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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 https://youtu.be/gGMSfiH850o)

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 . . .





http://peakhhday.blogspot.co.uk/

http://nomoorshooting.blogspot.co.uk/

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.








http://peakhhday.blogspot.co.uk/

http://nomoorshooting.blogspot.co.uk/

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.




http://peakhhday.blogspot.co.uk/
http://nomoorshooting.blogspot.co.uk/