Saturday, 31 May 2014

In Flight

Whitethroats used to be common birds of farmland and waysides. Not the prettiest song but still a warbler.

Innocent or Guilty

Found in a farmer's field: it's hard to tell if that look means guilty or innocent. But their faces still remind of those little boys in the fifties caught scrumping. As I remember it was done less for the apples taken than the devilment of the activity. And jumping the fence and making off was the best part of it.

Most of the stags have completely lost their winter coats and are their true red colour. That's true of the older stag on the right below. The younger stag still has patches of his duller winter coat to lose.

Friday, 30 May 2014


It's been a good week for those who like lots of rain. People as well as plants.

There's a word for everything and the biological term for loving rainwater is ombrophilia and is used mainly of plants. But why not use it to describe humans in the same way as a bibliophile loves books. An ombrophile then would be less likely to be in a library this week than outside admiring waterfalls (and in doing so getting wet).

Blacka has two and this is the one few visitors get to see. And it's in great form. Long may it remain a well kept secret. This view is rare, nature as wild as anything you can find inside a city boundary. To gain this viewpoint you will need to spurn risk assessment advice beloved of conservation workers and professors of tourism. The slope has many traps for the unwary. Mudslides and slippery tree roots, streams to leap over and other hazards.  Add a wolf or two and some wild boar and the children I once knew would be here like a shot. A nature reserve set aside for the under 14s and the over 70s.

What do you call someone who's enthusiastic about old twisted hawthorns - apart from weirdo perhaps? So it could be there's not a word for everything, yet.

That was the initial reason for visiting these parts and there are many old hawthorns here.

Trees can age as once people used to before advanced cosmetic surgery.

Youthful perfection is touching but so is age with added dignity and character and no prizes for symmetry.

Thursday, 29 May 2014


So much politicking is about manipulating public opinion to suit  a partisan agenda. Take this from Ian Rotherham's The Call of the Wild referred to in this post Calling the Shots describing the Action for Involvement event last year.

Management, visions and policy who has influence? There is an issue about those stakeholders who turn up to debate landscape wilding and management, and interestingly, of those who do not. Many of the nature conservation, natural history, bird watching, archaeology, heritage and access organisations, and importantly, local authority ranger services, were absent. This is influences the flavour of discussions. Such broad stakeholder absence raises the issue of how to engage and involve these people and their organisations more effectively. There is a danger with many of the ‘re-wilding’ discussions, that local people are ignored or overlooked by ideas and proposals or visions looking into a landscape from the outside.

There’s politicking going on here.  I believe that Rotherham is playing a game similar to that we've seen played by Sheffield Wildlife Trust. If he's not he's displaying a breathtaking ignorance of the way local groups involvement has worked or not worked over recent years. What is meant by “many of the ‘re-wilding’ discussions”? Many? In this area I only know of one meeting at which rewilding was discussed in recent years – the A4I event he is describing. And that very nearly did not happen at all. It only happened because the nature conservation NGOs and the local authority refused to discuss the issue of a wilder landscape despite spending considerable public money on what was supposed to be a  public consultation. Somebody had to organise with much smaller resources a forum to get this major issue discussed at all. I know because I tried to get the SMP to discuss it and was turned down. So what other discussions are being referred to?

As for local people being “ignored or overlooked by ideas and proposals or visions looking into a landscape from the outside” that is exactly what we felt when the conservation industry moved in and decided that Blacka was in unfavourable condition and had to be brought into 'good agricultural condition' like a farm by bringing cattle on, leading to a petition of 700+ in opposition who wanted it left alone. What side was Ian Rotherham on then?* Some of these conservation industry people like to manipulate the public and other groups in their own interests and they usually go for those who ask fewest questions. As for ‘looking into a landscape from the outside’ how does that compare with top-down management of a landscape to suit an agenda previously worked out – one that brings benefits and sometimes profits for certain groups? Our agenda is not to impose a vision on a landscape, it's to allow the land and nature to express itself with minimal intervention. That is the very opposite to proposals imposed 'from the outside'.

I am trying not to be angry about this.

*None of the conservation and landscape teachers in local higher education took part in the public consultations such as Icarus (2006) and RAG meetings.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Legal Agreements and Compliance

About six weeks ago A4 laminated notices appeared at access points on Blacka telling us that cows were coming onto the moor in May. The notice referred to 'Conservation Grazing' a controversial practice by which you conserve something by getting hungry farm animals to trash it. On the notice was a picture of a small cuddly looking Highland Cow. A few weeks after that a number of large cows appeared in the sheep enclosure,- not the moor.They are not Highlands and look to me rather like Hereford and Friesian crosses or some similar breed, as usual attractively decorated with their own defecation.

May ends on Saturday and the cows are still not on the moor. Regular walkers are happy with that. And the notice at Stony Ridge has changed: the picture of the Highland Cow has been cut out. Is somebody worried about Trade Descriptions legislation?

Other notices have been posted too. A fortnight ago an unofficial notice was put up warning people that cattle can cause injuries. It was soon taken down presumably by SWT.

And there have been appearances of the 'no bullshit' notices seen in previous years.

SWT get agricultural grants for putting cows on the moor because they've chosen to define it as farm land. But they have to stick to the terms of the agreement.

The agreement** gives the maximum and minimum numbers of cows to qualify for the money. In May they must have at least 10 cows on the moor. I don't want cows on the moor. But should they get the money if they don't comply?

** documents obtained from a Freedom of Information request.

Calling The Shots

Ian Rotherham's package of comments on the issue of Wilding and Rewilding includes a substantial nine page article titled The Call of the Wild.  It's a good title echoing the Jack London book of that name. Rotherham's article is published in a shorter version in the journal of the British Ecological Society. It appears that the purpose of the article is, perhaps, an attempt to take control of the debate that fired up last year with the publication of George Monbiot's book. In the context of the enthusiasm of those wishing for a more exciting vision of our uplands for landscape and wildlife, Rotherham aims to reclaim the high ground for humanised landscapes managed by professionals claiming that abandonment just will not do. That's quite a task for him at a time when traditional practices are dying out and only kept going with massive subsidies. He’s keen on local history fitting in with his support of the concept of cultural landscapes, something I find vague and ill-defined.

Ian Rotherham's article attempts to present his take on the debate as a neutral, weighty and responsible corrective to other elements in the discourse. He might consider them as simplistic, impulsive and populist. He might also have concerns that any change in emphasis within conservation and wildlife might threaten the role of the professionals, he being one as will be his students.

To accept his argument you might need to see it as cautionary rather than reactionary. It’s also as well to have full confidence in the reliability of observations and anecdotal evidence he gives in the article and in his contribution to the conference. As accuracy and reliability is a big issue with the wider conservation industry we should be looking out for exaggeration and problems of judgement. That’s where my confidence in the content flags. The narrative seems credible until it comes to something I’ve direct experience of. I’ve now read his article twice and listened to much that he said at the conference and new doubts keep cropping up. As with SWT and the other NGOs and even SCC I’m getting the idea that we’re presented with desktop judgements based on second hand hearsay evidence.

So here are examples, some major, others quite small but they add to the picture:

1 The Action for Involvement Event. I don’t recognise the event he describes. I was there.  For some time I read on, thinking he must have been referring to another event, but he wasn't. I conclude it’s either badly remembered or he calculates that it’s worth misrepresenting it. He makes it out to be a bigger event than it was – as it happened each speaker only got 10 minutes. He mentions ‘case studies’ and I can’t remember seeing any. He wonders about the absence of representatives of NGOs – yet they were there. He must have known that this was in the context of the SMP Master Plan. SMP had refused to discuss these serious issues in relation their feeble Master Plan consultation and that this event was a late effort to independently raise these issues that ‘officials’ had refused to discuss themselves. He doesn't mention the SMP. Had Rotherham himself got involved in any public debate over the SMP Master Plan? If he did, I didn’t see it.  He himself was consulted before the A For I event by the facilitator. What did he advise? He was in attendance and I didn’t hear him say anything. His account of this event and the prominence he gives it justifies a sceptical reading of the rest of his article.

2 Rotherham has made himself something of an 'expert' on the deer in this area by virtue of publishing a paper on them. The survey would appear to be a desktop survey relying on reports from others in the field. He claims that there are far more red deer on the eastern moors than other organisations believe – they being the PDNPA, RSPB, NT. I’m more inclined to believe the latter having observed them hundreds of times. If farmers are reporting to him then errors are understandable. But anyone can get numbers wrong. Deer are very easy to double count in this way: someone tells you they’ve seen 20 and someone else says they’ve seen 20 somewhere else. Is that 40 or the same 20? They move about – quite a lot. I mean to come back to this but his piece is not about direct observation of deer but more a modelling exercise about recording reports, predicting from assumptions and calculating populations. If there’s anything that matches my own observations of one area over 10 years I haven’t yet seen it. In fact it's a bit cold and statistical without observational evidence of deer behaviour and habits.

He raised safety issues about the deer – on the roads and during the rut. This sounded like scaremongering to me especially as the biggest problems with animals on the roads around here are caused by farm animals (part of his cultural landscape?) and there have been several bad incidents in the Peak District of cows injuring people – one very serious and very recent - that he did not mention. So far there have been no serious road incidents with deer though it’s likely there will be eventually if nobody does something about the speeding traffic on the roads. The really dangerous animals on the roads are behind the wheel.

3 Flowers damaged by cattle. Rotherham is against summer grazing on the moor and in this I agree with him. But he overstates the case by exaggerating. SWTs cows trampled and wrecked the display on the bog but they did not wipe out the Bog Asphodel which you might conclude from what he's said. Sheep grazing in the 1980s, so we were told, destroyed the bluebells in the nearby woods. I’ve seen no evidence that there were bluebells in those woods and I’m sure they would have returned 30 years later. There are lots of bluebells where sheep have been grazing on the pastures for many years. So I'm sceptical about other things he says.

4 What the public wants. The suggestion is made that people like the moors as they are and won’t come if they change. Frankly that's garbage and there's no evidence for it. Quite the reverse. It’s not true of Blacka where the public love the trees and the deer that come because of the trees and the bilberries that grow because of abandonment of management. It was even implied that more trees in the Lake District’s uplands would cause a decline in tourism. You simply can’t say that. I believe that’s scaremongering.

There’s no doubt to my mind that Rotherham is instinctively a top-down manager where it comes to wildlife and landscape.  His message is: someone up there must call the shots. Comfort for the conservation industry and its supporters and educators.

 5 Another example of scaremongering and manipulation comes in two mentions of George Osborne. The straining for a convincing argument shows when you have to claim you must be on the right side because Osborne is on the other side. Though that's doubtful anyway because we know which side grouse moor owners are on in the intervention/non-intervention debate; and Osborne will be more likely to listen to them. And I'm sure Rotherham's consultancy work has led him into association with gamekeepers.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Higher Education and Boots on the Ground

The economy keeps coming into these posts.
How's your corporate identity? In my case size 10 and the worse for wear.

Those attending the Wilder by Design event at Sheffield Hallam (SHU) organised by Ian Rotherham's UKEconet group were presented with a package of papers including abstracts and various articles mostly from Rotherham himself. I thought the flavour of them was interesting enough to draw some tentative conclusions. The way the debate is being framed leaves me uneasy. I get the idea that there are things I don’t know about and some might think I shouldn’t comment on. But  I'm an innocent abroad in all this, a survivor, just about, from the Cretaceous Age and old enough to care nothing for branding, to say what I think and not give a damn. As it says on the side of this page, "If you see anything in these pages you consider inaccurate or unfair please bring it to my attention" (Only Nigel Doar, God bless him, and various crazed MTBers have contacted me to complain so I must be getting something right.)

Anyway the SHU conference package introduced me to the elements of corporate  identity and branding in this branch of higher education. All is business-like and spiffingly marketed. There's a website, a blog, a publishing outfit etc. As it says on their handout,

"UKEconet is the international portal of the Biodiversity and History Research Institute (BALHRI) working in conjunction with Sheffield Hallam University and the South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group (SYBRG). It provides research-based information on ecology, history, archaeology and landscape change ...... etc."

Doesn't leave out much. I wonder what they would charge to repair my boots?

You then need to add in that 'Conferences, seminars and symposia' are what they do alongside 'Community projects and surveys'  and even 'Research, Teaching and Popular Articles', assuming they’ve any time left for that. But I do get the feeling that there’s a more of a leaning towards business and ‘consultancy’ rather than scholarship for its own sake. There, that’s a value judgement for a start.

They even do a Loyalty Card ('Privilege Card') and those attending, as long as they keep their card with its unique number can get discounts on future events and publications. Impressed isn't the word. What have I been doing that I've missed this all these years? And this is just one department. Truly SHU must be a business model based on Tesco's. Anyone who wondered if a supermarket could match the specialist retailer of, say, photographic equipment, might have questions. Like how do they do 'cutting edge'? Innovative wasn't a word I came across but it's surely in there somewhere**.

Still one must be aware of the modern trend to cut costs, pile the products high and shift the stock.

As for content, we would hope that might be a priority. But with all the branding and presentational clutter, not to mention coloured capital letters on Power Point, is that more likely?  
One source has described what was in the pack as ‘Rotherham's propaganda blitz'. I must try to be more measured than that. 

I'll look elsewhere for a boot repair facility. But I may just have found my corporate identity.

** it surely is. It's in Hallam's branding guidelines:

"We are successful, innovative, inventive and creative.
We have a very real commitment to partnership,
collaboration and connectedness and this needs to
come across strongly when we communicate."

Friday, 23 May 2014

Wilder by Design (2): 'professionals', accountability and credibility

It’s often the case. You meet one of the regulars. You get talking about Blacka and sharing enjoyment of its wildlife, then eventually get round to the management.  He/she shakes head despairingly. “It’s all political” is the parting shot. Nothing can follow that. Fatalism is not pretty but it’s hard to deny that there is a lot of scrabbling about for power going on.

I was walking in the rain and it was exhilarating. The whole natural experience was wonderfully alive. Newly greened trees had a vibrant quality and colouring that surprises each year after winter. The intensity of bird song amazes with warblers, blackbirds and cuckoos competing. There were deer in the scrub and two young thrushes appeared on the ground with a parent just ahead. This is all in land adjudged to be in unfavourable condition where the previously favoured shooting estate vegetation had been taken over by un-planned, un-managed and un-designed natural succession. The leafy trees in view were Rowan, Oak, Beech, Birch and Alder.

I fell to thinking who could not be thrilled at this? And I thought back over attempts to influence management decisions that seemed perversely not to value such an experience. I thought of the Icarus consultation in 2006, of the RAG meetings, of the Sheffield Moors Partnership meetings. At least the Icarus meetings had seemed to agree ‘minimal intervention’ though that was quickly ditched by SWT, followed by a period of minimal consultation, minimal public involvement and the kind of intervention that gets the default setting the opposite way round.. And I thought of the event last year run by Action for Involvement. And of the day last week at the Wilder by Design event of Ian Rotherham when I listened to a recital of reasons why ‘somebody’ has to be in control of the process whatever level of wildness is agreed on. It amounted to a defence of intervention. Yet all I’ve been enjoying has been the result of non-intervention. Wherever I’ve seen intervention the result has been not just disappointing but utterly demoralising. Is there no place for my sort of countryside then in this version of the new ‘wilder’ – a key word definitely not ‘wild’ and capable of interpretation as a bit less tame like leaving an uncultivated bit at the end of the garden.  Hardly inspiring. It can be wild but I have to be in charge. Does the height of our ambition have to match that of a council officer waving a file of health and safety guidance?

I considered what the public’s place was in this policy making. I asked a member of Natural England’s board why we don’t know about policy making at NE Board meetings and was told they were confidential - paid for by us of course but confidential to those we were paying.  I wondered why certain people and groups marked out as stakeholders don’t want to discuss policy and don’t engage with the few consultations that happen. The Local Access Forum meetings are themselves protected behind an access wall: you can’t put forward items for discussion, you need special permission to attend as an observer and members are appointed not elected. I noted that Ian Rotherham’s group, called Econet were not to be seen engaging in the Sheffield Moors Partnership consultation (if you can call it that). Nor in any of the other apologies for public consultation over the years.  I had not known of Econet's very existence nor its multiplicity of acronymic sub groups kept away from public engagement, at least any I was aware of. Perhaps the public is too low down the pecking order for them to be bothered – or am I being unfair? I had twice in years gone by tried to contact Ian R but had not had a reply. 

Certainly Mr Rotherham is distinctly unfair himself to those who presumed to put on an event last year. His complaints about it are, I find, in an article titled The Call of the Wild. He disliked it so much that he writes his critical comments in colour and repeated them in his presentation last week only this time projected onto a screen and judgements picked out in multi-coloured capital letters. Yet this event he complains about was an attempt to get some discussion instigated from the bottom up by members of the public frustrated that nobody wanted to discuss these things with the public. And wasn’t he consulted about the event by the independent facilitator? And wasn’t he there himself and able to put his point of view? I was there and didn’t hear him say a word. What's going on here? The regulars would call it 'politics'.

It seems to me that some professionals in this area beleive the last people who should be allowed to have a say in what goes on should be the public, the consumer of the ‘product’ created by conservation professionals. 

I’ve said before: I’m a customer, a consumer of the landscape product these people claim the right to design and implement. I’m not a conservation industry professional or academic, nor a landscape manager, farmer or gamekeeper and don’t pretend to match those specialisms but just as I judge medical professionals by my experience of them and a new car, phone/tablet by whether it works for me on the basis of my personal observation and experience I’ll do so with the conservation industry, in the field and in theory in the universities. So far I’ve not been impressed. They have seemed to be high on rhetoric and low on delivery. I would have taken a new car back and demanded a refund by now.

And I do want a substantial part of the landscape I visit to be free from human affairs the human economy and all the exploitation and devious motivations and incompetence that inevitably follows from that. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy those very humanised parts where a talented, artistic and sensitive mind has helped to shape some of our more attractive farmed landscapes and our great parklands. But the design of pleasantly artificial country house parkland is only fully enjoyed alongside an awareness that we also have something other, that man has very little control over. Without that the artifice has no context.  

So I'm certainly not impressed by those claiming to have special knowledge of landscapes when they tell us that over managed hillsides should be kept artificially free of trees through expensive interventions and that if we don't like it we shouldn't go there. Shouldn't go there? With all that public money, our money,  going into the flawed management don't we have a duty to make our views known? How presumptuous of us to express a view.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Bird Styles

It's the season to draw attention to yourself.

The Robin is singing from the top of the tree.

The Warbler prefers to appeal to his mate from behind the leaves.

The Pipit will launch himself into the air and sing as he descends in a series of glides to a nearby treetop.

The Crow has a family to feed and hopes to get the chance to snaffle up the leftovers at the Wall Caff. He thinks that making more noise results in quicker service.

Two Cuckoos in flight just alongside for the second morning running. Yesterday the female was heard in branches directly overhead. It was followed immediately by a male call and a period of frantic flappings. I can't think what was going on.

Blue and Green

Picture not chosen to represent any perspective on Thursday's elections. Otherwise I would be scurrying around trying to find a view showing red, yellow, purple and orange in the interests of balance.

This part of the woods is off the beaten track though well known to wildlife.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Wilder By Design (1): a kind of field trip.

A two day conference organised by Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University was held last week. I could only attend on the first day. Still there's quite a lot to say and might have been more if I'd been able to go on the second day. I believe this conference was an attempt to wrest control of the debate about managing upland landscapes in Britain, a debate that has taken off after the publication of Monbiot's book** although other strong voices had kept it going for many years before that. At its most simplified the debate is between those who want more land free from human intervention and those for whom human intervention and management is essential everywhere. For some that's the 're-wilders v the 'cultural landscapers' though it's been defined many ways.

These are a few observations. As this is a blog and not an essay or an article they may come across as random. But then there was quite a bit of randomness about the day at Sheffield Hallam (SHU). By the way SHU is a big modern campus with lots of expensive equipment and facilities.There's clearly been a lot of money sloshing about and it must be run as a major business. That's worth remembering; apart from anything else because money is a big influence on what goes on there; that's not a radical statement, just the way things are in 2014.  You can't assume that there's anything less of a money making concern about Ian Rotherham's department than there is about farming, grouse shooting  and various tourism ventures and that influences at least some of what he says about conservation issues; how much I'm not qualified to judge. But Rotherham is a local man and he makes much of  local perspective so that should chime to an extent at least with what this blog tries to do. There should be some common ground when it comes to the blight of top-downing and remotely based decision making. Still, the proof of the pudding ........

There were other presentations that had interesting aspects to them in the day's programme but it was Rotherham who was taking the lead and he was on his home turf.

There were several things said by Ian Rotherham that caused me to reflect but I'll return to those later. For this post I'll keep to the field trip.

Much of the latter part of the day consisted of a field trip to Blacka. At least that was what I had been led to expect. When is a field trip not a field trip? Perhaps when you only step onto the site itself as a kind of afterthought. Because we stood on the track listening to one man's interpretation. Ian R comes across as a pleasant even affable man and he's a mine of information and anecdote, strong on local history and past land use. His papers, books etc mark him out as just the fellow to front the cultural landscapes wing of the debate on what the future of our big public spaces might be. That though is only one side of the question so I would have thought that we might have been given the chance to get out onto the various parts of Blacka and draw our own conclusions; not that I've failed to do that myself over the years. Eventually we managed to get 50 yards down the slope to stand near the bog and listen to a lot more from the same source. Then we were off to two nearby roadside vantages and again it was a question of standing still listening to the same voice giving his perspective. I felt a bit cheated. Here am I looking for more bottom up landscapes and I'm being subjected to a top-down interpretation. I think by now I know where he's coming from and which side he's on. The presentation was top-down and the message was too. Were we meant to think that the problem is that the wrong people are at the top?

More to come .......


** Paperback version coming out next month.

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Working Life

One must assume the cattle now in among the sheep in the grassy pasture are  intended for the moor on the other side of the fence. They are not the highland cows in the picture on SWT's notice. And nobody could call them happy. This morning they were huddled against the wall looking for all the world as if life had dealt them a pretty poor hand. But they're not there to be happy. They are working animals.

Early yesterday two groups of deer were looking alert and wary as we approached but as content and relaxed as free spirited animals could be. It would be interesting to see what difference the presence of serious predators might have on their behaviour. I can believe their general wariness would increase but not that they would look as miserable as the cattle.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Driven by Money

An update has been added to the recent post Driven by Managers - the following:

Payments made to Sheffield Wildlife Trust in 2012 through Common Agricultural Policy farm grants amounted to £111,872.66
In 2013 the payments amounted to £96,191.86

Figures released by DEFRA show that in 2011 the two largest recipients of CAP monies were the National Trust which received £8.1million and RSPB which received £5.1million.

The conservation industry has built itself a reliance on CAP subsidies that the public is barely aware of. This dependency is like an addiction that's become a monster with such an appetite that it dictates everything to the extent that no alternative use of the land can even be considered. If anyone has any doubts that these charities operate as vested interests utilising immense lobbying capability just try googling  'CAP wildlife trusts'. All this lobbying is being done by people who are rarely seen on the sites they are supposed to be managing.


You're lucky if you come across the waterfalls and gorges on Blacka in bright sunlight.

We're now in the best time of year for that. The rocks, moss and plants around the water are well worth a closer look.

These places are the least interfered with and have a special character, having no role in human plans - I sincerely hope!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Spruced Up

A thrill to see stags at any time but this is extra. Only a very short time ago they looked down at heel, scruffy and lacking pride and energy. Seeing these two, the sudden transformation came as a shock. Not only rapidly growing velvets but immaculate new coats. There must be a party to go to.

A direct consequence of heeding the call to eat your greens.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Wild Waters

Lovers of the wild like to get out when other folk may be happier at home. In the wind and in the rain and snow. Among the wild trees and the rushing waters.

And when we're there we like to stand still.

Those who walk along the empty moortops only on calm days and call it wilderness are to be pitied or, perhaps, better educated.

The sound of the spating stream almost but not quite covers a bird orchestra, musicians who care not about rain or audibility problems.

It's not just the torrent either. The spring energy of the ground plants complements the intensity of the waters. Bluebells are at their best when in small clumps around trees but also on islands with the current driving round them.


I suppose we would claim that grandeur comes with age. But nothing on Blacka is more impressive than this splendid corner occupied by the Great Birch. This is the oldest and largest Birch I know and both defies nature and is a magnificent example of it. Birch is a short lived tree compared with many native species and all round Blacka you can see specimens that have reached their final stages as haphazardly fallen trunks covered with mosses and fungi adding to the marvels of the woodland floor. A noble end. Which is why I loathe what the wildlife trust do in cutting them down and piling the severed limbs into standardised mounds. They manage themselves, their lives and their deaths perfectly and don't need this arrogant intrusion.

Alongside a Rowan has itself recently fallen.

The Great Birch is lucky in occupying the most sheltered of slopes. Its huge trunk is a marvel of gnarls and knobbles with shoots growing out and homes for many creatures. Its position is what preserves it but it means you can never get a full view of the whole edifice, something that adds to its mystery.

Up above it remains impressive enough to rival many an oak. Long may it continue. Its surroundings are just what is needed and there's no mistaking the integrity of a place that owes nothing to managers. There is Rowan, Elder, Oak, more Birch and this fine old Hawthorn twisting and writhing upwards decked out with trails of Honeysuckle..

Driven by Managers


Customer Driven: Manager Driven

An alternative to the Customer Driven business model, referred to in the previous post,  is the one favoured by the conservation industry. There's no doubting that the conservation NGOs are businesses and run as such. You simply have to look at their career structure and their approach to growth. There are strong similarities with commercial outfits. But there are significant differences, something the free marketeers are keen to point to when they snipe at the public sector. But the conservation industry is not exactly the public sector, it is third sector or charity, not there to make a profit; nevertheless it is there to promote the interests of its employees and many of its operations serve private interests pretty well. In a broad sense someone is profiting from what happens.

So what about the customers? We who walk on Blacka are as close as anything to being customers. What the management decides to do affects us more than anyone.  But we don't pay so we can be ignored. Because SWT can get its income from elsewhere it doesn't need to take any notice of us and what we think. So they don't need to worry about providing us with 'an awesome customer experience'. It doesn't even need to ask us what we think. It can ignore petitions, consultations and complaints. Hence the 2005 petition came and went, the 2006 Icarus consultation was ignored, the pledge to revisit plans and consult on HLS were similarly cast aside.

They get their money through the impenetrable system of grants and subsidies. And they send their work experience youngsters and volunteers out to doorstep householders and collect subscriptions from kind well-meaning people; they approve of charities but the vast majority of them know nothing about Blacka and probably wouldn't know where to find it. One feels obliged to ask: is this desirable? It's hard to see how it's locally accountable.

Payments made to Sheffield Wildlife Trust in 2012 through Common Agricultural Policy farm grants amounted to £111,872.66

In 2013 the payments amounted to £96,191.86

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Customer Driven

Being in the Peak National Park I realise we have to be more business aware in all we do as referred to in recent posts. It's not good enough to value it for what it is. It's our duty to get the economy moving. There's plenty of good advice around usually from people who want to give you 'Ten Tips for Business Success' or '50 Ways to Ensure Your Business Grows' and many others, all I'm sure approved by our National Park leaders including Jim Dixon of PDNPA and whatever Countryside Alliance, and CLA favoured DEFRA minister is still in post . One of the best bits of jargon refers to the importance of being 'Customer Driven'.
This according to the Business Dictionary means planning strategies motivated by customer demand or expectations. Elsewhere I'm told that my aim should be to 'create an AWESOME customer experience.'

Well the Old Wall Caff does try to satisfy its customers but maybe we're not going far enough. Perhaps we should listen more to what our customers say. I confess we were thinking recently of putting up a notice saying We Don't Do Take-Aways. The fact is the number of customers arriving was threatening to overwhelm our capacity to deliver the product. I then observed that many of them were filling their bills with the product and rather than consuming in a nice relaxed civilised way, were quickly shooting off into the bushes. I had my suspicions of course but was this really the kind of business we had in mind and did we really want to put in the extra work to expand our range of services?

So I read more of the guidance and discovered that in business there's no such thing as standing still. Our business must expand. We WILL be customer driven. We WILL do Take-Aways. What price peace of mind? What price relaxation? Everything has its price. And if there's not a price then there's no value. Am I getting the message?

Our most senior customer certainly approves. He drove into my face this morning fed up with my polite morning conversation. What are you waiting for he said. I would say he's the equivalent of 80 years old. He knows what we should be doing. And we should listen to his words of wisdom.

Friday, 9 May 2014

What Our National Parks Are For

So when are they bringing out the Cowpat version?
And I wonder if the Chief Executives get a backhander?

Return of the Economy

Just as Spring reaches heights of musical and visual beauty dreamed of in the darkness of winter the Conservation Economy returns in the shape of farm subsidies. The idea that there could be places apart from the economy is not one that finds favour in the national park - a place dedicated to markets and vested interest, as good an example of the curse of natural capital as you might find as its very fabric, the earth itself is transported daily on huge vehicles alongside Blacka on the A625 towards the M1.

There must be a statistical breakdown somewhere of the economy of the Peak District. Should we find it I don't doubt that quarrying will be one of the top earners and another will be CAP farm subsidies. No wonder the Chief Executive is so against re-wilding. To him maybe its should be renamed a business park or an industrial park. Then he could market his air fresheners with no pretence at all*. And to think some countries have real national parks.

So today's newcomers are the cows making a preview appearance in the sheep enclosure before being released onto the moor to eat and defecate machine-like in their roles as bovine engines of the conservation economy.

I’ve been sent a photograph of a notice placed at Agden Bog to the west of Sheffield a nature reserve of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. 

They have decided to put cattle on the land. The notice tells people to stay out while the cattle are there. It also helpfully says 'Welcome...'


*"I want to explain one of the most unexpected developments in national parks to help understand the most exciting developments on climate change.  Just a few weeks ago, the family of national parks launched a new range of air fresheners with Global commercial consumer giant Airwick."
Jim Dixon March 2014

Leaf Living

It's impossible to think of Garden Warblers or Willow Warblers without thinking of the new leaves of Rowan and Birch - and vice versa. They are made for each other. And the songs are the essence of Spring.

Though they do make getting pictures a challenge.