The daily life of a Magpie

Jake, our resident magpie has been hanging around the garden a lot lately. He spends his day driving our two terriers mad, tormenting them from various bits of house and landscape.

One of his favourite taunts is to walk along the roof gutter. He starts at one end, always announcing his presence with a call to arms that get the dogs barking and jumping up and down in a mixture of excitement and frustration.  He walks along the edge of the gutter, gaining maximum exposure until at the other end he drops down onto a neighbour’s roof. From this vantage point, he is tantalisingly close to the dogs but far enough away to be out of their reach. Perfect for strutting and shooting them cheeky looks. The dogs spin around and run up and down the garden maddened by his display of hubris.

After a few minutes of this he gets bored and hops his way up the roof and without looking back goes over the ridge and out of sight.

Such is the daily life of Jake.

Mental Health Awareness Week

DdKFyePW0AAGrXf.jpg-large

Back in 94, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, I’d had it awhile but not realised what it was. I think my brother suffered as well, his way of dealing with it was to lock himself away in his room for 7 years. I chose a different, more physically and mentally destructive path that eventually led me to a doctor who prescribed me some drugs and 3 days later I was stalking around the house like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. It wasn’t good, or healthy. I asked to see a psychiatrist or is it a psychologist, and Kathy Whittaker at Rotherham General saw me for 6 weeks and bingo I was back to what could be classed as normal. Kathy has all my thanks for that.

The depression never went away it just lessened in the degree to a point where there were days I didn’t notice it or feel its effects on me. I saw it as a black Labrador dog, probably because I’d read that’s how Churchill saw his. It IS real in my mind. Most days I don’t see it, but I do feel its presence. Other days I see its shadow walking down the corridor to my room and sometimes it stops at my open door and looks in then walks away. I’ve learned that this has connections with the levels of stress I am experiencing in my life at that time, so I try to take steps to reduce the level to keep the dog away.

But this time that hasn’t worked. This morning the dog walked into the room and came right up to me; he’s here by my side now as I type this out. The depression is back.

Looking back I can see the pattern forming a year or so ago.

There is no single thing, rather a collection of seemingly disparate events, things and people. It started with lack of trust in an individual and organisation along with a feeling of not being in control of my own life. I was subject to some trolling, both online and off, from someone I thought of as a friend but in reality, wanted to inflict harm on my well-being. Financial worries played a small part, but only when large bills presented themselves. There was nothing, taken in isolation, that would cause any great concern, except perhaps the trolling, but taken together they flipped the switch.

One of the ways I have of dealing with this is talking about it honestly, something that has helped me in another area of my life for decades. So that is what I am doing now. Keeping things bottled up leads to people harming themselves or others, sometimes both. I’ve seen it happen and I have lost far too many friends to suicide to think it cannot happen to anyone.

Another action that helps my depression is removing negative and destructive influencers on the equilibrium of my daily life. I started doing that a month or two ago, there is still some way to go, but already it is having positive outcomes.

I have just spent an hour with a friend over coffee and cheesecake. He doesn’t know it but the chat and the laugh we had together helped me in my day enormously. For a brief period, I felt positive and normal. Spending time with friends like that is something I need to do more because I have begun to isolate too much.

Taking more time with my wife is something I need to do because she is my best friend. Other than my parents Alison is the person I have spent the biggest part of my life with. She really is the one great stabilising influence on my life and a great example of how to live

Lastly is walking. I love to walk. I am fortunate to write about walking in the countryside, two things I love to do. There is always a point on a walk where I feel everything is just right with the world, it’s a physical as well as mental feeling. Walking gives me pleasure and a different view of the world. If I am lucky I get something new to see or experience too. I recently walked through woodland and felt, then saw, a Barn Owl gliding silently across the open space I was in. I have thought of that moment many times.

It took me many years to learn that good mental health was everyone’s right, and no one has permission to take that away from a person. Sometimes it has to be fought for and that is a battle for the individual. If they are lucky it’s a battle fought with the help of good friends and loved ones.

Scout Trainee Search Dog

Scout at 10 & 12 Weeks Old

Scout has been with us two years now. His training to be a search and rescue dog in Mountain Rescue began when he was 12 weeks old, that’s him coming through the tunnel on his very first day of training.

He has a lovely nature, gentle with people and other dogs. Conversely, he likes to work hard, loves rough terrain and harsh weather does not seem to phase him. Training involves learning to go and find a body by detecting scent then coming to tell me, his handler, and guiding me back to the find spot. His reward is a game of ball, preferably a ball on a string that he can have a good game of tug. His favourite body Paul really gets into the game and Scout loves that, it gives him so much enjoyment, he really likes searching for him.

There have been a couple of milestones along the way. The first is a registration test to actually become a trainee dog. This is basic obedience and a stock test to make sure he does not chase livestock. Pass these and he get’s the coveted trainee badge, it’s all about badges! Next milestone is the indication test, where he has to find a body and come back to tell me, then lead me to the find spot. Scout has completed all these tests.

Now, Scout and I are learning to cover an area efficiently, find multiple bodies in varying situations in the day and at night. Scout now accompanies me on my walks and this builds his stamina and strength as well as increasing the good bond we already have. He is a joy to spend time with and walk with for a day.

The training, the game, has changed over the years, now we are trying to develop some directional control, with some success too, he is a quick learner. Scout has an excellent record of finding bodies, in fact, there have been only two occasions when he has failed and this has been in the same area on Baslow Edge each time, we call it Nemesis now. It’s an area where the wind can do all sorts of things and there are lots of boulders around, so it will be interesting to see how we crack it.

It’s not all training for Scout there are other duties and delights too. He is a big draw at the fundraising events, especially at Sheffield train station, he is also starting to join the team on training exercises and events. He even did some avalanche training a year back and loved being inside the snow holes. But mostly he likes to be out in the countryside with people and other dogs and he likes a good game of tug.

Scout
Scout. Trainee Search and Rescue Dog. Photo Mark Harrison

Update on Dark Peak plastic track

Midhope201802

Back in March I wrote about the plastic track that had been stretched across Dark Peak moorland in the Peak District without planning permission and without thought for its impact on the environment and beauty of the area. You can read the original article here.

A retrospective planning application, one of several over a period of years, had been lodged with the national park authority with a decision target date of 6th April. The application received over 180 objections from individuals and organisations, including Bradfield parish council, The BMC, Sheffield Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Peak District.

A decision on the application is still pending.

Natural England submitted a further response on 18.04.18 which can be read here

To summarise, Natural England the government body charged with advising on the protection of England’s nature and landscape, suggest that it would not object to allowing the matting to remain for a period of not more than 5 years, when the situation should be reviewed. This is to help the landowner continue with ongoing works, access for which the track was initially laid, without planning permission which was a legal requirement.

It is not clear what ongoing works entails, the estates application makes reference to “restoration”, view the letter here  and a further document here specifies “reprofilling” “heather regeneration” “footpath works” and “drain blocking”. There is no time scale outlined for the restoration to be completed, the original work began several years ago, and it is unclear what the final objective is other than restoration.

Grouse water bowls – Peak District

Grouse Water Bowl No.1 Oaking Clough, Peak District
Grouse Water Bowl No.1 Oaking Clough, Peak District

In time everything is consumed by the land. Even gritstone. Lichen forms a base layer on which mosses can grow. Moss traps soil, debris, waste, grasses form and then a heather seed lands, brought by the wind or a bird, perhaps a nocturnal animal foraging for food.

The western side of No.1 is almost free of lichen and moss, whilst the eastern edge that slopes down to ground level is gradually being colonised by the moor. The prevailing wind in this area is from the west, the gritstone bowl protected to a degree by the slopes of the clough and the higher ground to the east.

In time if left alone the No.1 will be lost, enveloped by nature as it inches west along the boulder.

Head Stone – Dark Peak – Peak District

The Head Stone on Round Hill in the Peak District
The Head Stone on Head Stone Bank in the Peak District

Travelling from Manchester to Sheffield along the A57 Snake Road you crest at Moscar and begin the long descent towards the Rivelin Valley. At Hollow Meadows on the right hand side of the road and prominent on the moorland skyline sits a tower of rock. It makes an impact on the eye because it stands perpendicular to a landscape that is for all intent and purpose flat along the horizon. This is the Head Stone. A tower of coarse red grit and conglomerate sitting on more of the same but adding in red sandstone, shale and coal to the surrounding areas.

It is a lovely spot to visit and of course try a hand at tower climbing. Access can be made from the Snake Road at Hollow Meadows but I prefer walking up from the Rivelin Reservoirs through Reddicar Clough and along Head Stone Bank, on a Sunday afternoon in summer this is a wonderful stroll. The tower sits at the western end of a long rocky promontory along a geological fault line with wonderful panoramic views.

Directly across the Snake from the Head Stone is Hollow Meadows, housing now, and expensive housing at that, but once an Industrial School,  meaning truant school, and before that a Sheffield Workhouse, looking beyond you can see the quarries where the inhabitants worked. I wonder if the poor unfortunates looked out at the Head Stone with longing for freedom or was the landscape viewed as a place to be avoided.

Head Stone is a place a pilgrimage too, judging by the small plaques screwed to its surface here and there and the bunches of flowers laid around. Which probably means it is a place well-loved by lots of people although I have never encountered anyone when visiting.

It sits amidst a boulder field that is well worth exploring for it contains the last of George Broomhead handy work for William Wilson the snuff magnate, who had George carving water bowls out of the rocks to provide drinking water for his grouse. George numbered each one in three sets stretching from Stanage Edge to Wyming Brook. Number 19 on this final set, the Oaking Clough line is a beauty, probably one of my favourites.

The grouse water bowls of Stanage Edge. Number 19 in the Oaking Clough line. Peak District
The grouse water bowls of Stanage Edge. Number 19 in the Oaking Clough line. Peak District

 

Sheffield Ghost Buildings

The ghost building at the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre St, Sheffield.
The ghost building at the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre St, Sheffield.

Ghost buildings are a sign of a past use gradually diminishing backward as time moves forward. This is the rear of the former PCL works on Eyre Street. It is within my lifetime that this site lived and died as a manufacturing works, in the heart of Sheffield. The company decamped long ago to one of the industrial estates on the outskirts.

I walked around the works in my early days selling them engineering products, but I cannot remember what happened in this ghost building. Women making air inflators and such populated the floor, the men mended machines and managed everything. It was a common setup in those days. Almost everyone was on the clock and those on the floor had a piece rate bonus. People worked in groups and they looked after their own, managing the workflow so no one got left behind. On Saturday nights everyone went to the Working Men Club, had a game of bingo, watched an act and had pork pie and pickled onions with ham sandwiches. It was a micro community that had common social values and standards of conduct. They sorted their own problems out and kept the cohesion in society.