Saturday, 30 September 2017


These are the days to look for fungi in the woods.
Many of these are associated with birch trees and are to be found close to them,

.. or even on them as is this clamlike common birch polypore.

Few of the fungi are perfect specimens as the local slug population is usually quick on the scene.

Its attraction for fungi is just one of the reasons to value birch. Robert MacFarlane recently asked for ideas for collective nouns for tree species. One that was suggested was a glimmer of birch, good for spring summer and autumn.

Some on Blacka will glimmer no more.

Working Tirelessly ...

"Working tirelessly to protect Sheffield's trees." (SWT's website)

 ..... with chainsaw.

A bit too tiresome to remove the waste.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Grumpy Gove

Why in this tweet is Gove looking so grumpy and the SWT officer embarrassed?

Perhaps somebody has just asked about all the trees SWT has been cutting down on the hills above Sheffield?

Apparently they had been telling him they had been "working tirelessly to protect Sheffield's trees" (see SWT's website).

Monday, 25 September 2017

Black Spot


Hmm, get them when they're freshers, given the story and maybe take advantage of the discounted or even free membership.

Looks like the chainsaw season has already begun. Nothing like a bit of destruction to make you feel good about life.

Now if this happened every time they used a chainsaw .......


Sunday, 24 September 2017

Oak and Alder

The imported red oak is not universally approved of on Blacka. Among native trees it can be seen to clash. Here it is trying on its gladrags, showing the indigenous specimens what they should be doing in this season. It will get no response from alder which never turns colourful when leaves die, preferring drab mourning colours.

Native oak, of course, can display fine autumn colourings. But only those that have managed to avoid SWT's chainsawings.

Directives and Decrees

With the petty absolutists of SWT, SCC and NE there are no two ways about anything. They believe the public are so enfeebled that their soulless uglification schemes will meet only the mildest protests.

The idea that the activities of a small number of enthusiasts on a very few days in the year could be worse than their own 365 days management of ecological plunder and pillage is plainly absurd. You only have to look at the 80 acres of "nature reserve" given over to sheep grazing to realise that only tank manouevres could make it worse.

It's possible that some people may have been persuaded to attend this event. There are ways of getting what you want. Or can they be bothered? The wording tells us clearly enough. They are not interested in what anyone has to tell them, unless it's what they want to hear, namely what they were just about to say themselves. Still it looks good from the outside to anyone who's not spent some 15 years trying to hold a meaningful dialogue with them.


Dying and decaying, sometimes with dignity.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Loud Noises

What's wrong with roaring or bellowing?
The word "bolving" is an ugly and a clumsy invention.

Was a committee involved?


"Where is the nearest tree and why should we have to go so far to find it?"

" Is this site really being managed for nature?"

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Late Appearances

Cultivated gardens often target flowering throughout the year and many find colour in this season by turning to imported varieties. Native wild flowers of wayside and woodland can't rival such displays. My walks do find some colour however. Ragwort could be native or could be an introduced variety.

But one of the wonders among wild flowers for extended flowering time is herb robert, so commom we hardly notice it until everything else has died back. This surely would make an excellent border flower if it were not so leggy; many relatives in the cranesbill family are found in borders and rockeries.

Another wonder is the mountain cranberry. It has already flowered and produced a good crop of berries which may have been used for an excellent preseve. Now, as late as this, it is flowering again. Should conditions be favourable, mild temperatures and enough insects, they may bring a crop just a week or two before Christmas.

The mountain cranberry here could well be described as cultivated or semi-cultivated in that it is only here in such profusion due to human intervention, the often referred to management for heathland, via chain saw and cowpat.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Early Birds

Sunrise at 06.44. The woods before that.

Birds were already calling out declaring their territories.

Feeding time comes a bit later when it's easier to see.

The nuthatch knows just where to hang out to be first in the queue.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


A mature stag wanders across speculatively. Perhaps hoping to come across females.

Disappointingly the only females in sight are these, and they are only welcomed by those making money out of them.

These days we see few larger stags compared to ten years ago and often wonder why. We do know that the wildlife trust have absolutely no interest in protecting them and are more likely to worry about the boring bovines. We also know that a number of local landowners like to use their guns.Very depressing thoughts.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Short of Glamour

Not likely to be ordered from the florist even as a contrast to spectacular blooms. These are the seasonal accompaniments to a typical mid September walk. And not without their own kind of appeal.


Sunday, 10 September 2017

Perspectives on Grouse Shooting

A month ago an article was published in the Guardian written by that keen writer on birds, Mark Avery. Its purpose was to persuade readers that grouse shooting should be stopped and the evidence presented was, in my view, overwhelming. We've known it all for many a year, of course, but the subject has become more high profile in recent times, with petitions including one to parliament, revealing the depth of feeling across the country. There is no justification that shooters can come up with that even begins to deal with the case against driven grouse shooting; those attempted are so feeble as to be laughable.

What rarely gets mentioned in the debate and the arguments used when this issue is discussed is the role of the conservation industry, those heroic saviours of our wildlife and countryside. How often do you hear of the wildlife trusts' attitude to this so-called 'sport'? or the RSPB and the National Trust. Apart from the occasional brief and usually non-commital comment you will struggle in vain to find reference to the issue. Members of both RSPB and National Trust are less reticent and RSPB members are often well ahead of the charity's bosses encouraged by Avery as RSPB in exile; that led to an appearance before the parliamentary select committee of an RSPB man alongside Avery.

This is all very interesting but why is it that these charities hang back on this. You get an indication if you read one of the comments below the line of the Guardian article. That ruthlessly honest commenter on the management of our landscape, Mark Fisher, exposes the underlying anomalies and fault lines in the approach of Natural England and the designations it's responsible for that allows grouse moor owners to claim their 'sport'  benefits the landscape! I quote his comment here in full. If only there were more with his knowledge and integrity:

5 6
Grouse moors and their SPA/SAC nature designations are one of the more intractable issues when the nature conservationists of which you speak, laud them for sloppy peat and alleged avian, reptile and invertebrate diversity, require them to be actively managed, throw agri-environment funding at them, but mostly hold their noses over the disgusting slaughter of everything else that goes on there - and that includes the RSPB which routinely shoots foxes. Because of this unholy alliance of vested interest between nature conservationists and grouse moor owners, the latter get to assert that they are saviours of "biodiversity" in that they are fulfilling the management requirements of the nature conservationists who brag about the extent and importance of heather moorland compared to continental Europe. Its the perennial rolling of excrement in glitter.
About nine years ago, as part of the process for informing the uplands vision in Vital uplands: Natural England’s vision for the upland environment in 2060 various scenario workshops were carried out that looked at how the future might look in 2060, and carried out an initial assessment of the long term risks and opportunities that could influence the natural environment by 2060. Unusually, the production of Vital Uplands was a very inclusive consultation process, as were these scenario workshops, in that they had a broad spectrum of views rather than the usual input from vested interest. One of the more striking outcomes from the scenario spinning was that grouse shooting would be banned way before 2060. Unfortunately, you wont find the report documents of those scenarios, nor the Vital Uplands vision, as they were pulled a few years after their launch as the vested interests complained about them, essentially because they had not been given a veto over what they contained.
Think about what that says about the ability of public will in this country to have any influence on the future of its natural world. Why don't we have a system like that in France - Grenelle de l'environnement - which brings together all of civil society on an equal footing to set ambitious national goals in many areas: biodiversity, natural resources, climate change, relations between the environment and public health, and issues of "environmental governance" and "ecological democracy", all of which end up in a national implementation plan that has legislative support. The quaint British custom of petitions hardly seems to match up.

A resounding "Hear! Hear!"

Terns and Weeds

Two things today. What do they say about conservation?

A delightful story about the Leek-coloured Hawkweed, a flower thought to be globally extinct, but recently found to be growing in small colonies in Monsal Dale  and Chee Dale in the Peak.

Only the most enthusiastic of nature-lovers will claim to be confident in identifying the range of hawkweeds and near relatives. Most of us may love to see them but are shy of committing ourselves; we may even be happy with "a bit like a dandelion", there are so many broadly similar yellow flowers; in this case hundreds of species and 'microspecies'. And this one was only identified as a separate species 60 or so years ago.

So the news that there are people who dedicate at least part of their lives to spotting the differences is genuinely heartwarming.

BBC radio's Open Country programme featured the National Trust's recently purchased property on the Northumberland coast (£1.5 million). Here the Little Tern is protected from every known threat and watched over 24 hours a day by NT's volunteers because it can't look after itself. There are plans for rising tides, predators etc.

How far do we go? The hawkweed was simply 'found'.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Call ....

Food for thought in these short films showing that elements of wildness can be found in parts of the UK.

If we are simply looking for bits of magic in less controlled land then even on Blacka you don't have to walk very far to get a brief taste of what wildness has to offer.

Unfortunately we can't guarantee this will continue.

Even now SWT's managers may be planning the next round of chain saw operations.

What for some of us is the call of the wild is for others the compulsion to control.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Watching and Being Watched

The "overgrown" places are where some people want nature to be controlled. But they're often the richest in wildlife. It pays to keep looking, slowly move forward, then look again. We may not see it but there's always something watching us.

In this case the camera confirms what we only thought we saw. It certainly saw us.