Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Toothed Blades and Forked Tongues

I was more than particularly fond of this latest victim of SRWT's crazed anti-tree agenda. A young oak, no more than thirty years old is the second to have been brutally cut down before reaching its prime. Another not far away had been felled a year ago. Week by week I watched the progress of this tree across the seasons as it came into leaf in spring as its leaves bronzed in autumn and the frost, rime and snow hung on it in harsh winter spells.

                                Still standing, so far, a smaller oak.

I know I'm not the only one who frequently wondered about the spectacle that it would present to future generations on reaching its prime. Its position was ideal to enable it to develop into a magnificent feature tree.

I would like to meet this young woman from SRWT who is trying to portray herself and her employer as a responsible voice in the Sheffield Trees controversy, defending both the trees and the community's  involvement in decision making, a travesty of community engagement. Perhaps she could come up here and explain and defend this desecration? She is Nicky Rivers, mentioned in SRWT's tweet about the felling of  trees in Sheffield streets.

Not only is she speaking at the demonstration against the council's tree felling approach but she is actually talking in the clip from ITV News about the need for the council to work with the community........ Heaven help us, this is Sheffield Wildlife Trust! Working with the community?

This tree now joins many others including mature oaks, pine, holly, birch and hawthorn vandalised over recent times.

Incidentally, the 'tweet' above says 'speech'. It's just a brief clip from an interview.They so want to inflate everything to reflect well on themselves. I've said it before and I repeat it: they are self-serving and it's a tragedy for the conservation movement playing into the hands of those who are anti-conservation.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Monday, 28 November 2016

Trees Get Their Week

As everything else gets a week so it's the turn of trees. Eastern Moors are planting six thousand and appealing for volunteers to help. It's welcome but the vast quantities of land artificially kept treeless for generations on their estates means you may have to search out the areas chosen (behind the works off Baslow Road and alongside Fox Lane).  A hundred times that number would be a good start. The expanse of Bigmoor is not part of the plan being preferred for the dreaded heather.  Burbage and Houndkirk too - you can almost hear them calling out for plantings. It would have been nice to be invited to discuss these plantings, the trees selected and the areas chosen but it's another case of being excluded in favour of carefully chosen stakeholders.

Walking in the woods on Blacka it's hard to imagine these places without trees. Atmosphere is all.

It would perhaps be appropriate for SRWT to celebrate National Tree Week with lots of chain-saw activity. If they've planted any trees at all I've missed them. The list of those destroyed, however, keeps growing - unlike the trees themselves.

Are they looking at these? Several nearby have recently gone.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Conservation with a Gun?

Many of us who love the natural world think it's all the better and more enjoyable when it's beyond the dominion of man. Those with careers in land, wildlife and associated management will inevitably see things differently. But it's at the extreme end of human influence to claim that those who like to buy guns and go out shooting wildlife are acting to the benefit of the conservation of wildlife and landscapes. It's a funny world though and not a day goes by without being surprised what people can believe and try to get others to believe. And yes, there are some who quite seriously purport to believe this and set out to persuade the rest of us that it is so. They even call themselves Custodians of the Countryside - custodians with guns; another example of the post-truth age previously referred to.*
"Be assured, we're only doing this for your good."

Country Squire is a magazine I've never read before and probably unlikely to seek out in the future. But there's a current article from the Chairman of the BASC  (British Association for Shooting and Conservation) that's worth a look. It states a case that killing wild birds is good for wildlife  across the country. This article is interesting because the magazine has now agreed to publish a well argued response from Steve Carver of the Wildland Research Institute.

Those of us who've shaken our heads in frank disbelief at some BASC statements have often queried in response how on earth nature and wildlife managed to exist before these altruistic custodians came along.

BASC started off as the Wildfowlers Association of Great Britain and Ireland ( WAGBI) an initiative  of a man who owned a gun shop in Hull. Wildfowling was particularly associated with coastal areas and at that time (pre-WW1) people with an interest in protecting the birds were trying to ban the sport. It's present name was agreed in the eighties plainly an attempt to manage their image and public perceptions. They've continued to try to present themselves as experts in conservation, responding to consultations and writing reports in such a way that under-informed people might see them as a responsible countryside voice. Yet you can only go so far in straining credibility especially when you write articles like the one linked to above.

* ( now the latest cliché after  being named the OED's word of the year)

Thursday, 24 November 2016


Picture from Farming UK

This needs some believing.

It appears that to qualify as a SSSI a landscape needs to be devoid of trees and utterly devastated by hundreds of sheep.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Divisive Tactics

It's notable that SRWT's criticism of the council's crass management of the removal of street trees in Sheffield's Rustlings Road is mainly about the 'divisive tactics'. It's hard to find anyone who supports the council on this, but SRWT is very careful not to say they are categorically against the chainsaw option.

Which is just as well because they are themselves heavily into their own desecration on Blacka and chain saws are part of that.

At least the council might claim that the trees on Rustlings Road are not suitable for the area. But the trees being hacked down up here by SWT's own chain-saw gang are healthy and beautiful and genuine British native trees and a valuable part of the wildlife and landscape. Also the street tree corpses have already been removed while these will be unlikely to be given that dignity - maybe being left as an example to other parts of the natural world not to get above itself; this is man's world, not nature's.

Nor did these trees cause any obstruction for walkers as is claimed by the council for those on Rustlings Road. Indeed a mere few yards away SWT has installed its own obstruction on a Public Right of Way in the form of a dumping of stones that cause a risk to ankles.

We might have hoped that the desire to provide tasks for their workforce and their machinery could have led to them spending time removing that very alien and anti-wildlife intrusion, their barbed wire fence. But that fence, for them, is sacred to their role, probably being considered for a future logo when the badger is deemed old hat and too emblematic of real wildlife.

As for 'divisive tactics' they have plenty of experience in that department which does not need spelling out any more.

Thursday, 17 November 2016


We need to know who the people are who support SRWT and their appalling policies and practices. In supporting them they give them encouragement in their barbed wire and cowpat management and therefore share the responsibility for injuries to wildlife.  Locally they will be people who are associated with SRWT's secretive Blacka Moor Conservation Group. They therefore are politically compromised in that they reject transparency. We have our suspicions.  Are they too cowardly to come forward?

I believe so. Unless they all believe the propaganda...............

As with all 'communications management' you don't tell the people what people wish to know. You tell them what you want them to think.  This is part of the smokescreen of marketing and communications management.  Transparency is replaced with 'need to know', facts with factoids.

Wildlife and Barbed Wire

Only yesterday I repeated my concerns about the red deer and the barbed wire fence.

This handsome young stag has been a regular on Blacka.

Several times recently it has been one of a group seen close to the barbed wire.

This morning my eye was caught by its awkward movement and the photo reveals that it is now lame, with an injury to its left foreleg. It was clearly struggling.

It's hard to find words to express what one feels. I have raised this so many times, once having gone so far as to meet with SRWT's Chief Executive and Chair of Trustees. This fence I emphasise provides no useful wildlife purpose that has been demonstrated to me.

Of course it's possible that the injury was caused by some other means. Of course they are wild animals and their lives take them close to dangers of various kinds. But you just have to conclude that the likeliest culprit is this barbarian intrusion into the natural world; and was this not what we have been predicting?  My position has always been that any organisation claiming to exist for the good of wild animals loses all credibility if it's responsible for installations that endanger them. But indignation gets nowhere because of a fundamental irresponsibility built into the institutional approach that they themselves are powerless to resist.

Three years ago I questioned the piling up of branches below a wall just where deer jump over into the thicket, leading to the crippling of another young stag. Before that others have questioned the fourth and lowest strand of barbed wire just at the point where smaller animals the size of foxes and badgers might collide with it. After that they clearly understood the danger because they replaced the lowest wire with plain (not barbed) wire. But, and this tells all we need to know about these managers, the substitution was done only where the fence ran close to a path where visitors might be likely to see it. Elsewhere across 90 percent of the fence's route all wires remained barbed!! People simply need to ask themselves what this tells us about the culture within the wildlife trust. Only a few weeks ago this fence was repaired after they discovered that an animal-lover had cut the barbed wire where it met a deer track to help the animals. Now the likelihood is that mending the fence has led to the death of another noble animal.

Meanwhile the sheep and cattle they have imported, animals they really care about (they bring in money), have left much of the so-called nature reserve a misery to walk on. If I worked for this organisation I would be ashamed to admit it.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Strictly Daws

Uniquely free formations yet unmistakeable. No two individuals in the same position. A lesson in choreography.

And life-enhancing. Stand by for one of the spectacles of the dark mornings when they swoop groundwards as the west wind hits them and weave between headlights of commuting cars.


A little group just on the other side of the fence.

I've seen the smaller ones go through the strands of barbed wire many times. They do this skilfully but it's not without hazard. I've also seen a picture of a deer impaled on such a fence having got into difficulties - very upsetting. Now it looks as if the larger animals are also squeezing through.  The hind on the right seems to be half way through.

One might calculate that they find this preferable to landing on the other side where the vegetation could have become a problem or the wildlife trust may have considerately left a pile of branches. I remember the young stag three years ago who broke two legs jumping over only to land in such a pile.

It's fairly easy to see their preferred route here and at one point somebody decided to make things easier for them using wire cutters. Rather typically SRWT did not find out about this for many months, risking perhaps a cattle breakout. If that had happened it would have been hard to have any sympathy for them.

Right? Left?

Having a 'Good Side?'

Monday, 14 November 2016

Screen Entertainment

For all the fun and the cleverness of the Christmas TV ads and the central role played by wildlife, once they've seen them how many children will go outdoors and see a real natural world beyond the living room screens? For all the money spent how many will go out and look for the magic of wildlife in wild places? And are there adults around to point them in the right direction but allow them to discover for themselves?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Feeding the Imagination

Those who say they want to engage children with nature should think more deeply. Instead of trying to persuade youngsters that there's something wonderful about their lacklustre management they should ask themselves what really captures a child's imagination.

Some of the management I see is so awful and so boring that no amount of enthusiastic missionary work will inspire. And some of the activities planned for kids leave a lot to be desired. How many times do we see the same predictable den building against a tree for example? More often than not half-finished. And despite what we see in the promotional literature I suspect activities are seriously constrained by Health and Safety fears. But there's a more serious worry - that those who want to indoctrinate are specially keen to get the young. Most dictatorships have their youth wing. And no advertising campaigns are more intensely worked at than those that target children.

Young minds should never be the subject of targeting by those who wish to promote their own interests. Instead we should ensure that children get close to the best that nature can give us and  do all we can so that there's nothing standing in the way - and that's usually adult ideas. Those of us who spent much of our childhood outdoors remember that the best of the outdoor world was where no visible adult influence and agenda prevailed.

There's a lot of enchantment in land where human intervention is absent. You just need to know where and when to look.

This morning a huge dragon was hovering overhead half an hour before dawn, grey and threatening. A few minutes later its shape had changed and it was illuminated from below.

Meanwhile in the gloom two shadows slipped across out of the trees, startled as if the vision overhead was an imminent threat.

Then the sun itself appeared and the dragon had gone.

Further on  the new daylight revealed wild creatures in an astonishing festival of colouring.

Mystery and beauty are the keys to a lifetime fascination with the natural world. But do the conservation charities have altruistic reasons for wanting children to get to love nature and landscape or is something else behind their recently expessed concerns? Let's hope it's not just related to their own need for support but sadly I've come to believe that they do not see such a thing as a natural landscape that does not have a role for them.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Shooting the Ad

Some people might have thought the big news this week has been about an electoral upset in the world's most powerful country. For others it could have been a tragic accident on public transport in Croydon.

But judged by what most people seem to be talking about, obviously the real big news was the unveiling of the new John Lewis commercial on TV. Each year this presents us with the professional standard against which the rest of the industry gets measured. The aim is always to disguise the vulgarity of grasping consumerism by encasing it in a more refined fantasy world trying to keep the sentimentality just within bounds but never absent. This year's has tried harder to avoid the worst excesses of mawkishness by going for humour and wildlife: animals are a sure hit. And it's undoubtedly clever and amusing. So marginally less cringeworthy. And we could say, if pushed, that there's something of a message that we should see our wildlife as an essential part of our lives and should be prepared to share with it.

Interesting that the Wildlife Trusts are getting something out of this, though I don't know how that works. It confirms what we had already worked out - that Wildlife Trusts, as a major strategy, is much more concerned with relationships with major corporate interests and piggybacking on big names than getting along with local people or responding to our concerns. Charity as big business.

A comment reported from the Countryside Alliance suggests that the wildlife shooters have been a bit sour about the adverts, implying that it's part of an urban myth about cuddly foxes etc. and the reality would be a lot of wild defecation on the trampoline. But then anything that tells us wildlife have any role apart from target practice for the gun-lovers will be sneered at from that quarter.

As for the Wildlife Trusts, I've always optimistically hoped that they're not all as gruesome as SRWT. If I'm wrong in this and they are all as bad as one another then it might be worth wondering if the trampoline should be covered in cowpats.

Friday, 11 November 2016

At Home in the Woods

A lot of photos of red deer crop up online. Many are from Royal Parks or parkland around Stately Homes or in the vast treeless parts of Scotland. And almost all show the animals out in the open, where they are easily seen. They're also more easily photographed although you may need cameras with long lenses.

The real pleasure, for me, is to see them in the woods where, like these two today, they look more relaxed and at home. And that's hardly surprising for a woodland animal.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Disaster Looms - or Does It?

Fewer managers? Will the natural world end? Who will dig its grave?
Step forward .........

When we hear that the PDNPA has decided to reduce the number of middle managers employed in the National Park should we be concerned, should we be scandalised or should we actually welcome the news? Another option might simply be a request for more information while not envying anyone whose job may be going.

The post linked to above seems to be clear that this is some sort of catastrophe, as witnessed in the alarming language, the illustrations, the use of bold type and capitals.

This blog has often had cause to say there's been too much intrusive management in local parts of the Peak National Park. That's not personal to anyone in particular, just a statement that some places are best left alone for nature to find its own way, while many managers have fostered a narrative claiming that dire results would occur if they were not in control and constantly intervening; not much different, as far as I can see, to farmers' claims that taking sheep off the moors would spell environmental catastrophe. That's found an echo elsewhere and here is not the only place where over-management has been criticised.

Management here on Blacka has followed an extended period without management where nature ran things in her own way. Since the return of managers, I believe, long with others, that much has got uglier; barbed wire, intrusive boundaries, farm animals and their excrement, the casual felling of native trees. It's often seemed that jobs have been created for the sake of it.  I've posted before about the amazing number of managers who have turned up to meetings, sometimes 'private' meetings outside scrutiny; and then public meetings where they have outnumbered members of the public.

Of course the over-dramatisation of consequences is what one might expect from those whose job is to promote management and even more if one's job is to help run courses for those who wish to pursue a career in management.

Incidentally I wonder what the photo at the top of the post linked to is telling us? Why no trees? All looks 'better' under snow. What role do managers have in this? Should the managers have rebuilt the wall? - that's what's happened here.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

How the Wealthy Play the Game

Game shooting has long had a totemic relationship with the ruling class. Inevitably bird watchers have a different perspective.

I like seeing birds but don't class myself as a bird-watcher and from time to time I rather disagree with some who do. I prefer to be a nature-lover with another strong interest in democratic processes in human affairs. Nevertheless I can heartily recommend this blog post by one bird watcher, Ollie Wright, on the subject of the debate in parliament on Driven Grouse Shooting. He completely nails the astonishing arrogance of the Westminster ruling class and its habit of lying in impeccable accents.

The behaviour of the MP who led the debate, Steve Double, has been questioned by many and is now the subject of this letter from the originator of the petition.

Links to the debate and transcript are here:

Monday, 7 November 2016

Breakfast Means .....

It means more when night temperatures plunge.

The range of customers is much the same: blackbirds, chaffinch, robins, blue tit, great tit, coal tit.

Not forgetting the patient crow watching for his chance.

No redpolls today but two goldcrests were busy nearby.

Fire Without Smoke?

Much better than moorland burning sending up clouds of smoke;  the barbarity of setting fire to heather to provide food for grouse which then provides more grouse and more shooting opportunities for those who enjoy playing with guns.

More comments this year on social media about heather burning. There's also no shortage of smokescreens from the grouse lobby an important customer of the public relations industry. And they can afford to pay. The simplest of tricks is to keep repeating a lie long after it's been disproved; and now we're in the post-truth age that seems normal.

Sunday, 6 November 2016


That time of year when birds get together and can be seen sometimes in large numbers. Often they are moving purposely in their chosen direction. Mostly when I see them in mornings it's East to West. Redwings have been present recently in groups of 20 or more. Wood Pigeons and Jackdaws are usually up overhead somewhere.

The large groups of smaller birds can be harder to identify for someone like me who's not a seriously keen birder, therefore without the benefit of large and expensive camera lenses and binoculars. But I can but make a guess. Often the groups lately have been over 50 at a time and their movements have been less directional than the larger species. They settle temporarily in the thinner top branches of birch where they are prone to hang upside down before groups rise up and swirl round before settling again.

What should be a giveaway for inexpert watchers is the sense of redness - one's rarely close enough to get a detailed view. That should at least narrow it down to Linnet, Redpoll or Goldfinch, each of which may be found in large gatherings. Some of the photos I've taken lead me to plump in this case for Redpoll but only those with superior equipment might confirm that for me.


Mostly it's to do with my own lack of fitness and mobility, an increasing problem over the last year. So I've tried to explore the more remote areas but again and again had to limit myself to parts that are easier to access. That's frustrating but only what many others have to cope with. So it's many months since I saw this pair despite searching whenever and wherever I could.

I had been scouring Blacka for weeks even before I saw them in July, the first and only view of a hind with young. Since then I've continued to look but this is the only time I've met them since then. It's hard to shake off fears that they may have come to harm. There are so many bad people about on the fringe of Blacka; and they have access to guns. It may be easier to see the deer in other parts of the Eastern Moors but here we have the chance to see them in a more natural setting, more wooded and hence more enchanting. The autumn beauty is an equal partner in the experience. Wildlife plus autumn colours plus natural vegetation: what could be better?

Here is the young calf rubbing against a birch. How does that manage to be so touching?

Friday, 4 November 2016


No plant that appears on Blacka and the Eastern Moors comes  close to rivalling the splendour of native Bracken. Seen at the right time, usually autumn and winter mornings, this much maligned plant exerts a regal magnificence and casts a hypnotic spell.

Yet, and this is extraordinary, it is one of the three most persecuted natural species on and around Blacka. The other two are, similarly, beacons of natural beauty. They are of course Red Deer and Birch trees.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Open and Closed

The Protecting Sheffield From Flooding Consultation has closed. Yet with all the talk going on in other parts of the country about having more trees in the uplands that strategy did not even figure, was not even mentioned, in the documents provided. When I queried this I was told that a certain officer was dealing with that. But if he was why was it not mentioned?

That speaks volumes about the attitudes that are everywhere in Sheffield City Council where officers and elected members think transparency is one of those things we used to put into a slide projector.

The dogmatic and inflexible policy binding all to artificially open and ordure strewn landscapes can only be explained by money, which of course must come before people's lives and properties and natural beauty.  As Blacka has shown we simply need to stop exploiting the land and trees will return anyway. Managers just have to respect nature.