Sunday, 26 May 2013

Barefoot Hiking

Well today was glorious. Lovely weather, the ducklings were playing noisely outside when my eldest declared that he would love to climb Mam Tor. Those who don't know its one of the peaks around here. Known as the 'shivering' mountain. This is due to movement of the hill which has caused a road that once led from Castleton to Edale to be abandoned due the amount of subsidence it suffered. Always up for an adventure I said yes, quickly stocked up on water, juice, energy rich choccy bars and cheese sandwiches. The faithful hound (Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound, Beano readers will know that breed) was leaded up and we set off in the car to what I expected to be a very busy Castleton.

It wasn't we went down Winnets Pass avoiding cyclists and sheep. Turned left towards Trek Cliff Cavern. There are various parking spots all with ticket machines nearby. However, if you ignore these and drive on you will find lots of free parking. There we left the car in a shady spot so we wouldn't get lightly poached on our return.

There were plenty of sheep with lambs around faithful hound kept resoundingly on the lead much to his disgust.

Within moments of setting off my youngest declared that she was tired and needed to be carried. Mrs Sea Duck who had sun blocked us all up encourage her to walk herself. Which she did.

Curlews could be heard in the distance. Chaffinches everywhere, as well as carrion crows. The crows seemed to be very interested in the people, stealing whatever sandwich remains they could happen across. The climb is nice and gentle, which is good for me as I usually walk by car.

The sun was lovely and warm, however as in areas of the High Peak there were patches which are best described as boggy.

There was a lot of activity. Someone had a remote controlled aeroplane, one of those stealthy flying wing designs. As we were buzzed by future technology we made our way up Mam Tor.

I was walking in sandals, the same ones I loaf about the house with instead of slippers. Everyone else in our party had walking boots. But me being a Peaklander felt I could deal with one of our hills in my loafing footwear. How wrong I was, as educating the ducklings about the countryside code, use styles, close gates keep doggie under control etc. I happened upon a very boggy area. Nothing new round here and marched through with my feet decidedly wet on the other side. This is something we take as water off our backs but the sandals didn't.

They started slipping around my feet and it was difficult to get a grip and keep ones correct stance and balance. Thinking how I wouldn't live it down if I became a mountain rescue incident. As well as the gorse bushes I would surely land in not looking at all inviting I decided to take the sandals off and walk barefoot. The sandals strapped to my rucksack drying in the sun.

Awaiting to stand on an adder, I continued with the rest of the flock far ahead. We reached the paved area, what Mrs Sea Duck refers to as the Roman Road. This was very busy and I passed a Scottish couple who remarked about my barefoot hiking.

Apparently its all the rage! I was actually waiting for someone to tell me to get a job. As I looked, and felt a tad vagrant.

As the rest were waiting for me, we had our choccy bars, sandwiches and various juice. The hound was given water for which he was very grateful. A lot of people were out walking, the sun was quite strong but I think it's strength was deceptive as a cool breeze at the top was blowing. 

As we pressed on to the summit. I met two chaps who remarked about my barefoot walking. They were training for the British three peaks, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowden all in 24 hours. Trying to raise money for charity, possibly to clad barefoot fell walkers. They too instilled me with knowledge of the benefits of barefoot hiking. It was okay as long as you didn't stand on anything sharp. They left me swiftly behind as they disappeared towards the trig point at the top like a set of gazelles. 

With the summit now in sight various people exchanged glances at my slightly Tarzan way of walking. One chap declared that I was wearing the best set of boots he'd seen that day. A tad Emperors New Clothes I feel. At the top we rested again and I was able to put my now dry sandals on.

At the top people were photographing themselves at the trig point. A couple of paragliders were floating very peacefully in the sky.

The way back was quicker, I avoided the boggy parts on the route. As we descended around 1400hrs, more people seemed to be heading up Mam Tor. Castleton was much busier. As we came to the abandoned road several university students were measuring to see if it was feasible to fix the road. Maybe something to watch out for in the future. When we arrived back at the car, the clever shady parking had worked and the car was cool. Still put the air con on.

One of the ducklings nodded off on the way back. Again there was the sheep slarlem on Winnets Pass. The roads still did not seem that busy for a bank holiday weekend, especially one with such good weather. The journey back to Buxton was quick and pleasant. A mug of tea to refresh, and some fun memories of walking with the ducklings.

So if you were walking the hills around Castleton and remember a barefoot hiker being dragged along by his faithful hound. Then it t'was I Sea Duck the Mary Celeste of Mam Tor.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Spring migration

Well I was out and about on the hills recently and noticed that some of the migratory birds have arrived.

My 1st Swallow was in mid April over Chinley Head near the Lamb Inn on the Hayfield road from Chapel-en-le-Frith A624.

I haven't heard any Cuckoos down the Goyt valley yet, usually you hear one by the trees on Errwood reservoir or Nook Wood.

No sign of House Martins, Sand Martins, Swifts or Hobby's yet. I am keeping an eye out for them.

I did see several Wheatears over towards Axe Edge last week. Still watchful for some Whinchat

I did see Whincat over towards Mam Tor last year, but none so far this year.

We do seem to have a thriving wildlife here in the High Peak something I am very grateful for. As well as such a picturesque landscape.

If you do see any migratory birds, please feel free to log them on the British Trust of Ornithology's BirdTrack website. It's free and you don't have to be an avid birder to be involved. 

An unusual duck has been seen for quite a while in Pavillion Gardens in Buxton. At first glance I thought it was a pochard but a bird boffin has informed me it is a North American Canvasback. See what you think. Here's a few photo's.
Canvas back with local Mallards


 The Red Grouse, Curlew and the delightful Lapwings seem to be busy nesting. I always love to see the Lapwings doing their courtship displays, so acrobatic. A bird known by several names such as Lapwing, Green Plover, Farmers Friend (as they eat the pests that bother the livestock) and Peewit after the sound of they're call.

No sign of the resident Short-Eared Owl in the Goyt for a while. I saw a Tawny Owl one night in April, just outside Fernilee, but no Short-Eared Owl to-date. Nor the Hen Harriers.

Other birds of prey like Windhover 'Kestrel' and Buzzards all seem to be doing well.

Two ravens that I saw earlier in the year in the Goyt seem to have moved on. 

Canada Geese also seem to have set up shop permanently in Pavillion Gardens. They do seem to be getting into a strop with the local Mallards.

Locally House Sparrows, Robins and Blue Tits are all happily nesting. Near where we live a noisey Rookery is active.

Collard Doves are nesting and we're also getting visits in the garden from a Woodpigeon.

 Meadow pipits are busy so are Corn Buntings, Redpoll and Linnets. Pheasants are squawking in the hedgerows, quite frankly with the sun out the High Peak is most lovely. I'm sure we'll get more than one or two visitors this bank holiday. Let's hope the good weather continues.

Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Siskin have all been seen down Cunning Dale.

I look forward to spotting my first Garden Warbler or Grasshopper Warbler. The last one I saw was down Monsal Dale.

No Yellow Wagtails or Tree Pipits so far this year, plenty of Pied Wagtails. They come into the garden off the local fields and pasture, a sure sign the weather is about to turn nasty.

Haven't seen any today so I guess the weather is going to stay fine.

Derbyshire County Council Elections 2013 (results)

Well it was a glorious start to May, the weather was quite simply divine. This is echoed in another blog entitled View from the High Peak I do recommend a look, the pictures are lovely and inspired me to put a few landscapes of the Goyt Valley onto this submission.

The weather could have not have been better for the May local County Council Elections. One would have hoped that it would have not put people off from voting, however, the turn out over Derbyshire was 34% which is a touch disappointing.

My numbers come from two sources the Derbyshire County Council website and the BBC one.

 Derbyshire County Council went from No Over All Control to Labour controlled. With Labour gaining 18 council seats, the Conservatives loosing 13, the Lib Dems loosing 4 and and Independent loosing 1.

Across the country the results were;-

Conservative 1116 councillors -335
Labour  538 councillors + 291
Liberal Democrats  352 councillors -124
UKIP  147 councillors +139
Independents  165 councillors +24
Green Party 22 councillors  + 5
Residents Association  12 councillors +2
Mebyon Kernow 4 councillors +1
Liberal 3 councillors +1
Independant Health & Concern 2 councillors 0
British National Party 0 coucnillors -3
English Democrats 0 councillors 0
Idle Toad Party 0 councillors -1

There was one vacant seat. Why I have no idea?

The breakdown in my own area of Buxton is as follows,

Buxton North & East

Margaret Applby   UKIP             495 votes
Caitlin Bisknell     Labour           1138 votes
Pam Reddy         Conservative  795 votes
Graham Scott      Lib Dems       84 votes

Turn out 28.27%

Buxton West

Matthew Bain            Green Party    219 votes
Tony Kemp                Conservative  1123 votes
Bob Morris                Independent    771 votes
Fiona Sloman            Labour            952 votes
Christopher Weaver  Lib Dems       90 votes

Turn out 32.5%

Across the High Peak areas the total votes cast were

Conservative   9557       33%
Labour            10983     38%
Lib Dems        3452       12%
UKIP               2593       9%
Greens            1487       5%
Independents   771         3%

Total Votes 28,843

Labour won Buxton North & East, two seats in Glossop & Charlesworth and Ethrow
Conservatives won in Buxton West and Chapel & Hope Valley.
Lib Dems won in Whaley Bridge & New Mills.

UKIP, The Greens or Independents didn't win any division but an interesting point is that they didn't stand in every electoral division of the High Peak.

The popular rumour is that UKIP took away votes from the Conservatives. This is true, but they also seem to have taken votes from the other parties. One could argue that if they hadn't stood in Buxton North & East that the UKIP vote would have gone to the Conservatives which would have beaten Labour's Caitlin Bisknel's 1138 votes with 1290 votes.

But I don't think it's that easy.

UKIP are certainly the party of protest at the moment, I remember when the Greens became briefly the third party in UK politics. However it is UKIP's willingness to discuss the political elephant in the room, EUROPE, that also makes them attractive as well as people being fed up with the usual three main political parties. I think UKIP have made a dent in all the political parties locally.

Compared with the 2009 elections the Lib Dem vote has crashed in Buxton. In 2009 it was 1463 this year it was 174. As I noted the turn out wasn't great but it is quite a drop. The Lib Dems may be unpopular as they are in coalition with the Conservatives. Perhaps the door swings both ways in this leading to the Lib Dem unpopularity brushing off on the Conservatives as well. UKIP didn't stand in Buxton during the county council elections in 2009.

Also have the boundary changes had an impact on the results?

On the day there was a Labour car driving around Buxton, with flags and a humorous horn, gaining peoples attention. Twitter was quite active with mostly Labour but also UKIP tweeting. Something the Conservatives, Greens and Lib Dems cottoned onto and started tweeting later that morning. A thing of note is how Caitlin Bisknel used her twitter account to encourage people to get out and vote Labour, with the hashtag #fairdealforderbyshire used by the Labour faithful did seem to continually bring the party to mind. Her own blog had a mirror of the canvasing leaflet noting why to vote for her and her party. On the other hand Fiona Sloman the other Labour candidate in Buxton isn't an avid tweeter, she does seem to go leafleting and speak to people on the doorstep quite a lot, but did her lack of tweeting before and during election day have an impact on the vote. Caitlin won the seat she was contesting Fiona didn't? Did it provide an edge to the campaigning, an extra arrow in the quiver?

Question? Do social networking sites in particular Twitter have such an impact on how people vote these days?

It's an interesting question. Scientists have a phrase called the Illusion of Truth where if a subject is repeated often enough then the more people are likely to believe the subject or fact. Regardless of empirical data. Can Twitter and sites like it create an Illusion of Truth with regard to activity or popularity? Leading to candidates becoming more well known and regarded? Is there a flip side where a candidate could become notorious and disliked, or at least appear so? The simple answer is I don't know and with not having one shred of empirical date to prove or disprove I suppose I should shut up.

UKIP do seem to be more active than the other parties on Twitter as well, as well as bloggers like Peasant in Buxton which is worth a look. They note the similarity between the Labour & Conservative leaflets. Saving the ambulance stations in the High Peak (until more information is available I would look at them far from saved), gritting the roads, fixing pot holes. They note where's the difference. They do have a point. It reminds me of a conversation when Tony Blair was leader of the Labour party. A friend asked me which Conservative party would I vote for Red or Blue? What UKIP seem to offer is plain talking difference from the other parties.

I also note that no one has said how valiantly they have defended the Cobar Birthing Unit which was lost.

UKIP have done quite well considering the local paper just noted they were standing and there was no explanation of what the candidate stood for or was wanting to improve.

I spoke to a few people, friends and work colleagues, who all didn't vote.

A group of nurses were very non-plussed about it noting that they only voted in General Elections and weren't really bothered with the local situation. Various friends who after work decided a visit to the beer garden or a nice iced G&T on the balcony was preferable to voting as it was such a nice day, and it was.

Did the weather lead to more voter apathy than encouraged people to vote?
Perhaps Mrs Sea Duck's "They're all as bad as each other," attitude is more widespread than I thought? Mrs D did vote or at least spoiled a ballot paper and put it in the box.
Is it the ultimate protest vote? Where people turn round and say, no I'm not voting for any of you.
Would a broader spectrum of political parties and candidates encourage more people to vote?

What about the Greens? Well according to my own figures 5% of the High Peak voted Green. Their one tweet on the 2nd of May from @DerbysGreens was "Please remember to vote today." A touch meek perhaps, lacks a certain energy. They're highest percentage of the vote in Derbyshire and the High Peak was from the Chapel & Hope division with 10.2%. They seem to have a loyal but small following in the High Peak.

Anyway Derbyshire county council has gone red with a Labour majority. Congratulations to all those who won seats. Now remember the people who put you there and work for us and not just for your own political party.