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