After days of rain and mist the sun finally came out
It always amazes me just how much difference sunlight makes to my mood. All of a sudden the desire to go out and take some photographs overtook me.
Thumbing through the guidebook to the Peak District I decided to take a shot inside the Headstone Tunnel at Monsal View. The advantage of this location being that if the weather turned bad at least I would be inside, and if it was still sunny maybe I could get a shot of the famous Headstone Viaduct too.
The Midland Railway built the tunnels and the viaduct at a time when the Railways were carving up the country. John Ruskin, the most notable writer at the time, famously quoted on what he saw as a blot on the landscape.
'There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the Vale of Tempe...You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley – you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange – you Fools everywhere'.
Strapping on my new waterproof boots and jumping in the car, I headed out to Bakewell and then on to Monsal Head.
Bakewell was packed with people. Probably all coming out from the protection of their holiday cottages as the rain held off. The throng of bleary-eyed tourists poking in and out of mountain and outdoor clothing shops was a sight to behold. Plus, of course, café after café stocked up with Bakewell Tarts, I mean Bakewell puddings.
I soon arrived at Monsal View. What a view....and a great ice cream van too. It was a shame that it was so cold, despite the sun, otherwise I would have tucked into a double cone with flake.
There were some paths leading down from the viewpoint. Picking left I headed down into the Wye Valley. I was very glad of my boots as I squelched through the mud. The path was quite steep and had a drop to the right. My main plan at this point was not to fall down the valley side. That would be a bit embarrassing and painful. The Daily Mail headline of 'Photographer snaps on trip down the valley' was one to be avoided.
After only about twenty minutes I arrived at the valley floor. It was next to a river. The River Wye funnily enough. The tunnel was at the same level at the top of the viaduct that was upstream on my right.
There was the loud sound of water crashing over rocks, and as I made my way down I could see, hear, and even feel the power of the weir.
I set about looking for a composition. No matter what angle I took it just was not working for me. I headed downstream to get a better view and came across a narrow footbridge. The other side of the river was much clearer and I found a good composition. It would mean standing in the water on one of the slippery rocks, but hey I had my new boots on!
Just as I was getting set up I heard voices. Maybe these were some of those people Ruskin was concerned about all those years ago. I expected to come across some fools wandering aimlessly about.
Disappointingly it was two boys and their pit bull terrier. None of them looked friendly and the boys were a little too interested in my camera bag for me to feel comfortable.
Quickly setting up I I looked back to see that the pit bull was standing on the bank watching me. I was sure I could see it licking its lips. The river was pretty full, and the water was moving very quickly. Standing with each foot on a slippery rock, just under the water, and with my tripod balanced partly on some rubble, I carefully lined up my image.
Trying really hard not to look like a bone and more like a scary human, I settled into capturing my photograph and then waited. I did not have to wait long as the boys called to 'Rage' and the pit bull disappeared.
With the coast all clear I clambered back out onto the bank.
Looking over the bank into the field I could see that the boys had been collecting stones and throwing them at anything that moved. Rage noticed me straightaway.
Deciding that I could head for cover by going back over the footbridge I quickly returned to the muddy path. Something shot past me. I would like to think it was just a bird or a mouse or something. I did not wait to see.
Ok, I had got one good photograph. To get to the tunnel I was going to have to head up the valley and then down again.
Despite having damage in my lungs my general stamina is steadily building up. I need to keep pushing myself.
Initially, I made very good progress. Then my breathing got difficult and I had to stop every few steps. Other walkers were heading down now, and I pretended to be looking at the view, or the new buds appearing on the branches around me. One elderly couple managed to make it down and then passed me again going up.
Once I got back to Monsal View I noted that the ice cream van was closed.
Triumphant, but exhausted, I made my way down again to the right this time.
This path was much more used and was created from a series of steps. Halfway down there was a stone laid as a memorial to Peter somebody. I studied the stone as a very elderly man whooshed past me up the path.
It always surprises me what people do when they see someone with a camera on a tripod. One couple, coming through the tunnel towards me, decided to stop and wait. While standing right in the middle of my photograph! I waved them past. One teenager parked his bike about 10 feet in front of the camera and played with his phone. Thanks.
Eventually, I got the scene that I wanted.
By the time I climbed the path again I was done in. I stopped for some time on the bench half way up. I wondered who Peter was and would anyone leave a stone for me if I never made it back?
Eventually, I reached the top. A group of elderly hikers had been watching me and I half expected a round of applause.
Heading home I knew that I had captured something of the drama and power of the Wye.
I hope you enjoy the image.
All of my landscape photographs are available to purchase as high quality fine art prints. You can find more information about prints and frames you can purchase by visiting my Landscape Print Shop.
Location: Monsal Head Viaduct, Derbyshire.