Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Wikimedia and the Tower of London poppies

It can't be easy trying to maintain the high standards on Wikimedia Commons. (This is the place where people can upload their own photographs for future use on Wikipedia and elsewhere, and where all content needs to be freely released for personal and commercial use. But it's also where copyright ownership and the laws of each country need to be scrupulously upheld.)

Images that don't meet these requirements sooner or later are liable to be deleted, but only after discussion and consensus emerges.
Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red (8)
Taken and uploaded by MercerMJ (Creative Commons by SA 2.0)
Currently in use on Wikipedia, but for how much longer?

This week a big debate erupted on Wikimedia after more than 250 images of Paul Cummins' magnificent poppy installation at the Tower of London in 2014 were put forward for deletion (see this link). Other images that people have taken and uploaded of his currently touring "Weeping Windows" installations (co-created by theatre designer, Tom Piper) are also proposed for removal.

This means that this Wikipedia page could soon lose all its photographic content, and with it the ability for the world's greatest free encyclopaedia to visually communicate the impressive work of Derbyshire artist, Paul Cummins. Is this acceptable? Well, actually, yes it possibly is. Or at least that's what has been put forward by the proposing editor.

My own rather poor photo of Paul Cummins' poppies on tour,
here installed at Derby's Silk Mill Museum in
 a temporary installation entitled "Weeping Windows".
Who owns the right to release this image? Me? The artist? Or both?
The argument put forward for deleting all these photographs is that Wikimedia's own policies prevent it from accepting any uploaded image unless the uploader has the right to do so. They also have to agree to release that image for use under a Creative Commons licence, which allows it to be used for both non-commercial and commercial purposes. (I doubt anyone would ever get rich on any of my photographs, so I'm not too bothered, personally.)

But do I have the right to photograph a temporary artwork created by another people like Paul Cummins (and then to freely release that image for others to use) when the artistic content isn't mine to give away in the first  place, and I don't have their permission?

Well, the policies of Wikimedia apparently say "No", and so photos are routinely listed for deletion and a public discussion on the right ways to implement those policies then takes place. Usually within a week, a consensus will emerge and the decision is then rapidly implemented either to 'Keep' or to 'Delete'.

It doesn't matter about the quality of the image under discussion - it's the content that counts, and any breach of copyright (dependant upon the country it was taken in) has to be recognised and acted upon. This includes consideration of each country's own laws on 'Freedom of Panorama' as well as copyright and 'Derivative Works', and all can be very technical. In this instance, that freedom to publish a photograph of a public place in Britain appears to be irrelevant, but concerns relate instead to the artists' right not to have images of their temporary art installation made available on Wikimedia and Wikipedia for all to see and use without their explicit consent.

So the numerous pictures taken by ordinary people like me of Paul Cummins' amazing poppies may soon disappear from Wikipedia. That would be a great shame,  but it may well be the right thing to do.

Of course, if the copyright owning artist were to  give  their formal permission for images of their work to be released under a Creative Commons Share Alike licence without any restriction on personal or commercial use, then that's another matter. . . 

Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red
Tower of |London. Image credit: Deror_avi;
Creative Commons Share Alike Licence 3.0
But getting those permissions within Wikimedia's ridiculously short 7-day time period is unlikely to happen. Yes, these images can always be restored if permission is retrospectively given, but  sometimes I think we act too hastily on relatively contentious matters like this.

So, rather than moan about Wikimedia's over-conscientious rules, I decided to take action myself. Late on Sunday I sent Paul Cummins an email via his website, asking if he'd be willing to consider granting permission, either for particular images currently in use to  remain online, or for all such images of his work to remain and be available under that creative commons licence. But Paul's a busy man (now mapping where all 888,246 poppies have ended up around the world). So whether he thinks it's worth taking time out to reply to some nerdy Wikipedia editor and to navigate through Wikimedia's image licensing process  remains to be see. I hope he will

Personally, I think Wikimedia needs to sort out its act. It needs to make its interface with the public on image rights much simpler to navigate; it can't expect ordinary organisations, artists and other individuals to understand and wade through its complex permissions process, and it  needs to find an effective way to give more time to editors willing to undertake to make contact and  negotiate with a copyright holder over permissions for images to remain there. Perhaps it needs a 'Defer deletion' process whereby images identified for deletion are held back and not automatically removed until some agreed time-period - perhaps between one and three months - has expired. In reality, an image can sit unchallenged on Wikimedia for many years, but then someone spots and challenges it and we're all suddenly expected to be able to resolve any issues within seven days. Laughable, if you want to try to contact the holder of rights within an image, but that's how it works at present. Trying to do get permission once an image has been deleted is pointless as you can't show the person the image in question, even if it can be restored by a Wikimedia administrator! And don't you dare go on holiday - ever!

I don't confess to fully  understanding the intricacies of how Wikimedia volunteers manage these complex processes and, in doing so, defend not only this amazing resource's reputation, but also the rights and interests of individuals. (I used to call them 'WikiNazis' because of what I saw as their heavy-handed implementation of those rules and summary deletion of images that I and other photographers had innocently taken and uploaded for use on Wikipedia.) But rather than insult these volunteers, they should really be thanked. They're mostly doing a fine job in identifying issues and raising concerns.

Maybe the way things are handled could be done differently, but its only by volunteers being vigilant and careful that can we be sure both Wikimedia and Wikipedia's reputations remain in a good state, that people's copyright interests are appropriately defended, and that the fifth most popular website in the world continues to provide information and images for everyone to use in a fair and legal manner, whoever and wherever they are.

In a future blog post I hope to be able to look in further detail at the interpretation of the relevant laws and how consensus is reached by debate amongst Wikimedia/Wikipedia editors, and some of the different responses and views that are being made right now on this issue.

Meanwhile, here's my email sent to Paul Cummins via his website on 10th September 2017:
Hi Paul  I'm a former member of staff at Derby Museum with a close connection to the Derby Silk Mill, and I adored the display of your work there last summer. I'm retired now, but I contribute a lot of my time to improving articles on Wikipedia (like this one and this one). Thousands of people have photographed your work, and quite a few have been uploaded to illustrate articles on Wikipedia about the different venues your poppies have visited. 
Unfortunately, every one of them is about to be permanently deleted, unless you are prepared to step in to prevent this from happening. The problem is that any picture uploaded to Wikimedia (which holds images on behalf of Wikipedia) requires photographers to permit commercial use of that image. But because you have published a restriction on commercial use on this page (, and because they were part of a temporary installation, not a permanent one, every single image of your poppies on Wikipedia has been proposed for deletion, primarily to protect your interests and to conform with UK law. If you're ok with this, you need do absolutely nothing. 
But if you would like Wikimedia/Wikipedia and others to be able to use photos of your work for decades to come, you really need to step in right away and give your explicit permission now. This could either be for selected images - or all of them - to remain on Wikimedia for both non-commercial and for commercial use. It's only with the consent of you, the copyright holder, that photographs of temporary installations like yours will be allowed to remain on Wikimedia. Please let me know your general view on this. I might be able to hold off total deletion of every image of your work on Wikipedia until we can sort out how to best to arrange for your formal permission for a selected few (or all?) of those pictures to remain and to be used. It would be a real shame if the all the Wikipedia articles about your work were to be devoid of any image for many decades to come. (Including this one about you: 
 If you don't step in to stop deletion, this is precisely what will happen.  Kind regards  Nick Moyes Derby (-former Senior Keeper of Natural Sciences at Derby Museum; winner of Derby Arts Festival for ceramics, 1996; Wikipedian)
And here's the story of those poppies in Paul's own words:

Where are the individual poppies now? Follow this link to learn more.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Women in Red

I attended my first Wikipedia 'Editathon' this year.

Newnham College, Cambridge University
Called 'Role Models', it was held at Newnham College, one of only two all-female colleges at the University of Cambridge. It was timed to coincide with activities for International Women's Day on March 8th and Wikipedia's own Women's History Month.

It was a fascinating learning experience, so I thought I'd set down my impressions of the day and make a few suggestions for  improving editathons in the future.

Dame Carol Black with Roger Bamkin
If you exclude the event I helped organise back in 2011 at Derby Museum for GLAM-Wiki, this was my first real editathon.

I'd been asked to help out by event organiser, Roger Bamkin (User: Victuallers), who has tons of experience in organising similar events. But what was initially a general invitation to assist by taking a few official pictures of the event, soon turned into a request for me to produce a video of the day, carry out interviews with a range of attendees. And even that later transmogrified into a request to prepare a video for showing in Montreal at the 2017 Wikimania Conference. No pressure then!  (see video below)

Doug Taylor ran introductory classes,
every hour, on the hour.
With only basic DSLR recording equipment, and no experience of being on the question-asking side of the camera, I felt rather at sea. But, hey, it's great to have a challenge of learning knew skills.

The first thing I did was buy a low-cost lapel microphone. I chose a £15 Boya Lavalier microphone on Amazon, which I thoroughly recommend. Had I not acquired this useful bit of kit, none of the videos would have been of much use, such was the level of enthusiastic background noise on the day. (A shotgun microphone I had borrowed form a work colleague for use on a backup video camera failed to produce anything like the same sound quality, and collected far too much ambient noise)

Format of the day
The event started with a welcome from Dame Carol Black, the Principal of Newnham College, plus a few words by Roger.

In one half of the room we then had Doug Taylor from Wikimedia UK who ran hourly introductory sessions for beginners new to editing on Wikipedia.  His style was both enthusiastic and engaging, and he was assisted by Marianne Bamkin who operated the laptop which was projected for everyone to see)

In the other half of the room we had tables and a number of laptops supplied by Newnham College for people to work on. Luckily many had also brought their own, too.
People could drop in at any time during the day, and these included academic staff, support staff and a number of really interesting Cambridge alumnae who came for the whole day. In addition, there were also a number of established Wikipedians like Clem Rutter, Charles Matthews, RubbishComputer, Deryck C and others.

The majority of people who attended had never edited a Wikipedia article before, but had come armed to make their mark and to help-redress the male-female imbalance in Wikipedia articles. Many focussed on articles about current or ex-Cambridge University women achievers. One alumna who came to learn (but might also merit an article in her own right) was Elizabeth Hodges - who, we understand, was first female surgeon commander in the Navy.

I was able to record interviews with a number of people during the day - some being brand new to editing, others being established Wikipedians. One of them (a retired biology technician with the Human Genome Project) gave a particularly insightful account of how that project shared their data via Wikipedia. Some of her words appear in the video below).
Registering school users on Wikipedia

I would observe the following:
Good Points:
  • The day was enhanced by having an introductory talk on editing Wikipedia every hour for all newcomers to editing.
  •  Most attendees had their own mobile devices and soon got to grips with understanding the basics of making and saving their first edits.
  • A Wikipedia Admin was present to help school groups create new accounts for each student.
  • It was very rewarding to be able to talk with and to assist people completely new to editing Wikipedia
  •  Seeing young schoolchildren attending and getting stuck in to editing alongside somewhat more elderly participants was delightful.
  • A photo of each person we interviewed was taken of them holding an image release form.
  • 70 new editors were trained during the event.
Ideas for the future:
  • Capture and record the Usernames of everyone attending. With either a blackboard or register, this would enable organisers not only to assess achievements made on the day, but also visit new users, check their work, and offer help or encouragement in the weeks that follow).
  • Encourage users not only to sign in, but to write down names of articles they are working on.
  • Avoid having the same room for introductory lectures and personal editing. (especially important if you want to interview and record people!)
  • Clearly display the WiFi name and password
  • Provide every brand new Wikipedia editor with a "What do I do next?" leaflet to take away.

The day ended with an invitation to join Dame Carol Black as her guests of honour at 'high table' in the beautiful surroundings of Newnham College. All in all - a wonderful, but tiring day!
Roger Bamkin chatting with Newnham
College staff at formal dinner. 

And here's the video I eventually produced for showing during a Women in Red presentation at the Wikimania Conference in Montreal:

Yes, it was a great event!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Adobe Premiere Elements - activating H.264 and MPEG components in old versions

This blog post explains how, as late as 2017, it's still possible to obtained an encoder activation key for older versions of Adobe Premiere Elements.

Some years ago I purchased Adobe Premiere Elements (ver 1), which served me well for home video editing from my miniDV video recorder on Windows XP. Unfortunately my new DSLR camera produces MP4 format files, and these are not compatible with that version of Premiere. I needed a low cost solution for my unpaid work with Wikipedia, so I purchased an unused version of Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements version 7 from eBay.

Component Activation window in Premiere Elements 7.
My computer is now a 64-bit Windows 10 laptop, so it was a relief that the program installed from the CD disk without any difficulty.
So, I spent some time editing my first 15 minute video sequence and familiarising myself with some of the changes, only to then encounter a total inability to save it in anything other than AVI format. Neither saving as MPG nor H.264 encoding would work as a popup appeared for each one, telling me that that an unlock key was needed to activate the encoder.

To get this code, one simply needed to copy an inordinately long string of letters and numbers from that popup, follow the given link to an Adobe webpage, and paste it in so you could then retrieve an activation key which Premiere needed in order to proceed. (This is on top of the original serial number needed on first install.)

First problem: The link is no longer functioning (

A search online quickly identified a new url for Adobe encoder activation: (

Encoder activation page - but it would not recognise the product
Second problem: Whilst the activation page looked to be the answer, it did not recognise the long string of characters given to me from the popup in Premiere Elements. It simply reported "Error: Invalid Encoder Product ID."

A more exhaustive search of Adobe-related discussion forums showed that:
a) numerous people are still searching for a solution
b) many experts simply tell users search for assistance that "Premiere Elements 7 is no longer supported", so go buy a new version.
c) some advisors have suggested users try downloading and installing a trial version of a new version of Premiere Elements in case that resolves the problem (but no-one seems to report having any success)
d) deep within the bowels of the internet, there lurks a solution to unlocking and activating these essential encoders!

THE SOLUTION: Trial and error with innumerable Google keyword searches finally yielded up this little gem on Adobe's own website: 

This page works!

Simply paste in the long character string given to you by the Premiere popup when you try to save and output a file. As at March 2017 the page shown above generates a fully functional key for your individual computer. You then just paste this back into the Premiere popup and click 'OK'. You can use the same page for activating the MPEG encoder within Premiere Elements 7, and for activating the H.264 encoder, although you will be given separate text strings for each one. Bingo! 

Leave a comment to tell me and others how you get on, and whether you found this useful!

Activation code successfully shown (blanked out here)

A typical 'cri de coeur' for software that people
think can't now be used, but which can

Finally, if you've arrived at this page, desperately searching for solutions to related problems, these pages might also be of some interest:

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Hurricane - the Hen Harrier song by Bob Dylan

Dylan was quite a campaigner, wasn't he? - maybe even an eco-zealot.
His song 'Hurricane' really shows how much he cared for our British uplands
Maybe this is what really got him the Nobel Prize for Literature - such a heart-rending tale of innocent moorland folk. . .
Bob Dylan ecozealot and moorland campaigner? (Photo by Elsa Dorfman)

Hurricane - Bob Dylan

Shotguns ring out in the moorland night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the Hen Harrier in a pool of blood
Cries out "My God they killed them all"
Here comes the story of the Hurricane
The game manager the authorities came to blame
For something that he never done
Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been
The champion of the moors.

Three raptors lying there does Patty see
And another keeper named Bello moving around mysteriously
"I didn't do it" he says and he holds up his hands
"I was only burning heather I hope you understand
I saw them flying" he says and he stops
"One of us had better call up the cops"
And so Patty calls the cops
And they arrive on the scene with their blue lights flashing
In the hot Caledonian night.

Meanwhile far away in another part of town
Mike Osbourne and a couple of toffs are driving around
Number one contender for the grouse moorland crown
Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down
When a WCO cop pulled him over to the side of the road
Just like the time before and the time before that
In Scotland that's just the way things go
If you manage grouse moors you might as well not shown up on the street
'Less you wanna draw the heat.

Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap from the cops
Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowling around
He said "I saw two men running out from the heather
They jumped into a white Landy and made off, hell for leather"
And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head
WCO Cop said "Wait a minute boys this bird's not dead"
So they took it to the vets
And though this bird could hardly see
They told it that she could identify the guilty men.

Four in the morning and they haul Osbourne in
Take him to the vets and they bring him upstairs
The wounded ringtail looks up through its one dying eye
Squawks: "Wha'd you bring him in here for ? He ain't the guy !"
Yes here comes the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For something that he never done
Put in a prison cell but one time he could-a been
The champion of the moors.

Four months later the moorlands are still in flame
Osbourne's down in South Yorkshire fighting for his name
While Arthur Dexter Bradley's still in the raptor-killin' game
And the WCOs are putting the screws to him looking for somebody to blame
"Remember that murder that happened up on the moor?"
"Remember you said you saw that four-by-four?"
"You think you'd like to play ball with the law?"
"Think it might-a been that grouse manager you saw running that night?"
"Don't forget that we are right".

Arthur Dexter Bradley said "I'm really not sure"
WCO cops said "A boy like you could use a break
We got you for the carbofuran job and we're talking to your friend Bello
Now you don't wanta have to go back to court - be a nice fellow
You'll be doing society a favor
That sonofabitch is brave and getting braver
We want to put his ass in the stir
We want to pin this triple raptor murder on him
He ain't no Gentleman Jim".

Osbourne could take a brace out with just one shot
But he never did like to talk about it all that much
It's my work he'd say and I do it for pay
And when it's over I'd just as soon go on my way
Up to some paradise
Where the trout streams flow and the air is nice
And ride a horse along a trail
But then they took him to the courthouse
Where they try to turn a moorland man into a mouse.

All of Mike's cards were marked in advance
The trial was a circus - he never had a chance
The judge made Osbourne's witnesses poachers from the slums
To the ecozealots who watched, he was a revolutionary bum
And to the BASC folks he was just a crazy nigger
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger
And though they could not produce the gun
The DNA said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed.

Mike Osbourne was falsely tried
The crime was raptor killin' - guess who testified
Bello and Bradley and they both baldly lied
And the Times newspaper, it went along for the ride
How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool's hand ?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn't help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.

Now all the criminals in their tweeds and their jackets
Are free to rear red grouse and make themselves a packet
While Mike sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell
Yes, that's the story of the Hurricane
But it won't be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he's done
Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been
The champion of the moors.

(with apologies to Bob Dylan

Langholm hen harrier "Annie" - found shot on a Scottish grouse moor

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Faulty Jessops filters?

I recently returned to SLR photography after a break of over 15 years. It probably took me three years to finally get around to choosing the right camera. Projects like publishing my new Flora of Derbyshire did rather keep my focus elsewhere, if you pardon the pun. It was only when I bought a Canon EOS 110D from Jessop's for my daughter's birthday that I began to realise what I'd been missing. So more hours were then spent poring over reviews and pricing websites - but this time for me!

The chaps in Jessops in Derby were superb. Lots of time to talk me through my preferred choices, and I eventually opted for my first choice: a Canon EOS 760D with Canon's own 18-135mm lens, and a second Canon 10-18mm lens. They both seemed very well reviewed as first lenses, and I saw no point in buying the kit lens with it. Jessops prices were competitetive, too. It did however make sense to buy a 67mm UV filter for each  of these zoom lenses, just to protect and keep the lenses clean, if nothing else. So, two Jessops own-brand filters were immediately fitted, and I also bought a Jessops own-brand 67mm polarising filter. Such a useful first accessory to play with!

The UV filters fitted perfectly, and of course, for best optical results one would remove the UV filters and replace it with the polarising filter. But they should also work well by being stacked together, and this is where the problem lay.  Although initially screwing on perfectly, the Jessops polarising filter failed to stop screwing round. It should have mated up and then allowed me to rotate just the polarised element. Instead, the whole thing kept turning, clearly jumping the thread each turn.

I tried it on the other lens and filter, and the same problem occurred. It wouldn't lock on the UV filter's screw thread, though it did lock properly straight onto the Canon lenses themselves.

I tweeted to Jessops, asking if this was a known issue. Their reply was negative, and was advised to speak to the local branch. So I went in yesterday and the friendly Derby staff quickly appreciated the problem, suggesting that for best results one should use one filter or the other. But we did both agree we would have expected them to fit one another properly.We tried another filter from the shelf, and this exhibited exactly the same problem. So it looked like a batch fault in the manufacturing was the cause of the problem. The staff member then suggested maybe this was an intentional design feature, perhaps to avoid damage to the screw thread. But that made no sense - a slipping thread does more harm than one that fits screws tightly. Nor did I ever experience this problem all those years ago int he days of 35mm film and my trusty Minolta X700 camera.

So, back to Jessops on Twitter and we'll await to see what response they give.
Oh - brill - just as I'm finishing writing this they've asked be to DM them my email address, so you can't say fairer than that for responsive customer service, can you?
Watch this post for further updates . . .

A very mobile phone

It took me a few hours before I realised just how close I and my daughter came to being injured or even killed in Derby's Market Place today. It wasn't really the fault of the young lads on the ride. In fact, it might have been my unwarranted suspicions of them that actually prevented us getting hurt...

...My daughter and I had crossed Derby's Market Place and had briefly stopped to look at the huge spinning ride that had been installed there - just like the one shown below. It was empty at the time but, by the time we returned, she saw it now had passengers on board, and was about to start moving.  She wanted to watch. We noticed it included a group of young lads who we'd seen earlier on that day at the Intu centre, messing around on the escalators. Nothing serious - just kids. She stopped to watch as the ride started up. It was then that I realised we were standing directly in front of it, edge-on, and looking right up towards it. Oops - we were potentially in the line of fire from anything that come might come flying from them!

I suggested we stand a few feet off to one side as it began rotating. "Why?" she asked, and so I replied that I didn't like the idea that one of them might try something stupid, like trying to spit on people below, or whatever. So we moved in a bit towards the cafe under the Assembly Rooms, and watched from there. (I think she thought I was daft, but that's the kind of thought processes caring Dad's go through.)

Could you be wiped out by items flying off from 'Speed' attractions like this one?
After a few rotations of the fast-spinning arm, we realised the chairs themselves revolved, too, with punters turning right over. Those really aren't the kind of rides I enjoy these days (you can tell I'm getting to be an old git, because who else says "these days", these days?) Suddenly there was a crash on the flagstone just in front of us, and there lay the perfect result of centrifugal force at work - someone's smartphone, completely smashed into pieces, and either forced out of their hands or ejected from the back pocket of one of the unlucky punters above us. At the time I felt sorry for them, so I collected up the bits and took them over to the control booth and handed them in. The look I got from the man in charge was almost one of "oh well, what do you expect? Stupid customers. Happens all the time". He didn't say that - but his expression did. It spoke volumes.

I went back to my daughter, and almost immediately there was a second dull thud. This time 5p pieces rolled across the flagstones. It sounded like someone's leather wallet had hit the ground and burst, although a quick glance round amongst the empty cafe seating didn't reveal anything. By now it it was starting to feel too risky to stick around. We quickly left.

It was only later, as I recounted the incident to my wife, that it struck me there really are some safety and management issues that need to be addressed here.

  • Where were the clear warning signs telling customers not to take loose items (wallets/phones etc) with them? 
  • Who's responsible for checking customers and holding on to these items? 
  • Why are the public not prevented from passing directly underneath these rides, or in the line of objects that might hurtle out from them? 
  • Who checks and licences these rides? 
  • And who would have been responsible had one of us been injured as a result of such poor ride management?

I feel sorry for the person who lost their phone today. (though not if they were using it at the time!) However, the idea of anyone being hit on the head, edge-on, by a fast-flying smartphone really doesn't bear thinking about. Nobody would stand sideways on to a catherine wheel whilst it's spinning around, but why was it so easy to pass in front of the fairground equivalent? These Speed rides reach forces of up to 3.5g (see here and here). There will be a phone call to the safety and licencing team at Derby City Council in the morning, assuming there's anyone still employed there these days.

Meanwhile, anyone with a hard hat and a few hours to kill could make a tidy profit by sitting in the outdoor cafe in the Market Place this week. You never know what valuable objects might fall into your lap.

Update: 3pm.  I've since received a courteous reply from Derby City Council, who have now spoken with the site managers. I've replied to say that I'm still not convinced from their response that enough is being done to discharge the duty of care to passengers and passers-by.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Kick the Butts out of Kinder Scout!

This article also appeared as a Guest Post on Mark Avery's Blog

I awoke last Friday morning to two wonderful things.
Curlew -one of the birds that is tolerated and does well on managed
grouse-shooting moors, like Kinder Scout SSSI, SAC, SPA.
It was 5:30am. Overhead the piping call of a curlew roused me from my slumber amongst the soft bilberry and heather of Kinder Scout's plateau; the night's rain and wind had finally passed over, and my bivouac bag had weathered it well. I had arrived late on Thursday night, just as darkness fell at Crookstone Knoll, and had made a low impact - albeit slightly elicit - stopover on Kinder's extreme eastern end. I'd come to see for myself how grouse shooting was impacting on the landscape here.

Shooting Butt on Kinder Scout SSSI
below Crookstone Knoll at SK14408833
The second wonderful thing to wake to was news on Twitter that the National Trust had just announced it was terminating the lease of one of its shooting tenants in the Hope Woodlands Estate (the bit I had been sleeping on!) This amazing news came after the release of a video of a camouflaged gamekeeper with a gun and plastic hen harrier decoy on land owned by the Trust. Pressure on the organisation to act had mounted over recent weeks, not only on my old colleague, Jon Stewart, who now works for the National Trust, but also on Helen Ghosh, the Trust's Director-General, who many people had contacted to demand action. To their immense credit the NT had finally come out with a statement (reproduced here) in favour of evicting this untrustworthy shooting tenant on the grounds that their activities were no longer compatible with the Trust's vision for the Dark Peak moors. This was wonderful news indeed. The long process of seeking a new tenant would begin in 2017.
A post marking the top of a line of shooting butts
on Kinder Scout SSSI - owned by the National Trust 

All week I had been saying that I felt the next Hen Harrier Day on Sunday August 7th in Derbyshire needed a stronger, more clearly defined and achievable focus. And here now is the opportunity to ask (demand?) that the National Trust go one step further than their surprisingly wonderful statement last Friday.

We need to tell the National Trust to remove all the shooting butts from their land in 
the Dark Peak SSSI/SAC/SPA (Special Protection Area). Kinder should be the start.

It makes no sense to me to spend immense sums of money on gully-blocking, re-wetting and restoring the western side of the Kinder Scout plateau, whilst on its eastern arm the shooting tenants (now presumably given notice to quit) have continued to burn the deep peat just to encourage heather for their grouse, and then dig pits for their trays of medicated grit to keep the birds healthy (prior, of course, to being shot by well-to-do lines of gunmen hiding in grouse butts after 12th August each year). I earnestly believe there should be no shooting whatsoever on any part of the Kinder Scout part of the Dark Peak SSSI/SPA. I would then like to see management for grouse-shooting removed from all National Trust land within the Dark Peak.

So, as I offered myself up as breakfast to the multitude of moorland midges, I made a note of the damage being done on Kinder in the name of driven grouse shooting. Below me at Crookstone Knoll, the biggest symbol of this was the line of grouse-shooting butts that emerged through the early morning mist towards me from the Snake Pass road. These symbols of greed, folly and moorland mismanagement really have no place at all today on the slopes around the Kinder Scout plateau. This part of the Dark Peak SSSI is one of our most heavily cherished ecological habitats, given special UK and European protection as an SSSI, an SAC and an SPA. Yet all around there were signs of moorland habitat mismanagement - funded by HLS payments - but that seemed to me to run totally counter to the good work being done elsewhere on Kinder by the National Trust, the Peak Park, and the Moors for the Future project. Numerous areas of burnt heather and white-tipped posts marked the location of plastic trays of medicated grit, many placed into holes dug into the ancient peat. Just look at the vast swathes of burnt moorland on the eastern side of Kinder on this Google satellite view.
Moorland burning on Kinder Scout plateau west of Crookstone Knoll

Kick the Butts Out Of Kinder Scout!
No shooting on this part of the Dark Peak SSSI/SAC/SPA

It was 1932 when the  Kinder Mass Trespass took place. The common man demanded access to the wild landscapes that had hitherto been denied them. Today it is the gamekeepers and shooting tenants who are now the trespassers here. And this time there is no place for them - they have no moral right here, even if some do still have a lease. With their guns, their medicated grit, their moorland burning, their snares and their stink pits - and sometimes even their poisons and snipers - they trespass onto these landscapes and do our wild places no good. Evidence of the damage that intensive grouse farming causes was all around on this, the extreme eastern arm of Kinder Scout SSSI.

The shooting butts should not be here at all; 
they make a mockery of the moorland restoration efforts being done further west on Kinder.

It would take just a few hours with a sturdy crowbar to Kick the Butts Out of Kinder Scout. We should seek to scatter these stones, or turn these places into simple cairns - monuments to the folly and anachronism of intensive grouse farming on what is undoubtedly the Peak District's most well-known and valued wild place. We need the National Trust to take this further action  in order to demonstrate a desire never to see grouse shooting on any part of the Kinder Scout SSSI again. It should create at least one shooting-free area on its land-holdings, and to do so on behalf of the vast majority of its members who, like me, care about a better landscape, rich in wildlife and delivering healthy ecosystem services for everyone's benefit. Carbon sequestration by the peat; the retention of water and reduction of flooding downstream in the cities of Derby and Nottingham are just two of many services a more healthily managed moorland will deliver.

Burned heather and holes dug in the peat
for trays of medicated grit on Kinder Scout.
If you want to contact The National Trust you can email Dame Helen Ghosh, or Jon Stewart, and praise them for their action thus far, but why not also invite them to Kick the Butts out of Kinder Scout! and make this the first bit of the Dark Peak SSSI/SAC/SPA to be a completely lead-free zone?

If you want to join Hen Harrier Day 2016 in Derbyshire, do watch out for further details here, or follow the Hen Harrier Day Twitter feed for news and updates.

With Natalie Bennett from the Green Party attending Hen Harrier Day in Edale this year, as well as our new Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Singh Dhindsa, now is the ideal opportunity to both publicly applaud the National Trust for taking a firm line with one of their wayward shooting tenants, but also to call for one more small, but achievable action: Kick the Butts out of Kinder Scout!
I want to see all moorland management for grouse-shooting halted on National Trust
land within the Dark Peak SSSI/SAC/SPA.
Removing all 53 of the shooting butts around Kinder Scout should be our first goal.