Friday, 30 June 2017

Cows to Hogs

End of June (yet May clings on).

Pathsides show the impact of days of rain and Cow Parsley has now given way to Hogweed and Ground Elder.

There's less of Hogweed than the Cow Parsley and what there is is more coarse.

The heads of Ground Elder are more attractive to see:

Hogweed seems more attractive to insects though the tiny florets are pretty enough.

Real Estate

On a gloomy morning the views below and further east are still clear enough to reveal differences in the way we live.

Blacka Moor Crescent and Blacka Moor Road have some of the most desirable properties in all Sheffield. Dore is known as being a place where wealthy people live, but it's more mixed than many think. There are many more modest dwellings including a council estate near to King Ecgbert's School; I don't know how many of these are now in private ownership but would guess quite a lot.

The electoral ward comprises Dore, Bradway and Totley all considered to be attractive residential neighbourhoods, though the other two lack Dore's advantage of village character away from through traffic routes. They do have plenty of typical semi-detached developments.

All is good news for estate agents who may find lucrative pickings in the whole area. Profits from such enterprises could even enable one to build one's own property, even going so far as to add a personal squash court or ballroom?

This is a long way from Graves Park, along with Blacka Moor and other open spaces gifted by the benevolent Alderman Graves to the people. That too can be seen in the centre of this view despite the gloom and damp today. Visible in the same picture are Gleadless tower blocks.*

These were built around 1960 and the cladding was added in the 1990s. I understand that sprinkler systems were 'retro-fitted' in 2011. Other Sheffield tower blocks, according to the council will now be fitted with sprinklers too.

How many people from tower blocks eventually find a retirement appartment in the Fairthorn block has to be a rhetorical question. Before this appalling eyesore was erected Fairthorn had been a quite different building, not at all conspicuous from Blacka. Ironically perhaps it had been used as a centre to bring children from poorer housing areas of Sheffield to give them a taste of something different.

* Another recent view of the towers from the north west.

Son of Scruffy

It's getting to that time in the season when birds moult having worked hard at bringing up a family. Some look the worse for wear.

He could be a descendant of Scruffy, who used to visit us regularly and feed from our hands three years ago.

Shooting and Propaganda

Anyone bamboozled by the constant stream of propaganda put out by the shooting lobby should read this from Dr Steve Carver of Leeds University.

Saturday, 24 June 2017


Now gracing the lanes and tracksides across the Peak is the white Elder Flower, following on from Rowan and Hawthorn. Like Rowan, and unlike Hawthorn, Elder is a fast-growing and short-lived tree and often to be seen in a state of decline with bark stripping off.

Standing in their favour is their culinary value. Hawthorn is a much more robust and long-lived tree but most people leave the haws for the birds.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Bottom Up

Wild flowers are at their best when pushing through a good variety of neighbouring plants more or less harmoniously.

Some spiked flowers open from the top down others from the bottom up.
Foxglove is everywhere at the moment co-existing with bracken.

It's a bottom-upper. The lower green seed heads close securely before the final flowering at the top. Close to genuine democracy.


This is Chicken Licken day. The sky is falling down. After hot still days and a morning of strong breezes we were dodging pine cones.

Things are bad enough here but elsewhere it might be flaming panels.
The centre cannot hold. Let's go and tell the queen.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Solstice Singing at Half Past Three

Sunrise offically today in Sheffield is set at 04.37. A Blackbird was singing an hour earlier than this. This bird is the greatest star among native birds. As the season progresses his music improves, developing in confidence and melodic quality. Earlier on it may have been more intense, even nervy, but by now it's possible to detect a rhapsodic element and a fruitier tone.

There are those, always will be, who scorn our enjoyment of bird song on this level. I've always felt instinctively that there is common ground between great music and the natural sounds of birds. We know that birds are marking out their claims to territories and declaring their self importance as something to be reckoned with. There are few human musicians to whom this has not applied.

Delius' First Cuckoo might conceivably have been even better if he had written about the Blackbird yet his Song Before Sunrise captures something of the joy in natural beauty. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017


Either side of the paths we are likely to see many flowering plants thriving on the margins disturbed by walkers over many years. This is where the greatest density and variety of common plants are to be found, many of them familiar as weeds targeted by tidy gardeners but here given the space and freedom to show what they can do alongside others.

The last time I tried to count the number of these species I got to over thirty in June before giving up. And at times they create a mix of contrasting forms as might be compared with any highly managed herbaceous border. Further back from the margins the variety declines with less disturbance allowing the more vigorous species to get a stong hold.

I prefer the informal and unintentional effects of man's presence to the attempted planning of supposed nature reserves with grazing disturbance allegedly creating more diversity by the animals disturbance of the ground. I've watched these management fads for many years and seen no clear evidence that they work on this site, and certainly have left the place in a worse state than benign neglect would do.

I looked at this patch of grass with daisies, buttercups, speedwell etc and wondered how long it would be so pleasant bearing in mind the presence of 16 cows nearby.

As it happened the farm livestock did not get the chance. A few days later a party of SWT's workforce arrived with strimmers to perform a task much like that of the Highways people along the main road.

Some places have so far happily escaped. There we might see, among the many common flowers some Twayblade Orchid.

Unfortunately the white Vetch found in previous years only near the gate post here, has not been given a chance. As I've said before, machines dictate the work and humans are losing free will and handing over power.