Category Archives: The Moor

Catching up

I'm a bit behind with this journal, so a quick catch-up:

I went for a walk on the Moor in search of sundews the other week, and wrote about it here.

Then I had a go at photographing butterflies in my garden:

Green-veined White butterfly.

Then I took a short walk at Burton Marshes: Continue reading Catching up

Bottles and cups

Jen texted me from work early yesterday morning, and suggested I go for a walk on the Moor. Why didn't I think of that?

Nothing much to report, apart from an old milk bottle I found, which was packed full of plants. Life is good at finding new ways.

Bottle garden
Shotgun shell case

I also took a detour to the famous local landmark Churn Milk Joan, a standing boundary stone which bears a number of mysterious, prehistoric ‘cup’ marks. The marks were still there. They're found on a lot of prehistoric sites. Nobody has a clue what they mean. Continue reading Bottles and cups

Early morning walk on the Moor

I haven't been on the Moor for a few weeks, so I asked Jen to drop me off at the golf course car park on her way into work. I was on the Moor by 7am!

After a quick visit to the urnfield (which I've blogged about separately here), I made my way up to the trig point and had a brew. Yorkshire Tea, obviously. Then it was along Sheep Stones Edge, down the hill, and back home via Keelam Edge.

I was pleased to see the cotton grass out in abundance:

Cotton grass
Cotton grass.

Continue reading Early morning walk on the Moor

Moor Walk

It was another glorious day yesterday, and I had presciently got all of my household chores out of the way earlier in the week, so I decided to take a walk up to the Moor.

Might summer finally be here?
Might summer finally be here?

I was somewhat overdressed for the weather in my moleskin shirt, fleece and waterproof jacket. This was confirmed as I gasped my way to the top of the hill, only to see a fell-runner run past in only his running shoes and shorts. He was so intent on his running that he didn't even bother to touch the trig point to make it official. Now there was a chap who needed to examine his priorities.

There were skylarks singing in the sky, several curlews burbling in the distance, and a number of wheatears flashing their eponymous white arses along the walls and above the fields (my first on the Moor this summer). But by far my strangest encounter was coming face-to-beak with a female duck, sticking her head out of the heather. We don't get many ducks on the Moor!

Wheatear
Male wheatear.
What the duck?
What the duck?

On my way down, I even spotted a few reed buntings on the edge of the Moor. I've not seen them up there before.

Reed bunting
Male reed bunting.

A very pleasing walk. Albeit a little on the hot side!

More photos »

Mid-April

The first swallow of the summer, tumbling over the back field first thing yesterday morning as I opened the gate. Only three days later than last year, despite this dreadful spring. If previous years are anything to go by—although why should they be, these days?—it will be a couple of weeks yet before they're back in great numbers. Which I guess is why one of them doesn't make a summer. It's good to have them back, though.

The afternoon was glorious, with a strong, warm breeze, so I headed up to the Moor. Unusually, I didn't spot a single red grouse, although the meadow pipits were back in decent numbers, and there was a lone skylark belting it out high above me for all he was worth.

Stoodley Pike Monument from the Moor
Stoodley Pike Monument from the Moor

Moorland pool
Moorland pool

The wheatears will be back soon, I reckon.

Moorland encounter

Yesterday afternoon was unseasonably glorious, so I decided to head up to the Moor.

There wasn't an awful lot going on, but that's not why I go up to the Moor.

S4643

On my way down from the edge, a chap with a spade and sack spotted me and my camera: “Landscape or wildlife?” he called. Both, I said.

It turned out he was the local gamekeeper, laying out grit for the grouse. We chatted for about 15 minutes. He is clearly trying to engage in outreach, to win over the hearts and minds of the locals. He explained that the people who shoot on the Moor aren't a bunch of toffs, but a local group of hard-working enthusiasts; how they only shoot for six days a year; how they only took over the care of the Moor a few years back, and how he reckons the place is a lot better maintained these days. I agreed: it is. He then asked me for any feedback or ideas.

I suggested that a few more boggy patches and pools might be in order (he told me they're working on this), and that the best way to combat the boom-bust predator-prey population cycles of the grouse-parasite and grouse would be to throw a few more predators into the mix. I don't think he was quite with me on this one. I pointed out that, in the 20+ years I've been walking on the Moor, I've only ever seen two buzzards, one peregrine, and not a single hen harrier. The northern moorland, I said, should be practically swarming with raptors.

“Hen harriers numbers have plummeted drastically in recent years,” he agreed. “Nobody's been able to work out why,” he added.

“It's because game-keepers keep shooting them,” I said, calling a spade a spade.

He explained that he had seen a hen harrier on the Moor last summer, and had nearly shot it by accident. He was about to shoot some crows, when he realised they were mobbing a harrier.

He asked me if I'd ever eaten grouse. I said I had, but that I thought it was overrated, and much preferred duck. He confessed that he didn't like the taste of grouse at all—far too strong—but assured me that all the grouse which are shot on the Moor do get eaten.

He seemed like a nice chap, but I'll never understand the mentality of people who enjoy blasting wild birds out of the sky for fun.

On my way down the road towards home, I made up for the previous day's abject failure by managing to take quite a nice photo of a robin in full song.

Robin

Much better to bag wild birds with cameras than shotguns, I reckon.

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Errant grouse

I went for a walk on the Moor on Saturday afternoon: my first of 2013. As you might expect in early February, there wasn't an awful lot going on, but there were quite a few pairs of grouse about:

Red Grouse
A brace of red grouse.
More grouse
Another brace.

In the latest draft of my book, I write:

The northern moorlands are Red Grouse Central. These game birds live on heather, and are reluctant in the extreme to leave the moors. […] I have never even seen one in the fields adjacent to the Moor: if there is no heather, they are simply not interested.

Imagine my surprise on Saturday, therefore, when I spotted a grouse flying over one of the aforementioned fields. OK, it was only off the Moor by about 10 metres, but I never thought I'd see the day:

Grouse
A grouse flying over a field!!

It was good to get back up onto the Moor. It had been far too long.

More photos »