How many Bank Holidays do we need? I’ve eaten all the sprouts. I’m getting bored walking up and down Longridge Fell. The New Year has come and gone, and I have nothing to write about. A quiet news week, as they say. So, I would like to share with you this simple video. Not a lot of explanation is necessary. I have some vague hope for the future of our precious wildlife with people like Chris Packham about.
I’m sure that will have resonated with a few of you. There is now real pressure on landowners to stop trail hunting on their properties and public opinion is swinging that way after Mark Hankinson, the director of the Masters of the Foxhounds Association, was recently found guilty of encouraging others to hide the illegal hunting of live foxes behind a “smokescreen” of trail hunting. But don’t rely on any help from our Government if this is the attitude of our Prime Minister…
Last month I wrote of a vote by National Trust members to ban trail hunting on their land. Understandably, a few of you raised concerns, as it was non-binding and would depend upon the Board of Trustees ultimate decision. Well, today, the good news is that they have announced in a fairly strong worded letter that they will no longer issue licences for trail hunting.
I’ve just switched on my laptop to write up today’s cycle ride and I find this in my notifications
As a long-standing member of the NT I feel vindicated by my membership, which I have sometimes doubted with some of their past decisions. This is good news and I think if it had gone the other way I would not have supported them any longer. Sadly I do wonder who are the 38 thousand against and their mentality. No doubt there will be a barrage of bleating from the hunts to their Tory backers.
This is what the League Against Cruel Sports had to say.
“We’re delighted that the National Trust and its members have finally made the right decision and banned hunting from their land. Following the Hunting Office webinar expose and Mark Hankinson’s conviction they really had little option but to distance themselves from the criminal countryside gangs that hunts have become. The webinars contained blatant admissions of widespread illegal hunting and the use of smokescreens to confuse the public. Any respectable landowner knows their reputation will be forever tarnished if they don’t permanently distance themselves from the hunting community.” “We expect other corporate landowners including Forestry England, United Utilities, the various National Parks and the Ministry of Defence to also permanently ban hunting. The National Trust decision alone will deny the hunts access to 620,000 acres of land and when these other landowners follow suit they will be banned from millions of acres. We expect some hunts will be forced to shut down completely as a result.”
Further to that I have just emailed other major landowners asking them to deny hunting on their lands. It’s easy to do here.
Again I set off from home on familiar paths to Gill Bridge where I skated up the icy road before I took the path along Elmridge. Elmridge is a small eminence in the Vale of Chipping between the Bleasdale Fells and Longridge Fell, its position giving it good views of the area. These views are better on the road across the top rather than on my footpath along the southern side, but I’d not walked this way for several years. A friend has moved into a little house along here, so I was able to have a few words in passing. The family have adopted lots of stray kittens and have some fine fowl. The next farm along, again owned by a friend who has recently died is surrounded by woodlands that he planted over the years, a fitting memorial.
It wasn’t the clearest of days but Longridge Fell was always there.
In Hesketh Lane I passed the site of an old mill now strangely used as a depot for a local coach firm. The mill stream is clearly visible and a notice tells of recently installed fish ladders to allow fish and eels access higher up the stream. The Dog and Partridge is sadly closed, like several other old inns of the area. Notice the cheese press stone, a common sight in this area of Lancashire. I took the curiously named Judd Holmes Lane through frozen fields leading me back to the Knott Farm where I was the other day.. This time I made the detour to visit the little church at Lee House. Be sure to have a look at – https://www.lan-opc.org.uk/Chipping/stwilliam/index.html for some interesting history.
I then joined the crowds walking along the pavements to Longridge. We should all be a lot fitter after this pandemic is over.
Here are the top ten most read RPUK blogs over the last 12 months…
Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle found poisoned on grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park (here)
Golden eagle Tom disappears in suspicious circumstances on Scottish grouse moor (here)
Missing eagle’s satellite tag found cut and wrapped in lead, dumped in river at Strathbraan (here)
45 hen harriers ‘missing’ or confirmed illegally killed since 2018 (here)
The five brood meddled hen harriers from 2019 are all ‘missing’ (here)
Scottish Government commits to develop immediate licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting (here)
The eagle’s satellite tag found in the river: poetic injustice (here)
Licensing scheme for release of pheasants and red-legged partridge in England following Wild Justice legal challenge (here)
Post mortem reveals Welsh golden eagle had suffered gunshot injury (here)
RSPB announces its ‘new’ policy on gamebird shooting (here)
I’m sad and angry at the same time.
Sad because of the cruelty and persecution of our birds of prey.
Angry because I have no confidence that the powers that be, government and law enforcement, will deal with these criminal acts. I would like you all, in 2021, to spend a little time to keep abreast of the problem and make representations to your elected MPs that this situation cannot be tolerated.
Stop awhile this weekend in your Covid-19 angst, especially if you live in the north, and have a listen to Sting…
…now we have all calmed down lets look at the problem.
From the figures things seem to be getting worse. So what is the solution? Well the government will slowly, what’s the rush?, try and tell us next week.
Oh! And by the way where do all these ‘leaks’ come from?
The above is just one example of ‘Brutal trading conditions’. Conditions repeated in the hospitality and drinks sector, the tourism and airline sector, the performing arts sector, the fashion sector and most other sectors you can imagine. Our economy has been allowed, nay even been encouraged, to depend upon these honest but nebulous sectors. Where is the backbone of our economy? In pubs or in industry? Years of free enterprise and privatisation policies have led us down this cul-de-sac.
We can’t even rely in these Covid-19 pandemic times on a ‘test and trace’ system which has been put into unsuitable private hands.
So as the situation worsens by the day I don’t know the answers any more than you, the scientists or the politicians. But I do feel that we should never have been in this situation in the first place, virus or not.
No one wants to be one of those 87 or those millions out of work. A cleft stick situation.
I have become somewhat dilatory on the walking front despite the fact that we are allowed out more. There is nothing to stop me from driving up to Langdale and climbing the Pikes. Nothing that is except common sense. I posted a few days ago a piece from the Coniston MRT advising against fellwalking at the moment. I think I’ve become disorientated by the confusing Governments announcements giving us greater freedom and others telling us to stay at home. The death rates seem to be staying high so stay at home is the obvious choice.
At the back of my garden 40years ago I planted trees to give shelter and some privacy, They have grown to 30 or 40ft and need their crowns taking out before they grow any bigger.
Now is the time. Actually, it isn’t the best while the trees are in leaf but there you go.
Out come the ladders and the bow saw. I’m very much aware of not having an accident in these lockdown times so I securely fix my ladders, top and bottom. My climbing harness is brought into action to prevent any tumbles from a great height.
The trees have lost some limbs but suffice to say I’m typing this with all my limbs intact.
After a couple of days sawing and pruning, shredding and logging I’ve spread a decent amount of wood chippings as a mulch on my flower beds and have a nice pile of logs for my log burner next winter.
Following on from Woody Herman’s rendition above [was Woody a common factor?] another old favourite tune came to mind – Woodman Spare That Tree sang by Phil Harris, a regular on Saturday morning’s Uncle Mac’s Favourites on the radio’s Light Programme back in the ’50s. Uncle Mac would play tunes requested by children who were thrilled if their name was read out on the radio – he never played any of mine.
I’ve just found out that the above quirky tune was based on an original poem by George Pope Morris, 1802-64. Set to music in 1837 by Henry Russell. It is one of the earliest known songs to champion a social cause, in this case, the preservation of nature.
Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I’ll protect it now.
‘Twas my forefather’s hand
That placed it near his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand,
Thy ax shall harm it not.
That old familiar tree,
Whose glory and renown
Are spread o’er land and sea—
And wouldst thou hew it down?
Woodman, forbear thy stroke!
Cut not its earth-bound ties;
Oh, spare that agèd oak
Now towering to the skies!
When but an idle boy,
I sought its grateful shade;
In all their gushing joy
Here, too, my sisters played.
My mother kissed me here;
My father pressed my hand—
Forgive this foolish tear,
But let that old oak stand.
My heart-strings round thee cling,
Close as thy bark, old friend!
Here shall the wild-bird sing,
And still thy branches bend.
Old tree! the storm still brave!
And, woodman, leave the spot;
While I’ve a hand to save,
Thy ax shall harm it not.
I despair at the trees cut down in our village to make way for developments. I hope that the pruning I’ve done the last few days will ensure my mature trees will survive for many more years long after I’ve gone.
I’m being lazy today and sharing a disturbing report from the RSPB’s Investigations Team.
I make no apologies for this as I am sickened by the rising crimes against our birds of prey. Living on the edge of Bowland makes me acutely aware of these as this area has had more than enough incidents. A few years ago Hen Harriers were a relatively common sight if you knew where to look and now they have been virtually wiped out.
As we possibly make a slow return to the hills our observations of the wildlife, positive and negative, will be important. As Superintendant Lyall says at the bottom of this report – If you have any information about birds of prey being killed in your area, call the police on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101.
The RSPB has received a surge in reports of birds of prey being illegally killed since lockdown began.
The majority of incidents have been on or close to sporting estates managed for game bird shooting.
The public are being asked to stay vigilant and report crimes against birds of prey.
The RSPB’s Investigations Unit has been ‘overrun’ with reports of birds of prey being illegally killed in recent weeks.
Species involved in raptor crime incidents since lockdown began in March 2020
Police have been called out to investigate multiple cases involving the shooting, trapping and suspected poisoning of birds of prey following reports by the public.
The RSPB is currently aware of many confirmed incidents involving the targeting of birds of prey involving hen harriers, peregrines, buzzards, red kites, goshawks and a barn owl in the last six weeks. Amongst the cases being dealt with by the police are a number of significant ongoing investigations on land managed for grouse shooting.
On 29 March a buzzard was found shot at Shipton, near York. Its wing was fractured in two places and an x-ray revealed several pieces of shot within the bird’s body. Thanks to the care of a local wildlife expert the buzzard recovered and was released.
The following weekend, wildlife presenter Iolo Williams recovered a dead red kite in Powys, which had been shot. Reports also came in of a further two shot red kites in the area, which is managed for pheasant shooting.
Red kite shot in Wales
And in Scotland, the police are following up several raptor persecution cases and multiple reports of illegal trap use on grouse moors.
All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.
Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations UK, said:
“Since lockdown began, the RSPB has been overrun with reports of birds of prey being targeted. It is clear that criminals on some sporting estates both in the uplands and lowlands have used the wider closure of the countryside as an opportunity to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey.
“Spring is the time when birds of prey are most visible and therefore vulnerable, as they put on courtship displays, build nests and find food ready to breed. It is clear the criminal actions are targeted and malicious in nature, taking out birds before they have the opportunity to breed, often in areas where they have previously faced persecution.
“We welcome the fact that the public is remaining vigilant and encourage any suspicious incidents to be reported. But please observe government guidelines at all times.”
Superintendent Nick Lyall, head of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, said:
“Over recent weeks, I have been sickened by the number of raptor persecution cases that have come to my attention as chair of the Raptor Persecution Delivery Group. I know that there are officers currently investigating a number of crimes against wild birds of prey which have occurred since lockdown began.
“It is clear that lockdown has been seen as a green light by those involved in raptor persecution offences to continue committing crimes, presumably in the belief that there are fewer people around to catch them doing so.
“I remain grateful to everyone involved in investigating these crimes, and thankfully in the vast majority of the cases I am aware of, it looks like some really good lines of enquiry are taking place which should lead to arrests and interviews.”
If you have any information about birds of prey being killed in your area, call the police on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101.
In contrast to recent sunny days with pictures of vibrant flowers the weather has changed to dull, wet and grey. My mood has quickly changed with it. I didn’t feel like getting up today.
I’m not the most house proud of people, preferring outdoor activities whenever possible. As it was raining I did eventually do some hoovering and general tidying of rooms neglected in the last few weeks of sunshine. Not the best way to brighten my mood but I smiled when it came to my bedroom and the state of the unmade bed.
It looked as though Tracy Emmons had been sleeping in it.
They say a person’s bedroom reveals significant details about their personality, habits and emotions. Make of it what you want but I do use my bed as a study, library and cafe at times, I spend a lot of time in it during normal circumstances, something to do with security. That’s where I am now typing this. I’m surprised the cat was not in residence on the duvet.
More depressing news of the loss of life on the TV. I usually listen in at lunchtime and then get on with the rest of the day unencumbered.
Today however I’ve learnt from his wife, Pat, that one of my best friends has died. I met Mel as a cheeky faced 5 year old in our first year of primary school. From that time our lives have interwoven between all the highs and lows. He has featured on these pages many times either visiting ‘up north’ or on our yearly backpacking trips. I will put a little story together at a later date, Something strange has just happened – as I was in the very process of uploading this picture of Mel his wife phoned me, uncanny. Fragile times…
I could keep this theme going for some time, like bad movies they often, perversely, bring out a sequel.
The weeks go by at a slow pace since the problem started in my left hip. I’m waiting for the Xray results. In the meantime I’m trying to walk a few miles on the flat. Any stepping up on the left leg however still produces instant pain.
There have been some beautiful frosty days and this morning the Bowland Fells were covered in snow. My friend Sir Hugh is 2 weeks post knee operation, the second he has had done. He must have walked thousands of miles on the first. A trip up to Arnside was suggested. Driving up the Lakeland winter vista across the Kent estuary was magnificent, mocking our present inabilities to step foot in the hills. [poorly captured above on my mobile]
Pleasantries over he requested help in putting up his Christmas Tree.This proved more difficult than I’d imagined. The artificial tree came in many sections, supposedly colour coded. The process was similar to erecting a tent for the first time, though in the comfort of his living room we had no wind to annoy us. He hopped around on his crutches whilst I built up the pieces from the bottom. Strangely when we had finished there were several branches spare. Anyhow it looked good enough so we retired to a nearby eating emporium for a well earned drink with excellent fish and chips. No17 is the clue. He’ll soon be back on his legs and we look forward to 2018.
Two weeks further on with my foot convalescence and it was time to drive again. My temporary raised surgical shoe wasn’t allowed for insurance reasons, this meant using normal shoes for driving and taking the former if I had to walk anywhere. A right pain! [or rather left] Despite starting my car up a few times over the last weeks the battery was completely dead when I came to use the car. So it needed a spell of trickle charging to bring it back to life. So town, friends and relatives are now in reach but it was only today whilst the sun shone that I thought of driving up Longridge Fell for my favourite views. Glad I did as all the usual vistas [Pendle, Yorkshire three peaks, Bowland, Morecambe Bay and North Wales, aren’t we lucky with our location] were clear and despite being frustrated that I couldn’t wander up any of the fell tracks I positively felt a surge of optimism and joie de vivre.
This lead me to thinking about recharging my own batteries. I suspect in the circumstances it will be a trickle charge of trips like today rather than any jump starting.
I’ve got a lot of catching up to do as on top of the car not starting my house phones died [what a wonder is internet shopping when you are house bound?] my mobile seemed to block all texts and to top it all my computer then came up with the blue screen of death! Couldn’t get round it for a week until my son was able to work his magic and restore the workings without any loss. A good reminder to always back up to an external hard drive. Anyhow here we are again but I realise my deficiencies in the modern technologies.
Cabin fever – no not the feeling you get from a luxury Caribbean cruise but the feeling you get cooped up in the house for three weeks with your foot in the air. The boredom and restlessness have only been partially relieved by good books and some climbing DVDs. The cricket I was hoping to enjoy was a disaster. Didn’t seem able to concentrate to get round to sorting through my recent photos of Israel for a post, still coming to terms with that strange conflicting trip. TV was even worse. Friends have been very supportive, particularly those who took me to the pub.
But somehow I imagine my body and mind must need outdoor activities and some interaction with nature. Even simple things like watching, from my bedroom window, the morning sunrise seemed to be uplifting. I found I started to anticipate and appreciate a lot of minor events outside that window; birds flying by, the laughter of kids in the road, the hail hammering on the glass and the swish of bending trees in the gales we have been experiencing. There has been some awful weather over the holiday period, that was one aspect I was happy to have an excuse to avoid. There is another storm blowing in as I write this.
Sunrise across the field.
Xmas and New Year have passed without much fuss, another positive aspect of my confinement! I’ve not starved, the toe is healing, the stitches out and the crutches ditched.
There have been a couple of bright and sunny days this week so have managed to hobble down the road for a brew and chat with neighbours. Great to get out of the cabin under my own steam. I’m still wearing the fashionable platform surgical shoe and this gives a lovely mismatch with the walking boot on the other foot. All seems to be progressing well, there is new life in 2014. The surgeon said it would be 2-3 months before I would hopefully feel the benefit !?!?