inaccessible the spot the more red we seem to find.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Sex Education

Eton College does not do sex education.  At least it wasn't on the official curriculum when David Cameron attended.* That's the conclusion I reached from the statement he made referred to in yesterday's post. He claimed that shooting stags was defensible because it reduced the deer population.

If he had studied the subject to the level even most primary school pupils do today he would be aware that it is the female that produces the young. Reducing the number of stags simply means that remaining stags have more hinds to inseminate, which they'll be quite happy to do. But of course it's a fine thing to tell yourself when you're struggling to justify killing wildlife.

* So bearing all that in mind and one or two minor incidentals we decided to send our children to the local comp.

Other pictures............

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The PM's Back

You have to feel for our Prime Minister. He would dearly love to go deer stalking but he has a 'phenomenally bad back'. He is therefore not fit enough to go crawling through heather.

He dismissed claims that the sport was not quite what he should be involved in anyway.

He suggested that deer stalking is the most "defensible" of field sports because it helps keep the population under control.
The fact is actually quite the reverse, as has been pointed out elsewhere. It is the deer stalking industry that keeps large numbers of red deer on Scottish hills in order to provide beasts for the kill. That in turn creates an ecological impact on the hills where trees are rarely seen. There the deer do a similar job to sheep in the Peak District. Once again the main culprits are the managers.

Fortunately on Blacka the wild unexploited and unmanaged deer are free to wander at will. Anyone can come here in the hope of seeing deer amid a much more natural scenery than the bare hills. The threat here remains from sheep and cattle. And I've not often had to crawl to get my photos.

Heavy Berries

Late summer colour is everywhere. Rowan's influence is strong, adding exotic splashes within the mature deep greens. Lighter patches are mostly the leaves being turned over ............................. the weight of orange and red  fruit.

But white? ...  A rogue late flowering side by side with berries on the same tree.

Chopper Gods

Those who decide what can and can't grow on land they themselves call wild must belong to the deity. Attention was drawn to a helicopter flying across the road on Houndkirk Moor. This is presumably the responsibility of Sheffield City Council and/or its outsourced agent Kier Asset Management and/or its outsourced agent. the great and upstanding National Trust - of which I am a member but never get asked my view on policies on land management (or anything else come to think of it).

Most likely they are spraying with the banned Asulam against bracken, declared to be undesirable - or 'not one of us'. It would be interesting to know what precautions were taken against accidental spraying of people. I can think of cyclists on the road. There might even be walkers on the moor, though anyone finding this dreary stretch worth walking over must be odd indeed, especially when neighbouring Blacka has such delights as bilberries, rowan berries, better flowering heather, cowberry and a chance of seeing exciting wild animals. Now can the conservationists come up with a suitable spray to get rid of them? They were never part of the original prescription. The conservation gods should consider.

Monday, 19 August 2013


Roy Taylor of RSPB told us that at the moment there are not enough deer to manage the land properly hence their reliance on farm livestock and, of course the bonanza of farm subsidies. Hmm...

Well the local red deer on Blacka are doing their best. I'm revising my previous statement that there have been three new young deer born on Blacka this summer. I now believe there are at least four and possibly five. From a distance the group on the moor seemed to show five mature hinds but at least three and likely four smaller animals. Then a few minutes later this animal appeared by itself just behind me anxious to join the others. I thought a yearling.

But looking closely at the picture there are flecks of white still just visible on its coat. The white camouflaging speckles disappears after three months. It's quite possible that the hinds give birth at different times. Could this one have been born in May and others four or more weeks later?

How Many?

Broadcast Propaganda

This is not Lord Haw-Haw. But it's just sheer self interest. Watch almost any programme on TV about British wildlife -and there's lots to choose from - and at some point you will find a fellow pops up telling us that managed woodland (or heathland or whatever) is just so much better than anything nature can do. A recent BBC TV  programme exemplifies. BBC One is of course directed at those who don't usually think for themselves anyway but have to be led by the managerial clique to accept some pre decided version of reality - always in someone's interests. "Britain's Big Wildlife Revival - Woodland". A man called Rob Penn pops up telling us that our woodlands have "got used to be being managed by us". He tells us that there's something unattractive about unmanaged woodland saying there's "very little light" there and "very little insect life and bird life". So you can't leave it to itself.
The mind truly boggles at this. What did all this nature do before man and specifically managers came along? Think about it.

Would you ever hear this kind of stuff from anyone who did not have a special personal interest in managing? The answer, sadly, is yes you might. A lot of people swallow wholesale anything they hear on the box.

Fly Morning

One of the benefits of the bilberry scoop....

...... is you can quickly pick enough fruit before the flies become unbearable. Some mornings it's midges; lately it's been flies. Finding a breeze helps.

Deer on such mornings are coping however they can. In their case tails are useless for this, but long ears are constantly twitching. A close look at the hind below reveals very long eyelashes.

Twice lately I've stood up from picking bilberries to find deer have come very close.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Many use Google Chrome, Firefox or  IE these days. But you don't have to.

Rowan is one of the foods of choice here. But nothing beats bilberry.

As long as there's some left for those browsers and foragers intent on stocking the freezer.


What happened to "Smile Please"?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


There are definitely three young calves now. This morning's event was a mothers' outing with the youngsters. Supervised playing with excited mad dashings and friskings from the small calves.

Now what have you two been up to?

From now on you'll keep close to me.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sheep and Bears

An interesting leader in The Times about bears in the Pyrenees. French farmers don't like them of course but how many sheep get killed by man? Now this would make the Sheffield Moors more exciting

As usual it's instructive to read the comments below. Here's one written by a reader, Andrew Holliday:
Sheep have the same catastrophic impact on the Pyrenees as they have on the uplands of the UK. They cause soil erosion and prevent the regeneration of natural woodlands. Without sheep there would be a much greater diversity of plant and animal life (google “rewilding”).
Anything that serves to reduce their numbers has my support, including the introduction of predators, although the removal of farming subsidies would be far more effective.
Others well versed in the farming and shooting industry's propaganda complain about outsiders, usually 'urban',  deciding what goes on at the expense of locals. Worth noting, I think that often the farm livestock on the Eastern Moors belong to farmers living nowhere near the land where they graze. It can be an hour's drive. One farmer on the Eastern Moors actually lives in Halifax! Yet some of us living a few minutes away and walking this land many times a week are not even considered to be worthy of the status of stakeholders!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Three Ages

Right, one year old, centre probably 2 year old and left a few weeks.

The calves retain their white markings for about 12 weeks. The one in the picture above is clearly not that age yet. But looking closely at other pictures shows that another calf was present in this morning's group of seven. This one was born earlier in the summer and the markings can only just be seen.