Monday, 31 October 2016

True Colours

Displayed in early sunlight.

Beech and Birch


Field Maple



There have been many mornings like this before in years gone by. Somehow everything came right. Gorgeous autumn colours, glimpses of wildlife, still conditions, the sun mostly in play. But those days we see now were blessed. They were the days which we innocently thought might continue, even getting better.

But those were in the era we now label B.C. Whether you  call this Before Conservation or Before Cows is up to you. It's certainly the latter that have utterly changed the atmosphere and also the nature of the paths for walkers.

Apart from their ubiquitous skiddy waste they have also carved deep holes. It's a struggle now to find a decent surface to walk on. Now we have the crude experience of heffers roaring on-heat charging across the moor and obstinately refusing to divert from their chosen path. If only someone would  drive them to Stafford Road taking all their waste with them.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Blindness and Flooding

One of the less well-known consequences of flooding is that it can cause blindness. That's especially true if you're an owner or  manager of grouse moors. Residents living near Hebden Bridge are sure that it's the management of nearby Walshaw Moor for grouse shooting that helps to cause flooding problems in the nearby valleys. Needless to say the grouse industry is too blind to see this.

All the moors to the west of Sheffield are also grouse moors. You only have to look at their predominantly artificial and treeless aspect to understand that. If nature had its way they would be mainly wooded  - and therefore more water would be retained in the higher parts.

Sheffield's Flood Protection Consultation ends on Monday. Those who've not responded have only a couple of days to do so (and don't forget there's an hour less on Sunday).

Sheffield Wildlife Trust has already responded to the consultation and you can see their response on their website. I found it rather well written and a number of excellent points are made. Enough to surpise me at least. There's a big 'but' however, as might be expected, an omission so great that it confirms the diagnosis that being responsible for our uplands causes blindness in respect of flooding, probably wilful blindness. Despite it being obvious to commentators across the country that we need far more trees in the highest land, SRWT does not advocate this. In fact, as we've constantly complained over many years now, Sheffield Wildlife Trust cuts down trees when it should be planting them, and manages a largish tract of grassy land with sheep - a known contributing factor to water run off and, potentially, flooding downstream.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Grouse Moor By Appearance

Grouse Moors are in the news at the moment and being discussed in parliament. It's taken long enough. I see, in the latest contribution to the debate, that Friends opf the Earth have produced a map showing where they believe all the country's grouse moors are. A close look shows that they include Burbage, Big Moor and numerous other parts of the Peak District as managed grouse moors. Some of the local conservationists will not be very happy. But maybe it serves them right. If Eastern Moors, the RSPB and National Trust don't want the land they manage to be called grouse moor then they should make sure that it doesn't look as if that's just what it is.

Doubtless some people will be looking carefully at FoE's methodology.

As far as I'm concerned the management of these upland areas so that their highest parts are kept treeless makes them grouse moors. They are grouse moors by character and appearance.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Fiery or Subdued

October mornings are sometimes ablaze. As many are soft and calming.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

It's Not Just Blacka

Like many, I once thought conservation groups like wildlife trusts must be an unqualified good thing. And I'm sure there are excellent people working for them up and down the country.

But the problem we've had here is by no means exceptional. Reading this article about Spurn was a remarkable experience, in that what's happened there reflects so much of the experience of obduracy and philistinism we've come to expect here.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Parks, Farms and Privatisation

If anyone can be bothered to refer to SRWT's web pages about Blacka Moor they may notice a change since last time - in my case a few months ago. There's no longer any information about Users Group meetings - the fraudulent replacement for the RAG (Reserve Advisory Group) which had been running since 2001. This is entirely compatible with our predictions when they made the changes they did in their new Management Plan - emasculating the only half-decent community involvement in decision making by creating another secret body where discussion of policy and practice was confined to a group of unprincipled and undemocratic individuals. The aim was clear from the outset: eventually people would give up attending the Users Group thus making it such a pointless exercise they might as well give up on the whole idea.  This was further hastened when people asked for minutes to accurately reflect what they said and demanded congruity between the two groups. Now the minutes of the latest meeting have not appeared and those of previous meetings are nowhere to be seen. That may be convenient for them in that it reflects my demand that I didn't want my comments made public until they did the same for those who attended the conservation group. But that's tawdry and unprincipled managerial practice, just what we have learned to expect from SRWT, an outfit of groundbreaking arrogance.

All this reinforces the view that a ghastly mistake was made when this prime piece of public land was handed over to a private and immature group with none of the necessities of scrutiny and accountability required. No wonder the Charity Commission stalled for so long when asked to agree to the handover. And what we all suspected would happen, has happened, namely land that was for recreation has been managed as a farm.

38 Degrees is now petitioning to stop the privatisation of public parks, a trend that is increasingly found to be attractive by bureaucracies and politicians. That's always a difficult issue for those who see public assets deprived of investment and services, and therefore looking uncared for while so many private spaces receive more superficial polishing.

The main difference here is that urban parks badly need their childrens' playgrounds and other facilities to be repaired and updated while Blacka is another creature entirely; here, on a unique piece of land we just wanted the place left alone with only access arrangements improved.

There is, of course, another way. In Millhouses Park and some similar parks, instead of handing the park over to a private outfit, Heritage Lottery Funds have been used alongside local council and a Friends Group's active engagement.

The trouble with privatisation is the lack of accountability stemming initially from failures of transparency which always go with private involvement. You can't be truly accountable if you hide your decision-making processes from the public.

So where does the handing over of Sheffield's public owned land to charities stand in this? SRWT's dreadful management here may have been just as bad in the hands of the lamentably uninspiring managers in a  Town Hall that does not understand what transparency accountability and public scrutiny mean.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Blood on the Moors

Title of a new thriller?

More bramble than I've seen before has turned red. Let's hope there are enough of the green leaves left for the deer in winter. When snow is lying they search out bramble as almost the only remaining source of greenery.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Lows and Highs

Looking up we can see the differences, silhouetted against the morning skies. Some trees have shed their leaves while others are making a fight of it. And there are always those which can't make up their minds.

And we can still find some that deny altogether the months have moved on

Small flocks of migraters cross over, usually from east to west. Occasionally they take a brief rest in the top branches. They're hard to recognise. Is there a touch of red on these, and if so could they be linnets or redpolls?

No mistaking these.

Down at floor level footpaths are decorative too.

Though the spoilers have been busy.

Don't spend too much time looking up or putting your foot in it can lead to an accident. Does this figure in any risk assessment?

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Buzzing and Gawping

If you wait long enough things come round again and that applies particularly to fads connected with education. I remember being in the company of an educator of the 'old school',  an inspiring stand-and-deliver teacher. He had been observing some results of the then new trend for taking kids on trips out in the countryside 50 years ago. Having watched a few examples and being unimpressed, he remarked:

"Well we hear a lot of criticism of 'chalk and talk', but a deal of what I've seen here is little more than 'walk and gawp'."

The conservation industry having signed up to marketing themselves on Twitter and Facebook have become convinced that their twitterings are the new fads. But it's actually them talking amongst themselves and they might as well be a few sparrows chirping in my boundary hedge.

Cliches are everywhere. I really thought we were starting to say goodbye to phrases like "There's a real buzz...", but apparently not.

This is from a blog on Natural England's website.

All this is a new opportunity for propaganda, like Eastern Moors' cringe-making Ranger Tots. But, sadly perhaps, there's no evidence it works. Otherwise the generations of children who were taken out on school trips into the countryside in the 70s and 80s would by now, as adults, be respecting nature more than they do. The problem is that once you institutionalise something there's a serious danger that kids will get turned off - not perhaps immediately - but later on.

There's a lot could be said about children and nature. In my experience, for what it's worth, children learn best about the value of the outdoors when they have freedom to explore; and adults, especially those with an agenda, are a huge turn-off. And one thing we can be sure of, the whole conservation industry has an agenda along with the farmers and shooters. Those with a child's spirit and freedom are the ones who come closest to understanding what's valuable about the outdoors and nature.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Slow Changes

Each day we think must be the last of this extended period of settled weather. The changes are measured: today there are small patches of ground frost;

that's been helped by less of a breeze than yesterday's; but from the south east rather than north. The sun now rises at about 96 degrees. We might be deceived that leaves have changed a lot but much of the effect comes from the October morning light. In truth many trees still show minimal colour change.

Watching these changes day by day feels like a luxury most people can't share; but this morning has been one of the best. Even the patches of mist have chosen the most favourable parts to settle. Birds heading west have it easy with no wind to battle against. Just two deer a stag and a hind partly hidden ...

Paths through the woods are at their most inviting.

Many of the leaves are now lying below so will not get the chance to give us a feast of colour on the trees but some of the common ground cover plants are doing their bit. Bramble's thorny stems are crimson and a selection of their leaves as vivid as anything in the woods.

The small Whitebeam is in a hollow where its berries have survived better than most Rowan.

Higher up the tree fungi appreciate the extra colouring brought by early sunlight.