The Fog of Work.

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I’m going to write a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and it starts with an apology.

An apology for the fact that my last post was all the way back in April, and an excuse or two.

In Spring, two things happened. Firstly I got a new job, which has left me with a lot less spare time than before. secondly, my wife and I found out we were expecting, which meant the spare time I did have got taken up by blind panic, googling, sorting out things for the baby, including sourcing a box full of cloth nappies from London, and finally feeling at some sort of ease with the whole idea and feeling ever so slightly ready (FAMOUS LAST WORDS IF EVER I HEARD THEM).

Also though there is another reason for my absence, one that I feel goes a bit deeper than my fairly feeble excuses above. That is how nature effects me during the Summer months.

I have never felt more creative as I do in the colder months. There is something about Summer that stifles me, my connectivity to the land in a cultural and spiritual sence. This is something I have felt keenly this year and something that I feel I may finally have been able to put my finger on. During Summer the world itself is so creative and the irony of this is that I find myself playing catch up. Summer, especially this year has been about trying to deal with the earths creativity, by mowing fields, dealing with invasive species, controlling bracken. It has been non stop and at every turn there is more to do. In a sence my world has become narrower, more focused on the job and less focussed on why I love the job, which is the connection it gives me to the world creatively and spiritually.

The result of this is that I haven’t written anything on or offline for months, nor have I felt a connection to the land as I used to. However, it is coming back, hence my post.

Autumn for me is the beginning of the exciting time of year to work in conservation. This may sound odd, given that the world around us is dying and wildlife is hunkering down, however this is where the fun begins, where decisions I make and the work I do shapes the habitats I work in. It is now that we begin thinking about habitat creation, it is now that the exciting projects providing habitat for a new range of target species begin; heathland management for Nightjar, woodland glade creation for Willow Tit. This time of year is when our most positive, creative work happens.

This time of year also awakes the connectivity to the land that I’ve been missing. Like I’ve said, a large part of why I love my work is the connection I get to the landscapes around me in a spiritual sence. And by this I do not mean to some sort of deity or religion, I believe in neither. What I mean is the kind of spirituality that is good for the soul, the walk along a Moorland edge, breathing in the cold sharp air and taking in the vista below you, the complexity of the habitat that provides innumerous colours, sights and smells and challenges you to find it beautiful. That feeling inside you when the earth fills you with joy to be alive, recharges you and clears your mind.

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The Great Moorland Conflict.

A week or two ago I took my Explorer Scouts on a walk up Win Hill and Lose Hill. A great walk if you fancy it, taking in Mam Tor as well. The hills get their name from a battle which may be real or may be legend, between King Cynegils of Wessex and a Northumbrian force around 626CE with the Northumbrians camped on Win Hill and the Wessex camp on Lose Hill. No points if you can work out who won. As I say, there is no contemporary evidence of this battle so it is probably a bit of a myth, that said according to Bede Cyneglis did try to assassinate King Edwin of Northumbria in the same year, so you never know, it might be true. 

From one great conflict to another; I have recently found myself trying to reconcile two competing factions in my head to do with the Moors.

As a conservationist I find it self evident that we must protect the Moorland of the UK and especially in the Peak district. In the UK we have 80% of the worlds Heather Moorland which just goes to show what a precious resource it is and how much of a duty we have to conserve it. As a habitat it is important in itself, but it also gives a home to a range of threatened species, including Ring Ozel along the Gritstone edges, Curlew, Lapwing and the Bilberry Bumblebee to name a few. Not only that, but as a Blanket Bog habitat, which means it can sit on Peat up to 4-6m deep, it is a vital method of carbon capture. UK Peat stores up to 3000 million tons of carbon adding 3 million tons to this figure yearly. Clearly, for the future of this planet and of mankind, our Moorland here in the Peak District is literally a lifeline.

So as I say, it’s important to conserve Moorland.

However, the Heather Moorland that we see around us in the Peak District, and in other places in the UK, is a man made environment. It may feel that you are in a remote wild place when you stray off the beaten track and enjoy the access land, however the land you are on has been shaped by thousands of years of mans input. This leads me to my dilemma. Mans input over the last few centuries, which has arguably found a use for Moorland and therefore has preserved it and stopped it becoming farmland or woodland which are neither as good at storing carbon nor provide habitats for Moorland species, is Grouse shooting and with Grouse shooting come Gamekeepers.

Scroll down on this link until you reach some tables complied by Sheffield Wildlife Trust and you will see how bleak a picture it is in the Peak District for Birds of Prey. Last year, there was not a single successful raptor breeding in the Dark Peak area, and the blame for this lays squarely at the feet of Gamekeepers. Indeed not long ago one such Gamekeeper was prosecuted for various wildlife crimes including persecuting Birds of Prey. It’s at such a state that I have seen first hand some of the immoral if not bordering on illegal practices on land owned by one of our leading conservation charities. It’s no secret that The National Trust has some real questions to answer.

That said would this land, so valuable to our planet and to conservation, even exist if it were not for the management of Heather Moorland for Grouse shooting?

How do you reconcile the two? How can a traditional countryside pursuit, which I don’t think should be stopped because too much of our tradition has been lost already, continue side by side with nature? And how can a conservationist who work in the Peak District (like me) balance their duty to nature and to the people who work and live in the area?

 

Answers on a post card. Or, y’know, comment below.

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Spring Snow

I wanted to share a poem I wrote for the Spring Equinox last year and shared then at Walk The Wheel.  I was going to say something apt about how different it is this year, how our winter hasn’t been so harsh and how everything seems to be kicking into life that little bit earlier, but then I got snowed on yesterday, so I guess things aren’t as different as I thought.

Ice sheet, a remnant,
broken by water lapping.
With each wave
of light.
A fiery disk low above.
An unwalkable moon, a vista returning.

There is a thirst.
Everything is dead, has died.

Suffered through a long, cruel winter. 

If it is possible, the world has died again since the snow.
There is illness, branches brittle as if they weren’t even there. 

Though, the sap is rising.
Ducks are pairing off, sounding their calls every morning.
The earliest of the early Lambs have arrived.

The additional, cruel bout of death.
It fooled us.
It hit us in the face when it the in the towel.

As winter turns it’s back on us,
and stalks away,
life is returning.
Wave by wave. 

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Thankful Thoughts

I’m sitting writing this towards the end of a day marshalling a path up on kinder. Which means I tell the odd rambler not to get squashed by flying bags. It means I’ve had a lot of time to think.
Late last week I had a bit of a scary experience which left me happy to be alive. Happy that I can go out for a couple of pints with my wife to our local and listen to the folk band playing, and happy to have quiet nights in in front on the tv.

Today, and all the time I’ve had to look at views and think my thoughts has left me grateful that I get to do what I do. Spending time in one of the most beautiful parts if the country enjoying the great outdoors. Not many people get that chance. So im thankful to what ever forces in the world put me on top of kinder. I’ve attached some of the views I had to share them with you.

Ps. Lots of time to look and think can also make two rocks in the distance look like two giant frogs humping. So its not all so philosophical.

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The vagaries of the weather.

Today I was struck by how incredible the changes of the season are. I’ve always been moved by these times, I am a spring and autumn person more than a summer or winter person. I find the inexplicable changes of times like this exciting, baffling and wonderful.

Working outside, you’d be fair to assume that I don’t get overly excited by the weather. The work needs to get done if its wet, windy, sunny or snowing. That said, the last week has been a bit of an eye opener.

Last Tuesday this was the scene as me and a few others took 3 hours to get from Edale to Close Moss! We ended up having to dig our way over Winnat’s Pass when even our Landi couldn’t quite make it.

 Created with Nokia Smart Cam

But yesterday I got to have lunch next to a fire with the sun warming my face (yes that’s right, in February!) With this view to ponder over my sandwiches.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

And then we got drenched.

But soon after the sun came out and even though this picture doesn’t pick up on it I swear that there was a rainbow touching the ground just the other side of the hedge. No pot of gold though I’m afraid.

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Anyway, sorry if all this talk of the weather is very British, but it really has been a crazy week for it.

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January Small Stones #4

Here’s the last couple of Small Stones for January:

29/1/14

Comforting deep blue eyes to sink into.
Shielding from efficient logic and

clear indifference. 

30/1/14

Dread is delivered to me
in white parcels of joy. 

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January Small Stones #3

I’m sorry, but I’ve only a few small stones on offer for the last couple of weeks as I’ve had a fairly busy and stressful time, which is never conducive to being creative. That said, I’ve really enjoyed the process of doing these small stones, so might keep it going as much as I can into the rest of the year.

13/1/14

                                       If          you
                           deviate          from
                               the           path
                                you           may
                                      get           lost.
                                            If           you
                                         were        never
                                            on         the
                                       path,        you
                                        are         just                                                                                          lost. 

16/1/14

Green hills, a cacophony
of Giantesses.
Asleep. 

18/1/14

Lunch below reigning shot
Escapees unafraid of me,
too gutless for a brace. 

20/1/14

I am a grey arrow forging glacially through green hummocks. 

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