Monday, 30 May 2016

Brush with the Litter Law

To throw down, drop or otherwise deposit and leave litter in any place open to the air is a criminal offence, even when dropped on private land or water.

In theory you can be fined up to £2,500 and that's for as little as a sweet wrapper, but it being expensive to prosecute  you may not be hit as hard as that. Fly tipping carries higher penalties, £5,000 for a householder who does not take sufficient care that their waste is lawfully disposed of. More for more serious and repeated offences.

Some litter droppers should take more care they can't be identified. The last time I saw a fox in this part of Blacka he was standing and watching me on this path. Today I found this on exactly the same spot. I rest my case.

Sunday, 29 May 2016


This Rowan gets fewer hours sunlight but the compensating shelter from nearby woodland has helped it become a near-perfect specimen.

Looking Again

After many years looking every shape on the land becomes familiar. When you look and see something slightly different, however small and far away,  you look again.


As if being 'sheepwrecked' is not enough the enclosure now has cows. Tough luck for any wild flowers.

And they'll soon be spreading their ordure over the rest of the moor. Mustn't allow people to think any patch of land can be allowed to stand outside the economy and its rampant exploitation.

A Bit of Magic

There's a bit of magic about bluebells that attracts most people. Even those of us lucky enough to explore natural areas on a daily basis relish the transformation of the woodland floor.

Up here we're much higher than the woodland in the valleys so when the flowers are on the way out down there they may be just coming into their own on upland woodland. You can be seduced by the scent and amazed at the blue dominance at ground level. But each superbly engineered flower has its beauty, speaking of the special value of woodland.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Sleeping and Eating

As they grow, young animals need rest and nutrition. Young stags developing antlers need lots of both. Antlers grow fast to become one of the hardest substances in nature.

After a winter browsing on bramble leaves the sweet Rowan leaves are just what's needed.

Friday, 27 May 2016


Raised in the previous post, SRWT has been off on an awayday. This perhaps should be encouraged especially if they take their chainsaws, barbed wire and conservation grazers with them, and forget to bring them back.

As far as Blacka goes most of them have little experience of its unique qualities anyway and only appear when they want to destroy something. So, by all means, get away and enjoy yourselves. As much as possible. There's no shortage of suggestions of what you can do with the time.

There is an alternative, however. Get out of the office and come to Blacka Moor unarmed and without preconceptions and industry dogma and learn what's valuable in natural sites. We'll be glad to help and give advice and tuition.

Lesson in Teamwork

No awaydays necessary for this pair.

A useful human holds out food on his hand. One coal tit flutters above then grabs a morsel; in doing so he manages to knock some onto the ground below. Another coal tit is watching very close by and swoops down to pick up the fallen treat. All takes a couple of seconds. Shortly afterwards they do the same again. This is repeated 6 times watched by robin, great tit and chaffinch admiring the presumption. But will they learn?  Too late. The arm gets tired.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Down and Out, Up and Ready

Down there in suburban streets Rowan is frequently found as a planted feature and it is out in flower. Life is harder up here and it takes longer; but we're nearly there.

There are similarities with Whitebeam also a member of the large rose family.

Both are lucky with their leaves, Rowans being delicate and irresistibly attractive when newly emerged at this time of year. Whitebeam is named after its leaves, strikingly white below and elegant in their own way.

So far  neither has been targeted by the obsessive destructive forces of the conservation industry.

Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016


Somebody got the idea the trees on top of Lenny Hill had been cut to improve the views presumably told such by someone from the managers.

I'm pretty sure none of them has studied the aesthetics of landscapes so it's not been a Capability Brown style job. You can see the results from a long way away,

Certain trees have been left standing, and they look as if they have recently been among many more which have helped to shelter them.

Usually trees left isolated like this don't last long on hills subject to strong winds but as far as SWT is concerned why bother. They got some good chain-sawing done that day.

Verging on Despair

Coming soon on a grass verge near you: barbed wire fencing, cows and sheep and chain saw opportunities.

A PHD student at University of Sheffield has the bright idea of studying grass verges and that which grows thereon but then made the fateful decision of contacting SRWT.

Never missing a chance to push their 'must-manage-it' agenda, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are now getting involved in roadside verges.

Stand by for conservation grazing and barbed wire. So yet another informal and serendipital hardly- managed-at-all corner of our lives gets the incompetent top-down treatment with full potential for spin, publicity, press release and grant application.

Before deciding to get SRWTs cooperation in getting more wild flowers on grassy verges you should do some homework. This is a picture of some grassland taken today that's managed by SRWT. It should have lots of wildflowers. But,as you see, it hasn't.

It's utterly, mindblowingly boring. Having second thoughts? Remember this grassland has been managed by SRWT for 15 years and is still like this. Why? Could it possibly be that the state gives them money to keep it 'sheepwrecked'?

It should also be worthwhile to look at posts on this blog from four years ago. They might give you something to chew on.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Native and Non-Native

Oak is one of the later native trees to bring out its leaves.

Oddly they have more red in them, but the first leaves of non-native red oak are much paler.

Attractive in their way but I much prefer the native foliage. A pity they were planted here at all really and some say they may spread along the stream banks. That's quite likely. In this case some thought to their removal should be given; to be replaced of course by native oak - certainly not more b****y heather.

New Old Look

This view looks much improved now we can see the old stone building without the tacky-looking caravans.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Deer Activity

Young stags are enjoying these spring mornings. Leaves are fresh and moist.

Their winter coats are gone along with last year's antlers. We can now see them as genuinely red deer.

It's also easier to blend into the lush greenery helped by dappled light.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Wire Puzzle

Why would someone leave two pieces of wire netting on the ground in the middle of the woods in one of the most remote parts?

And quite a distance away why this bag, full of wire netting in an equally remote place? We're used to seeing items dumped but not as far away from a car park as this. Nowhere that I know is chicken wire like this used for fencing so why?

Even more of a wire puzzle, how can this barbed wire fence still be here. I can find nobody to defend its existence and it is, of course, barbaric.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Dark Presence

Two black birds were waiting for the cafe to open.

Only one is reputed to have a black soul.

Shorts Lane Headache

Why is Shorts Lane, or Short's Lane so named? Historians' reasons are often much too boring.

The best answer I know is that only short people can get past this signpost. It's been carefully placed to ensure anyone walking, or especially riding, towards Shorts Lane is likely to end up being a lot  shorter - after possible decapitation.

Thursday, 19 May 2016


A lot happening in a very small space. And that's just what we can see.


A thin human might possibly hide behind a young tree. Two plumpish four legged deer are being optimistic but could get away with it.

Birch Magic

The delicate beauty of birch's spring foliage should not allow us to forget the wonders that often exist in other parts of the tree.

Its own textures and those it plays host to.

Just a reminder that many like this were destroyed during winter 'management'.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Melody

The best Willow Warbler's song so far. Although he has only one tune it's a lovely one and the perfect soundtrack to a sunny spring morning.

Monday, 16 May 2016


It takes a lot to ruin the pleasures of a bright spring morning around sunrise surrounded by natural beauty at its most inspiring. This is the time of year you most look forward to, having tolerated the worst that winter can throw at you. It's the time when everything natural displays the energy of youth that some of us can't hope to recapture for ourselves. So the deflation of spirits comes harder to bear.

The first signs that it was to be one of those days were at 6 am. Many mornings you can almost ignore the traffic on the nearby A road. Not today. A northerly airstream exaggerated the sound of scores of HGVs on their way to the motorway. This could have been Tinsley viaduct or a runway at Heathrow. We live in a very odd country administered by some very peculiar people among politicians and national park leaders who stand by allowing this to happen or at least not fighting it.

Then on towards Lenny Hill an area I've been avoiding having heard the wildlife trust has been working there.

 I should have kept away.

This kind of chainsaw hooliganism could only come from people whose education was seriously deficient assuming they had any at all.

Returning via the public footpath it's clear the mountain bikers have set themselves to wreck the fragile charm of one of the more attractive routes on Blacka. Deeply gouged in places and widened to the extent that some bikers have even even created two alternative tracks.

So much for their vaunted 'single track'. In time, perhaps soon, all paths will become scars saving only those few they've not yet discovered. It's pointless raising this with anyone. The wildlife trust don't care, nor the council officers. And the leaders of the bikers are worst of all, claiming it's walkers who are responsible.

 A mild disagreement  unleashes a torrent of hysterical personal abuse.

For those who are addicted to 'told you so' comments see this post from 5 years ago almost to the day.

Tomorrow must surely be better.

Sunday, 15 May 2016


Stags have been avoiding me for a while. They have a special appeal in their velvets somehow very appropriate to the fresh greenery of spring. They had been sampling the birch leaves and looked thoroughly at home. As usual it's hard to credit the amazingly rapid growth of the new headgear adding to the wonder of the general transformation all around.

Very Public, I'm Sure

Council officers and others sometimes refer to public consultations as public engagement or public involvement. You can find a lot of references to these phrases in official documents and on websites that deal with national and local policy making and democracy alongside those key terms accountability and transparency without which democracy cannot function. Politicians at all levels are fond of referring to these frequently especially when criticising their opponents. Concerns about a lack of transparency in public affairs and its potential to disguise corrupt practices led in 2001 to the Freedom of Information Act. Suddenly it became harder for people employed by public bodies to get away with scams and pull the wool over our eyes.

Blacka is public land. It was given to the public and is governed by charitable trustees (our council representatives). It is used extensively by members of the public. Its appointed managers receive considerable sums of public money to use how they wish. This public money is spent on projects and goes some way to keep them in their jobs.

But the public are not allowed to see how this process is scrutinised or find out whether it is scrutinised at all. Once there was a public engagement process on Blacka called the Reserve Advisory Group. That was scrapped because it tended to expose plans and thinking to inconvenient public scrutiny, something managers would rather avoid. There are now two groups, one a 'users group' a haphazard setup attended by different people each time with no power to scrutinise and another a 'conservation group' which allegedly meets 3 times a year. This latter, if it exists at all, is a secret group supposedly one arm of this dual public engagement process, the members of which are hidden from the public gaze as are their deliberations: no notes from their meetings are allowed to be shown to members of the public outside the group itself.

Willow Tittery

Walking through the woodland you're rarely far from standing dead trees. They add a lot to the enjoyment, attracting numerous birds looking for insects and nesting places, naturally allowing more light to come down to the woodland floor and creating conditions for many kinds of interesting fungi.

The greenery around this dead birch comes from a neighbouring rowan.

Organisations like SRWT are not happy with nature getting on with things in its own way. Nature should realise that's the job of officers who've filled in the right forms and planned the operation utilising up to date equipment. SRWT make their own dead trees with chain saws operated by those who've been through accredited training.

Some months ago a bird watcher claimed to have seen a willow tit. This bird is on one list or another of species which must be encouraged because it's not as common as some others. It's known that it likes standing deadwood just like that there's plenty of on Blacka. So SRWT got their act together and sent out some trained chain saw operatives with approved safety certificates with instructions to kill some living birch trees and leave them standing. This can be put alongside their other memorable achievements thus demonsrating  pukka biodiversity credentials.

C'est la vie.

Miniature Gardens

The big picture of extensive views with tree-covered hills takes some beating, especially in May. To my taste the best views are where trees are covering most of the landscape. Some individually shaped farm fields can help to complement the woodland lower down but I still find yellow flowered rape crops very hard to take.

Near perfection can sometimes be found by looking down at random miniature gardens, where newly emerging plants push through leaf litter and moss before the more pushy species dominate later in the summer.

This is the special role of spring flowers such as wood sorrel and violet.

Common or not these flowers are always welcome but even the leaves alone can create attractive mini-scenes in fairly unlikely places such as the dry ground under a large beech or the thick accumulations of moss on the side of a tree.