Sunday, 29 November 2015

Eye Nourishment

These semi-secret places should not be tidied up beyond only what's necessary to allow one person to get along the path unscratched. A bit of mud does nobody any harm.

Another good reason for getting out before sunrise when scenes like these can bring enchantment.

A bit later the sun is just pushing over the hills and few places have such a combination of mystery and enticement.

Saturday, 28 November 2015


Unique to clear frosty mornings in winter are the mirror views facing each other across the landscape. On one side is the moon, clear and cold. Turn round and there is the sun just appearing warm and diffuse.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Dark Thoughts

Can't they leave us alone? They're supposed to spend all their time shopping. Black shopping too.

Instead they come here bringing their chain saws and barbed wire ......................

Monday, 23 November 2015


Bracken adds just as much aesthetic value as heather. No amount of purple flowering in August beats the spectacle of the frosted bracken tops or the winter sunrise illuminating the dead ferns.

So why no Bracken Trust or determined spin campaign to promote its fascinating beauty from the Countryside Alliance? Could it be that it has no use for the shooting lobby?


The stag was on his own and soon ran off.

The vole is always shy but this cold morning a bit less so. The bird food was tempting. Voles don't hibernate so we may see them at any season.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Trusties and Trustees


A trustee is a member of a board elected or appointed to oversee the policy and management of an institution.

A trusty is  a prisoner who is given special privileges or responsibilities in return for good behaviour, i.e. one who won't give any trouble or rock the boat.

Two quite different things as we see, though in some cases elements of the second may be considered by managers as desirable qualities in the first.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust has a board of trustees, a fact which came into focus when we realised that some of the trustees were instrumental in calling for a halt to tree felling in Sheffield streets while remaining silent on tree felling carried out by SRWT itself on Blacka.

Trustees of charities like SRWT have much in common with school governors a group singled out for comment by the Chief Inspector of Schools the other day. Too many of them he said are 'unfit for purpose' and signing up to 'boost their CVs'.

The way trustees go about their work is often veiled in secrecy. The Chair may take a prominent role in some cases but other trustees may know little of what's going on. A small sub-group may be taking on a sort of scrutiny role which is then rubber stamped by the other less-involved members. Really we just don't know because transparency is not a word used in private charities.

Even members of a charity may have no right to know what is going on. A friend who was a member of SRWT tried to get to know more by asking to see Board of Trustee minutes. He was told that he could ask a question at the AGM (which he couldn't do because he looked after a chronically sick parent). This is probably what the management and chair of trustees judges to be OK for the vast majority of their members whose general ignorance of what's going on is a welcome counterweight to those annoying people like some we know who misguidedly believe that the right thing should not only be done but seen to be done. Really, some people.

There have been recent changes to SRWT's trustees. The members of the board a year ago were as referred to in this post. The present members can be found on this webpage.

The outgoing chair, Anne Ashe is quoted as saying  “I’ve been so glad to be involved with the Wildlife Trust on a daily basis." That being so it's an insight into where responsibility lies in everyday matters. The new chair has apparently spent a lot of his time sitting on boards and committees from the profile displayed on the website almost all connected to the conservation establishment so we're unlikely to get much original perspective from that quarter. The mot juste may well be "this is the way we do it". But then we don't know anything much because transparency is conspicuous by its absence. But it's a pretty fair assumption that most decisions will be taken by the Chief Executive and the Chair between them with the other trustees only coming in later on, more like the trusties mentioned above, and the members hardly even figuring as also rans. Unless of course it's all total chaos which can't be ruled out by anyone who's watched what goes on at Blacka over the years.

New Flooring

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Fungal Distribution

Now the cold is about to arrive from the north this could be a time to appraise features of the mildness of autumn so far, in particular, fungi which are partial to milder and damp conditions. Among the weirder justifications for a generally eccentric management approach has been the claim that you have to have sheep and their waste in plenty to induce waxcap mushrooms to flourish on grassland. This has always puzzled me but I have to admit that there are numerous voices in the conservation industry who seem to believe it; but then some people believe the full moon induces madness.

Now we all know that the reason SRWT manages the inby land by crowding it with sheep is because of farm subsidies and the friends it makes them among farming interests which dominate the national park. But when you ask them why a nature reserve should have all these sheep they will tell you it's because of waxcap mushrooms.

I know this is nonsense from personal experience: the grass in my garden has far more mushrooms, including more waxcaps per square metre than there are in the inby land. So it's clearly nothing at all to do with sheep.

No sheep have grazed in my garden for 31 years unless they jump a 6 foot high fence and come in at night then disappear before sunrise after cleaning up their defecation. And I would like to bet that previous owners of the property did not keep livestock as a hobby either. Churchyards are also livestock free zones but quite likely to have waxcap mushrooms.

There used to be even more waxcaps on my lawn before mosskiller was put down on a section of it - not my decision and much to my regret.

There is one waxcap on Blacka's inby land that has not so far appeared on my lawn, an attractive red one that I would make efforts to conserve if I had a say in management.

But seeing as it occurs in an area no bigger than 15 metres by 5, the idea that you have to keep the whole 85 acres dominated by sheep and cows and their defecatory habits and devoid of wild flowers  just for the sake of this one species is obviously absurd.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Swamp at Sunrise

It's good that the rainwater here is not flowing downhill into the lowlands. But that has to be expected given that the land at this point is fairly flat. At other parts of Blacka trees have been felled on slopes creating open areas and allowing more  run-off after heavy rain, not by any means good practice.

The part illustrated was a narrow path which never got like this. All changed when cows came along; they would walk along here in the morning as regular as clockwork eating the grass to each side and in the course of their activity widening the narrow path to take on the look of a wide track. There were one or two small trees that helped to soak up the excess moisture that gathered but they were cut down by conscientious SRWT people. Hence the swamp.

We really love 'em.

Rain Forest Threatened

Rain forests are particularly important for the health of the planet. Few of us are aware that Britain is rain forest country. So it's somewhat inconsistent to protest and campaign against the loggers destroying forest in some parts of the world and ignoring what's going on in our own back yard.

This tree may or may not be on the list of the tree destruction managers on Blacka but we should be worried for all the reasons mentioned in recent posts. It is an oak tree and it is inside the compartment that SRWT has artificially designated for heathland. A careful look will reveal that some 12 feet up the tree another plant is growing on the tree - an epiphyte in fact. As revealed in the talk on this post, epiphytes are characteristic of rain forests. How can we expect other countries in the world to respect our view on their ecosystems when even our own conservation industry is destroying trees in our uplands simply to support the conservation economy?

Without Value

More pictures of trees still standing this morning. These could well be on the target list of SRWT for whom trees have no value unless protected by their management plan and even then might disappear through an unfortunate accident. One of these could happen today as a tree has blown down over a bridleway. That will bring down the chain sawers whose appetite for destructive power could well lead to more felling.

Recent finds:

Not absolutely sure when this beech was  felled. Could have been before or after SRWT's appearance at the March to Stop Tree Felling. See their facebook page:


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

"Yes, But That's Different"

It doesn't take a lot of guessing to know what SRWT will say if you accuse them of cutting trees down here and then supporting the Sheffield campaign to save street trees.

I'll quote them in advance ..... "But it's not the same thing at all. That's about city streets and this here is about good land management*"

Hmm!  Well they can speak for themselves but I don't buy it. A tree is a tree and those out here are just as valuable as, and in many ways more than those in the suburbs. In fact the health of our local streets depends on having trees growing in the hills, soaking up the rainwater that otherwise adds to the threat of flooding lower down.

Very interesting to see one major difference: Try Googling Sheffield Save Our Trees on Google Images and what do you notice? Then scroll through the recent posts on this blog that deal with concerns about tree felling on Blacka. It's pretty obvious. All the pictures that come up on this blog are pictures of trees. The others are dominated by pictures of people, campaigners ( and the same people come up on a number of them, the usual rentalobby including local politicians who only join in when they know the bandwagon has gathered momentum.)

None of which is to say that the roadside trees are not a worthy cause. But who's standing up for the beauty of nature out here?


* ... good land management, also known as Good Agricultural Condition. In other words land fit for Crop and Crap.

As We Say, or As We Do?

As is typical of a group that puts office work and their image as a higher priority than getting out into the fresh air and understanding the 'nature reserves' that are their own responsibility, SRWT has now produced a lengthy and convoluted official statement about their position regarding the controversy surrounding Sheffield's street trees.

Like many grand corporations whose business approach they admire, it's getting the publicity right that matters whatever sort of mess they're making of the real work they do.

What should we make of this, for instance:

We would also recommend that the Council and Amey consider giving people a longer notice period of tree removal when working outside of the normal ‘zonal works’. Two weeks is a very short time for people to understand what is being proposed and find out more information. For zonal works Amey/the Council provide roadshows well in advance where people can ask questions directly to staff involved.

This tree was felled by SRWT less than a fortnight ago - with no notice at all.

But we're used to double standards by now.

Latest victim, found this morning:

Monday, 16 November 2015

Please Leave

This slideshow of Blacka's trees can also be seen at this link:

 Blacka's Trees  

None of the trees in the slideshow can be thought to be safe from the chainsaw.

The H Word

In May this year somebody wrote a message across SRWT's notice at the entrance to Blacka. It asked for them to stop cutting down trees.

The message was, of course, ignored. Now SRWT is asking Sheffield City Council to .....  guess what?  .... to stop cutting down trees.

I've selected a few pictures from earlier this year to show trees that are under threat from SRWT's policy. And remember nobody will be aware that a tree is shortly to be destroyed. The first anybody finds out about the destruction will be the sight of the severed limbs and the felled tree on the ground. It will be too late. So these trees in this landscape could be gone tomorrow.

This is just a small selection.

Does the Green Party have a view?

Sunday, 15 November 2015


Alright, I said no comment was needed, but just in case the message was not obvious  ........

The Blacka Moor Management Plan went through and was signed off by Sheffield's Directors and Cabinet Members. Now if you complain about anything they are doing, such as tree felling,  SRWT refer you to the Management Plan as if to say you've had your chance to have your say.

The Streets Ahead scheme also went ahead after being signed off by Sheffield's Directors and Cabinet Members. This included the plans to fell numerous roadside trees. Once a grass roots campaign got going SRWT jumped on the bandwagon and identified it as a campaign against tree felling that they support. Did they make representations before it went through Cabinet? I'm pretty sure they did not.

They will jump on any bandwagon that helps to raise their profile and may increase membership among people who don't know what they are really like when they are the managers. Smithy Wood is another example. Principles and consistency are not to be expected in those whose main aim is empire building.

I support the need to keep roadside trees, but can anyone claim that the woodland  in this picture with its mix of different trees is of less value than street trees anywhere in Sheffield?

Yet many of the trees there including larch* and pine are rated as undesirable by SRWT and could be for the chain saw. Some pine and larch have already been felled elsewhere on Blacka.

* The larch in the centre was felled last weekend.

No Comment Needed

From Save Sheffield Trees facebook page.

This posting:
"Fantastic turnout, Sheffield Tree Saving People! You made your voices heard today! Prof. Ian Rotherham and Rob McBride, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, The Woodland Trust, Dave Dillner and many others spoke out against the indiscriminate felling of street trees, loud and clear from Sheffield Town Hall steps. The message is plain: we are not going away, and we will fight for our street trees!"

But the comment facility is available.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

No Hiding Place

Further on the theme that no trees are safe on Blacka, SWT has informed me that they intend to reduce the number of trees on what they call the heathland component to less than 25% of what it is now. This along with a myriad of other interventions was specified in their management plan. I had tried to read and comment on all of this in January but there's a limit to what can be done, knowing they will go ahead anyway. Only mass protests could save many trees and they of course will interpret their words in the way that they like. Which trees they choose to destroy, old or young, mature of saplings will be their decision and probably taken as a whim of the moment. Those within a minute or two's walk of the car park may be most at risk. That's been the story so far.

Chainsaw-man rules.

If anyone chooses to come up onto Blacka and tie yellow ribbons round trees they had better start now. That, I'm told, is what has been happening in Dore where the Streets Ahead programme of tree removal associated with road improvements has been causing controversy. I'm also told one of the organisers of that is a trustee of SWT.

Some of those that could fail to live much longer are these two mature trees.

The advantage of felling large trees to SWT appears to be that it gives a certain extra satisfaction to the wielders of chainsaws who like a job they can get their teeth into. Some more threatened trees:




Too late to save the one above. It was destroyed last weekend.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Danger List

It would be a mistake to think that the plans for Blacka include the removal of only one or two tree species. The following are all in danger sometimes according to where they are growing.


To the trees should be added:


................. the last two can only at the moment be predicted from a reading between the lines of some of the language used in their management plan and from the activities of their partners in the Sheffield Moors Partnership.

None of the above can feel safe from the destructive forces and twisted logic of local 'conservation'.

This list is almost certainly not complete. We also have to factor in the inevitable removal of Ash due to disease spreading across the country. In fact almost the only trees that are not possible targets for the chain sawing fraternity are Alder and Hawthorn, but even with these I'm not confident.

It should be noted that in the case of some trees they might want them to grow in one area but not in others. All amounts to a grotesque top-down rearranging of nature, an exercise for which they are confident of getting funding; and it will have come in one way or another from the public purse. It will also secure a number of their jobs well into the future. But from what we have seen up to now there will be no transparency nor accountability about the process. They consider they have official approval from an ignorant and supine Sheffield Cabinet in a manouevre that comes only just short of corruption.

There's been much talk of rewilding lately. What SRWT and their supporters want is the very antithesis of rewilding. One did not expect rewilding to be part of SRWT's agenda but we did hope that we might get something that acknowledged the value of a wilder landscape. Here it would have been a partly feral landscape developed further from what it is now, its unpredictability being a major part of its appeal. We were right to be alarmed ten years ago at the early signs of prescriptiveness.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Ethnic Cleansing Strikes Again

We naively thought we were getting somewhere when we got the 2006 consulation facilitated by Icarus to agree that Blacka should have only minimal intervention. Perhaps the conservation industry people in attendance calculated that it would not be long before that was forgotten.

The truth is that organisations like SRWT are incapable of leaving things alone for long. Their whole ethos centres around intervention, intervention, intervention; except, it seems, never where we would prefer it. Mainly in fact where it brings in funding. They have the eyes of hawks where it comes to spotting opportunities to draw in public money usually unaccountable and in the form of grants passed down from other unaccountable bodies who've got hold of a sizeable parcel of tax revenue.

The tree felling at the weekend is part of this pattern. Nature cannot be trusted so managers are needed to exert draconian discipline. Trees should grow only where they are told and only those species  offcially sanctioned. This land here is OK as long as you are the trees we like. But any trees over this side must be subject to instant retribution. All points to the deception of the so-called wildlife agenda. Wildness is the antitheseis of this kind of management. For them management is about killing and destruction of wild and feral organisms.

Looks like over a hundred years old.

On SRWT's website their 'commitment' to public engagement has led them to publish their current work programme. We've looked at it and can't say we like much of it. But we expect it to be honest.We know the way they work. Anything we see as urgent can't be done unless it's gone through their work programme process. So why do they saunter over the other day with a chain saw and destroy trees in an activity that's not in their work programme?

Perhaps it's because they suggested it to their 'conservation group' and nobody protested. The same 'conservation group' that is constituted of anonymous people too frightened to be identified and whose deliberations are kept secret.

It's Time ..

This is quite something and in front of the people who have been holding things back!

I do hope that the SRWT trustees get to see this

But let's be clear. People have been saying similar things before and have been ignored. It's just that he is such a great communicator.

 And he's right.

The Light on the Hill

Holmesfield people have been known to refer to their square-towered parish church as 'the light on the hill'. It's the most prominent of several churches we can see from Blacka.

A cloud and sun effect like this used to be called the 'eye of God' by some in the farming community where I once lived. It was said to presage a period of dry weather. We shall see. This morning Holmesfield was blessed. It should be noted though that the church is dedicated to St Swithen. So in Holmesfield every day is St Swithen's day.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Under Cover of Darkness

Dark deeds are done when people are not looking on. The guilty don't like to be witnessed when they're in the act nor when plans are being hatched.

The furtive graffiti sprayers have been out in the dark in my neighbourhood. The side of next door's garage has suffered most, but it's also to be seen on my wooden fence and elsewhere including two local bus shelters.

There's no artistic merit so the satisfaction gained in perpetrating this comes in the annoyance caused which gives a sneaky sense of power. No declaration of responsibility is made and all is done under the cover of darkness. If you expect it at any time it is when the clocks go back and it's dark before bedtime.

It's possible that the miscreant may have captured the image on her smartphone. It could come in useful if the handiwork is referred  to on a CV. I suggest an application for a job with the conservation industry who value clandestine operations usually conducted in holes and corners.

Another discovery of vandalism, coincidentally made around daybreak just two days later is the destruction of two beautiful trees on Blacka Moor. A large mature Larch and a young Oak. It's pointless using words to comment on people who do this, except to say that on the whole I have even less respect in this case.

On The Move

Morning manouevres over Blacka.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Safeguarded by Transparency

This blog is as open and transparent as I can make it. Anyone can read it and draw their own conclusions. If people see anything here that is unfair or inaccurate they are encouraged to contact me whereupon I’ll review the offending post and decide whether or not to remove it. There’s a comment facility for anyone who wishes to disagree or even agree. This is all made clear in the sidebar under ‘Content’.***

Transparency is a prerequisite for a decent and democratic society. It’s a safeguard against corruption, dishonesty and many other undesirable consequences.

I believe in transparency. Nevertheless I have just made a decision which goes against the spirit of this conviction. SRWT has put their record of the 12th September walkabout meeting up online on their website and they identify the people who attended with the comments made. I've asked them to remove my name and any comments they report me as saying.

Why? It's important to know why because I believe strongly in transparency in public administration and public forums and consultations. Those who lobby decision makers should be clearly identified, as should those who wave things through uncritically.

The reasons for taking this step are several:

a) The most important is that it is a gesture of protest against the secrecy of SRWT with the supposed support of SCC (Sheffield Council) refusing to disclose any details at all about their new major consultation group for Blacka Moor. People who agree to involve themselves in a consultation about public land while remaining anonymous should think again.
b) A minor reason is that the minutes as published give a misleading impression of what I said.
c) And a third reason is that those attending were not asked whether their names and comments should be published before they could check for accuracy - an assumption being made that the members of the Conservation Group might have sensitivities denied to the Users' Group.

*** When I originally started this blog I didn't make a special point of identifying myself by name. At that point my experience of online behaviour had led me to believe that the common practice was to have an online name such as routinely found on message boards on newspapers comments below the line and in Sheffield Forum for example. I had also seen blogs written by people who did identify themselves that seemed to be an ego-trip and including details of all sorts of trivia in their private lives. I thought that this was all irrelevant and could be a distraction. This blog would be different: not be about me but about the place. I think I've largely kept to that over the years but at one point a few years ago I came to think that my name should be clearly identified and some people might think there was a transparency issue, although that really applies to public bodies. Anyway more people had started to read it and they could have wondered what kind of strange person ( the word 'obsessive' was never far away) was responsible. In any case that does not really have any relevance to the matter of transparency even if one person has tried to suggest it might. On this blog I'm commenting as a private person. When I've attended meetings and consultations I have always accepted that I should be identified and everybody else too.
Why not?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

We've Got Numbers To Prove It

Somebody* once remarked on those who  "use statistics like a drunk uses lamp posts - for support rather than illumination"

It came to mind when SWT repeated their ridiculous claim to have counted over 3,000 spikes of bog asphodel on the Cowsick Bog.
Let's imagine the figure is fairly accurate. The question this use of numbers raises is why on earth bother counting? The bog asphodel flower is not rare. Anyone could see that there were numerous examples of the plant if they visited in July. What are they trying to prove by undertaking this inevitably intrusive exercise (trampling all over this kind of terrain does it no good at all). But I'm sure they consider they have made a triumphant point.They may even have calculated that this now shows that nobody can trust their critics who they imply have been claiming the bog flowers have been wiped out: that'll show them!

It is of course a straw man argument and utterly dishonest.

As one of SWT's critics I have not been saying that bog asphodel has been wiped out by SWT's annoying cows. The beasts have trampled over them, defecated over them and left the best display looking utterly miserable but they've not wiped it out or propelled it into local extinction; well, not yet anyway and that's not likely.

Before SWT came along and turned the place into a cattle grazing enclosure there were many spikes of bog asphodel, most not obviously visible, probably at least as many as now. But there was one particular smallish piece of land that was sheer delight in July with a magnificent and inspiring display of the yellow flowers tumbling over each other and beautifully complemented by bell heather. This was the place to bring people visiting the area; it was the most spectacular floral show on Blacka and for some miles around. That is what the cows destroyed and not without it being predicted. This year the trampling has been even worse and we have to accept that, while lots of individual flowers continue, scattered across the bog, the wonderful display is now a thing of the past.

The reason they don't care is because the only criteria they work to is a birdbrained version of a biodiversity priority. Being beautiful and inspiring does not matter. They are managers who care only for the tick box agenda of Biodiversity Action Plans. And I've always believed these are liable to be focused on what suits managers.

As for the numbers they quote, the first time I heard of this counting I was quoted 1,600. Now it's 3,000 plus. But what is the point? Anyone visiting in summer can see there's no shortage so why go any further taking up masses of staff time unnecessarily (when we are told that they've not got time for other important things such as providing minutes of meetings?)

* Now found to be Andrew Lang

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Restricted View

Mornings like this one test my story that there's always something worth seeing on Blacka.

Then I was in the middle of a swarm of fluffy blobs. Long tailed tits don't often patronise our Wall Caff. They do come to bird tables but are not usually 'regulars' being more nomadic than their cousins.

The local crow by contrast, and not just in size and solitariness, has become a common sight, usually waiting patiently for the proprietors to move off before coming down and cleaning up after small birds have had the pick of the goodies.