Tuesday, 27 March 2018


When this happens it will be good to get back to Blacka. Spring is such a marvellous time.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Saturday, 24 February 2018


This is about Scotland but most of what it says is relevant to the rest of the UK, and given the scandals of wildlife persecution and inept National Park management also to the Peak District.


Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Charities Above Criticism ?

That seems to be the attitude of many people. Or it was until very recently. Wildlife Trusts are charities as are the RSPB and the National Trust, all deeply involved in the local land management.
I'm not suggesting there's a culture within the management of any of these charitees similar to what's been exposed at Oxfam and others in the aid sector. But they have one very important thing in common, and it's very relevant to what this blog has been complaining about for years - with little evidence anyone's listening:

None of these charities is governed openly with full and transparent accountability sufficient to encourage proper public scrutiny of their activities.

That is what  allows a culture to develop that can lead to abuse. The particular abuse may have no similarity to the abuse of women that has been uncovered in the aid organisations. It may be in the way they deal with the public. At times these charities or their senior employees may adopt a posture of being above criticism. And there are lots of trusting people among the general public who are uncritical enough to go along with that.

Things are not made any better when those charities are put in a position of being answerable to organisations such as Sheffield City Council which are themselves seriously deficient in those very areas of transparency, accountability and public scrutiny.

Monday, 19 February 2018

..... in for a Pound

The penny implied is Penny Anderson, she of Penny Anderson Associates. Those who hear "Tweet of the Day" on BBC Radio 4 at 5,58 am weekdays and 8.58 Sundays may not have been surprised to hear her chosen bird was the red grouse.She will have been keen to choose this because it was actually broadcast twice, making sure the message got across.

Why? Because the managing of the moors to encourage the breeding of a superfluity of red grouse has been increasingly under attack recently. And Penny Anderson has been for many years linked to heathland management in the Peak District. 30 years or so ago she produced a report on Blacka Moor which is like a millstone round its neck, something that prevents local jobsworths from looking beyond intrusive management.

The red grouse and its heathland habitat is a good earner for several interests. First the grouse moor owners and their wealthy shooting patrons mostly from the City of London. But also anyone associated with the management of the moors which means keeping it in a condition just right for grouse: that means burning and sheep grazing.

Usually when the question comes up "what do we do about this land?" the various outfits involved decide to pay a handsome fee to Penny Anderson for an 'environmental assessment' or similar. This then gets used to justify the preferred scheme of management. That invariably means keeping the moors treeless and grazing with sheep or in some cases cattle, or both. That's the start of a steady income from farm grants.

No wonder the red grouse is Penny Anderson's favourite bird. And on Tweet of the Day she waxed lyrical in its promotion. But those of us who would like the uplands of Britain to have more trees and fewer red grouse will have our own view on her mournful statement that grouse numbers are in decline. Tell that to those who love to spend their leisure time shooting them.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Promise and Respect

No matter how bad you feel about the damage being done to this site it's hard to resist a surge of optimism when entering the largely unspoiled woods.

This morning felt like spring with a cacophony of bird calls including a song thrush and many tits punctuated with the occasional daw call from overhead as the commuters head west. This was all the result of classic thaw conditions. Yesterday the ground had been the hardest it had been and some paths still clung on to packed ice.

Elsewhere mud dominated which didn't concern the birds; they maybe were more influenced by the sound of running water.

But feeling positive should not lead us to neglect essential duties. Some things demand deference even in an age that has rejected it.

Humanity around here may not earn it but some natural features demand respect. Flippantly saying 'Hi' and 'being nice' risks some kind of deserved comeuppance.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


The transformation of a good natural woodland into a scene of desolation and waste is something that is being done by a wildlife trust. When we move along this inviting path we surely have a right to expect that it should continue in much the same magical way.

And for many years that is what it did, or at least until the fence was erected on the right, the famous four strand barbed wire horror. Still the left side remained as natural fringe woodland and it was some compensation.Now I know some of the local conservation workers don't like the word 'natural' and I understand why: it puts them seriously on the spot. They have persuaded themselves, influenced by a useful discourse, that 'nothing is natural any more'; i.e. human influence is so pervasive that it determines everything. They have then made a mental connection from that highly questionable belief to an inflexible mindset that discounts completely any understanding that land and nature, left to its own devices has any value. From there they go to 'all must be managed' and that management should be visible. Therefore all value is related to what is determined by 'man' in the guise of those chosen to 'manage' the land.It is only by adhering to this process that we can understand why they allow and make themselves responsible for the way they leave the land that was left to the people of Sheffield by a generous benefactor.

It is not simply SWT who are responsible for this; the culpability is shared with SCC in much the same way that Amey and SCC share blame for the street trees fiasco.

I can't believe that any educated person could argue that land with this provenance and history should look attractive and that this must be a priority for anyone charged with its management. Yet what do we get for the investment of subsidy and taxes, for all the BS put out by this peculiarly bizarre branch of the conservation industry and its charities. (We have known for many years that charities of many kinds have notv been well regulated.)

What we get is the crude and wrongheaded felling of native trees which were regenerating just where they had previously been cruelly suppressed by the shooting industry, the scattering of the debris from this persecution over a wide area, the unsightly piles of brushwood in fringe woodland that had been a delightful retreat; and we need to add to that the harm done by grazing animals turning vegetation into defecation, the astonishing treatment of the land they now call the 'sheep pasture' where trees are ruthlessly supressed lest the place might begin to look natural and attract a decent range of wildlife. All this and more is unfathomably in the name of wildlife!!

There are many people whose failure to raise questions and concerns about this shames Sheffield and its council and institutions. One can only assume that many people just do not see what is in front of their eyes.

Monday, 12 February 2018

National Park?

And Blacka Moor?

Thursday, 8 February 2018


The mornings when light snow has recently fallen and sunrise is a half hour or so away. There have been several this winter. Trees can take on a special life of their own.

The Goons used to  have a song "I talk to the trees .... that's why they put me away"



or that?

Sunday, 4 February 2018


Sycamore is often named when people choose their least favourite trees. It could be the leaves that let them down; none of the delicacy of field maple for example, and those ugly black spots they often attract.

But winter is a good time to look again at sycamore. And the bark is good place to start. It's striking that there is so much variety. That can be a problem for those trying to identify winter trees when using guides which rarely acknowledge variety.

Guides to tree identification on the internet are easy to find and they may refer to bark. The Forestry Commission and the Natural History Museum are helpful but probably the best is that of the Woodland Trust. Even so the picture of sycamore bark that comes  up is very different to those I see here.

It's worth simply googling 'tree bark identification' under images to see many pictures. Not 100% reliable but often a quick fix. And browsing like that avoids the problem of having to guess the species beforehand when you have little idea what you're looking at.

Thursday, 1 February 2018


The endless fascination with trees transformed after a fresh fall of snow

A kind of malady?

A sign that some bits of childhood will never go away? Much of it is due to knowing that it's very short lived. And those few precious minutes when the light becomes golden.

Is there a cure?


It's good to be out before the mountain bikers and dog walkers when there's been fresh snow.

Plenty of prints including badger, fox and roe deer.


Worth getting up in the morning. 7.51 am

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


A few notes from the song thrush. Not enough to call a song. A lot of fussing from the blackbird; also no song. The robin obliges. As he always does, bless him.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Stop Them

Any ideas are welcome. We need a strategy for keeping away people with chain saws.

Meanwhile these astonishing people are tweeting about their " Audience Development & Gateways to the Landscape consultants"

Sunday, 28 January 2018

In Relief

                                                                                      (21st Jan)

Thursday, 25 January 2018

"Good Morning" to You Too

I was "good morninged"on Blacka by a couple of bikers the other day. They were riding towards me at speed  dazzling me with powerful headlamps mounted head high; not needed as daylight was good enough even for speeding.

As I took evasive action one of them said something as he passed, then saw fit to reprove me for not responding. He had apparently said "good morning". I was barely able to give an answer before they disappeared down the bridleway.

I recall the conversation near the beginning of The Hobbit: "What a lot of things you use Good Morning for," said Gandalf.

In this case as I've pointed out before the bikers use the phrase to score points knowing that they are not welcome. There is a clear agenda here. Put the inconvenienced walker in the wrong. Presumably the same principle applies to a mugger who robs you of your wallet knocks you down and calls out "Have a good day"  as he dashes off down the street. You should call after him "You too my good fellow".

This post from October warned of this.

30 years ago this wouldn't have happened. Country footpaths and bridleways were different places then. They were refuges from the madness of life elsewhere. That was what regular walkers came for. Those were the days before the curse of the mountain bike and its more annoying users, whose lives are enhanced by the thrill of the activity and opportunities for buying more and better gear. They do not visit Blacka because it is a special place in itself but because it's somewhere to use their bikes and various gear that goes with the activity. They're not there long enough to savour the pleasures of a nature reserve.

In that they have some affinity with SWT who also never visit to enjoy the place only to exploit it. One reason why SWT cultivates the bikers as allies. The bikers are well organised and represent a coherent and simplistic group who can be ranged against those regular but unattached users who appreciate the best that Blacka has to offer (and the worst that SWT does).

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Shade and Snow

Snow in woods without sun.

Friday, 19 January 2018

The Place to Be

When the sun comes out after a fresh fall of snow the woods are irresistible.

Blacka is fortunate in having woodland and beautiful trees at a high level.

Access remains a problem. Squeezing through the gap at the side of the barrier threatened an injury or leaving me wedged permanently to the amusement of motorists on the A625.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018


Wild animal traps are evil. Good Samaritans needed.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Worth Reading


Jokers, But No Joke

The mindless slaughter of trees continues while those responsible still try to get brownie points from criticising the city council and its PFI contractors for destroying street trees. Hypocrisy never goes away does it?

I sometimes wonder if any of SWT's employees ever listens to or reads the comments and criticisms of member of the public. I was once told for instance that an instruction had gone down from above that they should not read this blog. Presumably for fear of being corrupted? If true that is a wonderful joke but still a great tragedy for trees and woodland.

Now one of the most beautiful walks is further spoiled. It had already been compromised brutally by the installation of barbed wire fencing. Now, on the other side of that excrescence,  more trees have been cut to further their ideology of tree starved heathland. The evidence of the destruction can be clearly seen.

No wonder the stag can't wait to withdraw into the woods.

And to rub salt into wounds the area to the north of the fence and the path has been strewn with large amounts of spoilage from the logging operations. This had before been a lovely sight for eyes drawn to the natural evolution of woodland with trees living and dying and decaying with no influence from man.

Shame on them.

One wonders how hard we should be on what is largely just rank ignorance. If they don't know they are doing wrong should we treat them as merely uneducated children? But it's more than that of course. The managers know very well and indeed structured their whole approach to be able to disclaim responsibility: the best they can say to counter criticism though, is a pathetic response:

"It's in the management plan."    We're entitled to ask "Who put it there?"

Sunday, 14 January 2018


There are often temporary signs like this on this stretch of Hathersage Road, one of the most important routes into Sheffield.

Sometimes they warn of ice, sometimes of floods. This one tells us the road is 'Liable to Flooding'. It's pretty obvious why this section is regularly flooded. The land on the far side slopes down onto the road and as mentioned before drains water across the road and onto the north side of Blacka.

It's been known about for many years. The result is serious danger of aqua planing and skidding. Yet it remains with no serious attempt to deal with the problem, merely these temporary signs. How long do we carry on with inadequate temporary 'solutions' and warnings before serious attention is given to this? I guess it will be until there is a very bad collision.

Instead the most obvious causes of the problem are ignored. Land managers continue to put sheep on the land when it badly needs to be allowed to become wooded - not the whole answer but at least a lot better than exploiting it for sheep. And trees would be the natural solution.

And when there is a bad accident who would be responsible?

Sunday, 7 January 2018

No Conjunction

The advice was to be looking south east in the hour or so before sunrise. It was a clear frosty morning and I'm fairly often out before dawn so thought I might see the touted conjunction of Mars and Jupiter. I've seen Mars often enough before and Jupiter too but this was to be special.

What went wrong I don't know. But I saw no conjunction nor even any planet. Perhaps it was the layer of cloud to the east though it was very low.

Perhaps it was Wimble Holme Hill and Sheepcrap Hill (once called Thistle Hill but now renamed) in the way.  The top of Bole Hill might have been the place to stand.

But the moon was good to see. Not full but parts of the Seas of Serenity and Tranquility were visible.

And it always looks good behind winter trees.


Monday 8th

Getting up earlier was the key to seeing the conjunction. But only from the highest parts of Blacka. And photos are not effective. Still the best pictures of Jupiter  are from Nasa's billion dollar Juno expedition:


Subsidy Farming

A chunk from Matthew Parris's recent article in The Times. Very relevant to the way that SWT manage the Sheepcrap enclosure at Blacka as well as the cow grazing on the "heathland".

I know a bit about the CAP’s basic payment scheme as I qualify for its benefits and am about as deserving of this charity as the Duke of Westminster, although on a different scale. The ownership of more than five hectares of land (I have less than six) entitles me to more than a thousand pounds a year of taxpayers’ money on the grounds that I let a friend run sheep on this rough, boggy and unimproved grassland. No account is taken of my already ample income; no thought is given to whether devoting land like this to grazing is something the state should be subsidising. Were I to plant more trees, or turn our marsh into ponds for wildlife, I would cease to qualify.

It's not about wildlife or nature, it's about money. The enclosure here is about 30 hectares. Parris is one of the more honest of (ex) politicians and usually worth reading.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Kind of Desert

There have been questions about those who speak for "the countryside" and "national parks"  for many years. These two tweets are relevant. Scrutiny must continue. Who are the people behind "Campaign for National Parks"?

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

No Promises

I've previously made a resolution to avoid mentioning SWT's absurdities; I failed to keep to it then  so I'm making no promises for 2018.

Now the 12 year olds who comprise the management and trustees of that organisation have decided to instruct one of the staff to keep up a regular commentary on Twitter. And some of the output is notable even by their standards.

I copy here a recent Twitter contribution from Sheffield Wildlife Trust.  First we have to be surprised that the impression is given that anyone from SWT has been anywhere near Blacka during a holiday period; maybe the first time ever as usually there's no chance of contacting any of them during holidays despite their being responsible for this 'magnificent' and 'spectacular' public site (their words). Still any new evidence that they now want to claim real commitment to Blacka ought to be welcome.

How nice it would be to find something positive to say about this shower. God knows we've tried.

Considering I've been saying that Blacka looks wonderful in the snow I find it pretty bewildering that their example of 'looking fabulous' is so far from 'fabulous' as this: an utterly boring treeless scene which even the snow fails to make appealing. See this post for what is really worthwhile on Blacka. Can anyone not get this?

But why does SWT claim to encourage people to visit Blacka in the snow when they make no effort to make it easy and even make it more difficult? It is part of their job to make access easy but they do the opposite. Just for the benefit of those who do not know the site there follows an explanation.

There is just one car park for Blacka from the Hathersage Road. In fact it's not really a car park at all as nobody claims responsibility for it: it's just a space which people use and which neither SCC nor SWT have done anything to develop, although they are happy to exploit it by putting up their publicity posters and use it as a meeting point. SWT made a commitment to get something done about it some years back but have failed to honour that. In snow or ice it is inaccessible comprised of a bit of crumbling tarmac with sharp edges. You might get into it but getting out again is another thing.

From here it rises to about 1 in 3  often covered in ice in winter. At the bottom you may find it dangerous to get out of a car..

Once there was an alternative 200 yards lower down on the other side of the road at Piper House. That entailed having to cross the A road but that was sealed off by the highways people with no consultation and no alternative provided. A layby another 200 yards below was used by some visitors because it was opposite an old gateway.

This was recently blocked off by SWT responding to a ridiculous whim of their cattle grazier: not content with the £20k worth of barbed wire fencing and even more on stone walling he thought his cows might breach these fortifications and get out onto the road**. This requirement of a double layer of boundary stockading must be unique:  Eastern Moors stock on the other side of the road do not need that.

The result is that anyone along that stretch of Hathersage Road wanting to access Blacka needs to walk 200 yards from the layby along the side of a busy road to get to the nearest access point.

To add a personal element to this, I currently walk with a stick and with difficulty needing a hip replacement. Others with problems may not be so persistent. The verge is not easy to walk on and the road itself is more than usually hazardous. The bend has been the scene of fatal accidents and is probably the most dangerous in the whole region; it is common to find that cars have gone into or through the stone wall.

Regular visitors to Blacka know what to think of SWT's suggestion that we visit Blacka in wintry weather.

** as reported by SWT's reserve manager.