Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Fly-Tipping Cowboys

Fly-tipping is not just in the car parks. Cowboy builders are one thing. Cowboy conservationists are worse because they're using public money to do it, and they try to justify their laziness with spurious claims it's good for the environment.

Essentially it's the same thing. They do what they claim is a job of work - in this case cutting down trees. Most inconveniently there's stuff left behind and unwanted when they've finished. They don't want to dispose of this so they shove it somewhere out of the way and leave it. Just like the cowboy builders. If the trees could express a view would they choose to have the corpses and severed limbs of other trees pushed against them and left there? Does SRWT claim this is pretty? I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Two Churches

A good morning for distant views of two churches.

In the mist, spire twisting, Chesterfield Parish Church, St Mary and All Saints.

A bit closer, Holmesfield Parish Church, St Swithins, silhouetted at the top of the hill.

The Vapours

Vaping in the woods?

But the indulgence is all in the enjoyment of warm sun after a cold night.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Valuing Trees (and Valuing Hypocrisy)

On Twitter:


Following Sunday's post Essentially Cosmetic, Amey has decided to do away with the bollards and traffic lights. Don't say somebody actually reads this blog?


Obviously not. They've put the lights and bollards back.



One of the best times of year on Blacka is the time before Spring** when daylight hours increase leading to a surge in twitterings and sundry activities among the bird population. Sunlight is a spur to the activity and it affects wildlife as it does humans.

Yesterday, under cloud,  the hinds seemed stuck in a desultory mood.

Today, in sunlight, they looked happier with more of a 'spring' in the step.

** When is spring?
'Astronomical spring' this year starts on March 20th.
'Meteorological spring ' starts on March 1st

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Essentially Cosmetic

According to a signboard beside the road the substantial amount of disruption created over 200 metres here on a potentially hazardous bend on the A625 going into the city is 'Essential Highways Work'. Delays here have certainly caused many HGVs to change their normal route towards the city.

I can see the positive side of that, bringing as it does more quiet than usual early in the morning, but doubtless others living where the HGVs have diverted to will feel differently.

But essential? Well I suppose we do live in an age when more people feel it's essential to have cosmetic surgery and even expect to get it on the NHS. For some of us oldies that seems strange. But the work that Amey is doing on the bend is surely cosmetic, not essential.

What they are actually doing is repairing a dry stone wall that has remained in a semi ruined condition for several decades if not longer. And in order to do this they have declared the whole bend a worksite needing access by their 'site vehicles' and the  closing of one lane of the highway; the access they need is presumably an occasional visit bringing in replacement stone.

One wonders how much all this is costing. Nobody has been heard to complain that the repair of the wall was an urgent issue and no stock are being kept there. Some who like ruins prefer it unrepaired and people are more concerned with the ugliness that SRWT brings to Blacka with its insensitive operations.

The story of why this is happening goes back to this post from June last year.  Some of Amey's workmen applied weedkiller not just to the road verge, bad enough, but actually came inside the wall doing the same - thus inside Blacka for which SRWT are responsible. When Amey's management were informed what they had done they were crestfallen. What can we do to make up for our terrible mistake? Well, says SRWT, you could repair our boundary wall. Thus for weeks on end so far Amey's workers have been busy here. How much is it all costing, and are there associated delays in their other operations because staff are here rather than elsewhere?

But there's more yet. Part of the deal was that Amey would cut down some trees further up alongside the road! Street trees, ye gods!! Those very 'street trees' that SRWT and others have been lobbying the council to show mercy on. With bated breath .......

How Dare You?

I know anthropomorphic thoughts are frowned upon and I rather agree, but this is my favourite hind expression. She reminds me of a rather splendidly old-fashioned headmistress I once knew, long deceased.

Interesting that her coat remains in excellent condition while others have begun to moult. She would have not looked out of place moving up the escalator at Harrods in the 1950s.

Covenant Violation

The managing document for Blacka Moor is The Graves Covenant. It is absolutely not the Blacka Moor Management Plan written by SRWT. Every action planned and carried out by managers and operatives must be measured against the legal Graves Covenant of 1933. If not then somebody needs to be held to account.

It cannot be possible that any independent person reading the Graves Covenant, or Alderman Graves' related comments, would concede that Blacka should be managed via chainsaw and barbed wire. Those are both incompatible with the statement in the Covenant that Blacka should be be allowed to continue in a natural state. That cannot be compatible with killing and felling beech trees, birch, holly, oak and sycamore that were growing when the Covenant was written. In other words what SRWT has been doing is illegal. Nobody can get away with claiming that a legal document from 1933 can be put aside and indeed in 2006 the document was renewed by the Charity Commission which conceded that conservation could be carried out as long as recreational activity took precedence. The question that should be asked is "what did the Charity Commission understand by conservation?" Well it's fair to assume it would have consulted standard dictionary definitions. So let's look at them and see if any include the understanding that conservation might be about killing and felling trees.

According to the Cambridge Dictionaries conservation means:

"the ​protection of ​plants and ​animals, ​natural ​areas, and ​interesting and ​important ​structures and ​buildings, ​especially from the ​damaging ​effects of ​human ​activity"
Nothing there about killing native trees. 

The Free Dictionary says conservation means:
"the protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water."

The Oxford Dictionary says conservation means
"the preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment and of wildlife."

So when the Charity Commission said that conservation could be part of the management of Blacka Moor it's fair to assume it did not mean the destruction of natural vegetation and natural landscapes. 

So the destruction of wild nature that SRWT is engaging in is violating the terms of the managing document for Blacka Moor. 

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Old Heads

Some of the more senior visitors of the last few months. March is not far away and that's when the antlers are likely to drop. If the three large fellows seen today are still here then some keen people will be looking out for what they might find.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Can't Afford to Let it Fail.

No organisation likes a robust challenge. Nor do they appreciate independent people asking probing questions about their policies and practices. Witness Mr Brittin last week.

The biggest player in the charitable land-owning  sector is the National Trust. It spends a huge amount of public and charitable money, some of it from government grants and some of it raised from its members. For the National Trust there's a lot at stake if it is shown to be spending piles of public money on the wrong thing. Reputationally they could lose a great deal. Their cushion is their popularity with the old, the quiet and the risk averse, including the 'hear no evil' caucus set in their ways and resistant to new perspectives.

The big enemy of these mega charities is transparency and this they share with giant business corporations. Those who challenge their practices must not be given the ammunition of knowledge and information. That is why the transparency legislation through FoI should be extended, not reduced.

The progress of the Sheffield Moors Partnership was one of all organisations pulling together to aid those in difficulty. When SWT was challenged it was important that the National Trust and the RSPB along with the PDNPA and NE should come to its aid..

After all, those questionable management doctrines that SWT struggled to justify were the same that the National Trust was applying in Moors for the Future and elsewhere. If the challenge to SWT prevailed would the NT and others feel the presure next? Millions of public funds has been spent on pet projects that could come under tougher scrutiny with consquent reputational damage. Hold the line. Hence the parachuting in of NT staff to SRWT.

Both NT and RSPB are huge bureaucracies and, like the banks, cannot be allowed to fail.  Once the banks too were perceived by the public to be squeaky clean.

Light Music

Despite low temperatures the increased daylight and clearer skies this week have reminded bird species that spring can't be far away. Four days ago an exceptionally beautiful Mistle Thrush song was heard in the woodland to the west. Similar to a blackbird, but our male blackbird was at the time quietly scoffing the Caff delights.

His contribution to the light music can wait. Next week if we're lucky? But she looks worth serenading.

There have been a surprising number of blackbird customers at the Caff this winter; say it quietly or the control freaks may want to 'manage' the numbers.

Yesterday and today a chaffinch was entertaining us with his rattling song not heard since last summer.

A few repeated notes came from a Song Thrush. The Tits could be heard busy in the tree tops.

Keeping a watch overhead is one whose musical talents are lesser and darker.

And down far below spring activity has been going on for many weeks with no stimulus from the light.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016


It's no secret I consider SRWT's publicity seeking in supporting the Save Sheffield Trees movement to be self serving and hypocritical. The elm tree, we remember, that they claimed to support the hair-streak butterfly was used by them to chase support and membership for their organisation. Their concern is bogus.

Meanwhile should we be concerned for the orchard ermine and the rhomboid tortrix moths and others which are supported by hawthorn trees recently felled by SRWT's chain saw mafia?
An excerpt from the Woodland Trust's page about Hawthorn:
Value to wildlifeCommon hawthorn can support more than 300 insects. It is the foodplant for caterpillars of many moths, including the hawthorn, orchard ermine, pear leaf blister, rhomboid tortrix, light emerald, lackey, vapourer, fruitlet mining tortrix, small eggar and lappet moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The haws are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by many migrating birds such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.The dense thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many species of bird.
The evidence that confirms their utter indifference to wildlife and natural beauty is all around. Most criminals seek to hide their crimes. Not they**. Having killed the wildlife they pile up the bodies and limbs and leave them around.

The wrecking goes on. Everywhere you walk you come across the signs of destruction. They really must hate this place and hate nature. Is it possible that there's such a thing as a sensitivity gene? And that some are born without it?

** .... though they are fond of pushing the wreckage into places they believe few people visit.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Just Asking

Questions really clever people are too clever to ask:

Do Gravitational Waves help us keep our feet on the ground?

Does Dark Matter matter? If so does it matter more in the dark than in daylight?

And ....

 .... "Is this what they call winter?"

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Blame Game

The playground politicking over roadside trees in Sheffield has been an excellent example of just how utterly bankrupt the local political dialogue has become. Latest to weigh in has been the Green Party with a letter in The Sheffield Telegraph.

The characterisation here of the local LibDems is accurate .....

....but I wish I could agree more with the local Greens. Attempts to get them to see that a tree strategy should also - especially in fact - include consideration of the uplands, has so far resulted in no comment. Why would that be? It's been suggested they have fallen for the cronyism approach of the conservation industry. It's well known that however useless are SRWT on the ground, they devote a lot of time to networking and 'relationship building' (schmoozing to you and me) with anyone they think has any influence with particular emphasis on those who've never seen the mess they make where it matters.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Regulator Waking Up?

Suddenly the Charity Commission remembers what its job is. Tweets go out to charity trustees.  A bit late in the day, some might think.

As far as the Blacka Moor charity and its trustees are concerned, very late. It's quite possible that the only place you will find challenging questions are being asked is right here.

Having woken up and put in the tweeting effort it can now go back to sleep.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016


As Spring approaches the birds wish to be seen at their best for the breeding season.

Deer have a long wait before the autumn rutting so take the opportunity to look scruffy. This is also timed to gradually throw off some insulation layers donned in  winter. Adults start to show dark marks on their coats which are actually where excess hair has begun to fall off.

Some of the youngest have managed to grow a splendid protective layer to see them through their first winter.


A recent post here was about trustees of charities. An article in The Guardian today confirms  that we are right to be concerned.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Outdoor Life

It's been mild and not a proper winter, they are saying. Hardly refutable statistically, but yesterday's continual heavy rain followed by a cold night was hardly the preferred choice of those who spend their lives outdoors.

Overnight a group of hinds and young deer had moved over from the more exposed parts and were occupying a part of Blacka that offered some protection from the keen morning breeze.

The conditions had affected the corvine commute in another way. Gone was the frenetic soaring and diving of small and moderate sized groups we've seen battling the winds in recent days.

Today the jackdaws were gathered in immense numbers always moving west in calm and stately progress. I find this a spectacular and thrilling sight.

One thing alone detracted: It was hard not to be reminded of newsreel coverage of the massive bombing raids at the end of world war two as the allies tried to settle things once and for all. Wellingtons against the previous Stukas I suppose.

The regulars at the bird table were as keen as the wind.

A roll call showed good attendance although blackbirds, having satisfied their sharpest hunger pangs soon had other things on their minds.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Renewed Persecution


The war waged against native trees continues in the same demented fashion.

No frenzied religious fundamentalist is more obsessional. The dogmatic refusal to allow nature to seek its own salvation amounts to manic control-freakery.

The worst of it is that it's so easy to do yet leaves them with a satisfying sense of power over nature, a fatal combination aiding the addiction.

These are mainly hawthorns, wonderful native trees in a near roadside position axed and mutilated.

To comprehend the philistinism here we should be aware of hawthorn's biodiversity value - and biodiversity value is what conservation organisations themselves refer to when trying to bamboozle the public. We should note that among UK trees hawthorn has the fourth highest number of insect species associated with it, coming only below oak, birch, (both also persecuted here) and willow. And the older it gets the more important it becomes. Hawthorn can live to a great age. No comfort at all to the trees destroyed by those anxious to add to their chain-saw hours.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Vigilance or Dereliction

The subject of trustees has cropped up a number of times over recent years and continues to be a matter of concern.

Yesterday a report into the problems at the major charity Kids Company highlighted the failure of trustees to hold the Chief Executive to account. It seems there's no shortage of senior staff in public and charitable institutions prepared to do all they can to evade robust scrutiny of what's going on. At times it seems the public should trust them no more than they would profit making private businesses. Now there are questions about Age UK. Have their trustees been vigilant?

Blacka has two sets of trustees with responsibility for what goes on here. Sheffield City Council  holds the position of charitable trustees for this land gifted to the public by Alderman Graves in 1933. Having leased the land to SWT another set of trustees became involved, those of the wildlife trust. But that did not mean that SCC could walk away from responsibility. It has a legal and moral duty to see that the terms of the governing document are respected in all that happens, obligations that are by no means simple therefore in need of careful consideration. All efforts on my part to determine that due consideration is given have met with a response best described as a fobbing off. It's left to someone else to do, therefore it doesn't get done. At one time the trustee duties with respect to charitable land and assets were delegated to a council committee or a scrutiny board; there would be an annual agenda item on the committee's programme, giving the duty a public face. One feature of that was the opportunity it gave to members of the public to be present and possibly raise points to be considered. In recent years something odd happened to this practice. While being on a scrutiny committee's programme it stopped appearing on any agenda. Somebody unknown had made a decision that the council's duty would not be observed. Later, when this anomoly was raised  it came to light that the duties of charitable trustee had been taken 'upstairs' and the Cabinet more specifically the appropriate Cabinet Member had now taken over the role. But there was no evidence provided that she/he had at any time sat down and considered the details of the charitable documents in relation to what was happening on the ground. My money is on nothing being done at all. That is the present situation: effectively nothing happening, so duty not being performed.

The other trustees are, of course, those of the wildlife trust. We know their names but they operate in secret so we can't know if they do their job properly. Apart from what's on their website we have to rely on hearsay, intuition and what we can pick up from other sources. I've posted about them here and here. The new Chair of SRWT's trustees has recently moved into the role having been only on the board for a short time; that seems unusual. It may, but how can we be sure, have some relationship with the greater ties between the National Trust and SRWT, who now share a reserve manager with the charity. NT is seen as a strong and impenetrable organisation; local people are likely to get nowhere with them unless extremely wealthy and already very influential with access to the media. It may be that the conservation industry's big project, the Sheffield Moors Partnership saw SWT as the weak link and needed some support. The new chair has held senior roles with NT locally. One can over-read things into this but what else can we do when nobody in these organisations is signed up to the principle of transparency. I've not yet met the new chair of trustees so will have to reach tentative conclusions based only on what I can read and what I've been told. His board-membership of organisations like the CPRE and PDNPA will have seen him sit alongside those within the conservation and landowning establishment in company with those having a certain quasi political purpose which may remain at a tactical distance from party allegiance.

The new chair of SRWT's trustees has now it seems gained a foothold not just into SRWT but also into Dore Village Society on whose behalf he's been manning the barricades to defend the rights of condemned street trees in and around the locality. That's very worthy I'm sure and the tying of ribbons around village trees must take up a deal of time. It would take a lot more time to tie ribbons around all the trees on Blacka Moor under threat from the SRWT chain-saw enthusiasts. Yet from my perspective the brutal killing of trees arising naturally from land totally suited to such native vegetation is an infinitely greater crime, especially on a nature reserve, than the planned replacement of street trees already in an artificial setting. Has this argument had anything like a hearing in the decision-making meetings of trustees of SRWT? Or do they pretend it's not an issue? Anyway these street trees are in the council ward of Dore and Totley. They constitute an avenue of sycamores planted along the roadside to adorn the approach to the city. Needless to say their future is in doubt as they await the chain saw treatment despite some protest from regular users. Now where's a trustee and some yellow ribbon when you need them?

Postscript, 10th February

See this article in The Guardian:

Thursday, 4 February 2016

No Towel

This usually happens when you take the family dog on a camping holiday

Family are still in bed and the early riser returns from a refreshing morning dip.