The Peak District is a beautiful area of the English Countryside. The dynamic of green and blue in the summer and rugged wildness in winter are a powerful combination. The Peak District view of sunrise from Mam Tor across The Great Ridge is one I have always wanted to capture.
My sunrise image of the Great Ridge from Mam Tor has been Highly Commended by the Society of Photographers.
Mam Tor, or Mother Hill in Olde English, is one of the most iconic places within the Peak National Park. It towers more than 500m above the little town of Castleton nestling at its feet. This Hope Valley settlement is well worth a visit on its own as it is full of interesting little shops, a castle (hence the name) and is home to the local mining of the semi-precious mineral Blue John. The postcode to get you to Castleton is S33 8WA.
The Tor itself has been a place of interest for thousands of years. At the base can be found the mines for Blue John, lead and even fluorspar. Crowning the summit are the remains of bronze and iron age hillforts. Although I must say people who lived at the top during the winter months must have been very hardy!
The name Mother Hill, is given due to frequent landslips. These have built up a number of smaller ‘child’ hills around the main peak. The landslips have also permanently closed the A625 from Sheffield to Chapel-en-le-frith that ran along the eastern base of the Tor. The local name for the Tor is ‘Shivering Mountain’ due to the loose stones slipping so frequently.
If you have visited then you will know that the view from Mam is spectacular. My desire was to capture something of the expanse of the view with what I guessed would be an amazing natural experience - a sunrise.
Capturing a sunrise means getting up early. It also means calculating where the sun will rise, and guessing what the weather will be like too.
Getting out of bed at 3 am is a shock to the system. The thrill of adventure soon takes over though and as you head out into the dark the sense of anticipation takes over.
There is an uncanny stillness just before dawn. They say that it is darkest and coldest at that point as well. My journey to the Tor was spent nervously looking out of Patty's window for early signs of dawn in the sky. My car is affectionately named Patty by my family because it looks just like the bright red van that belongs to Postman Pat.
Apart from a friendly sheep, I was completely alone. Only the cool wind of early morning buffeting me as it rolled over and around the Tor and my kit. The feeling of the world stretching and sleepily opening one eye before slipping back into a doze could just be felt.
Arriving nearly half an hour before sunrise meant I could just sit and watch events as they unfolded.
Life sometimes takes over and I do not think I just sit and watch the world go by often enough. This is something I really must make more time to do.
I imagined how the defenders of the hillforts would have felt many hundreds of years ago. In winter the weather is biting cold and usually wet up here. I have spent enough time on this hill to know it can be a very harsh environment. However this morning it would be the site of something spectacular.
The first burst of light broke the skyline, and over the next few minutes the most amazing orange glow of radiant sunlight flooded everything. I hope my photograph captures a sense of the drama of the scene for you. The orange and red of sunrise mixed with the blues of night to create purples in the clouds gathering overhead.
No one else was with me (except for that sheep). I would be the only person to see this morning in this way from this spot. Totally unique to me.
And then it was all over.
The day had sprung and all the drama evaporated in a blink of an eye. The distant sound of birds mixed with the increasing wind as I watched the first headlights of cars as they wended their way towards Castleton. Hope Valley was waking up.
My big adventure was over and I headed home, inspired by my amazing natural experience.
My photograph is precious to me because it opens up the memories and emotions of my adventure on Mam Tor. Today I look deep into the picture and can feel the wind on my left cheek, smell the freshness of a new morning, and see that glorious sunlight all around me!
What memories and emotions are stirred in you through this fine art photograph?
This fine art print is available in a range of sizes. Please get in contact if you are interested in finding out more.
Having ascended the Tor a number of times I found the easiest route is from a layby near the summit. There is a nearby National Trust car park too at grid ref: SK123832.
This image was taken during sunrise on an early morning trek along the Great Ridge path. During summer months you will enjoy spectacular views across Hope Valley Winnats Pass. In winter pack lots of warm clothes, a hat, and expect to cope with local roads being closed due to poor weather.
Summary: a great active day out for all the family, including your dog! If you take a visit to Mam Tor then let me know.
Location: Mam Tor, Hope Valley, Peak District.