Reunion: return to Kinder Scout

I spent a few days this week in the Peak District with my old friend Jeff Loffman, a poet and fellow walking enthusiast from Kent.   Its been 30 years since we walked the Pennine Way together, the famous 268 mile trek from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland.  In hindsight we were foolish to walk it in only 14 days - yes, it was pretty exhausting, but more importantly we never had time to linger and enjoy some of the wonderful places you pass through on that journey.  Still, we have lots of great memories - we did a lot of laughing as well as moaning about blisters and pulled muscles, we survived and were both a lot fitter by the time we reached the famous Border Hotel which marks the very end of the Pennine Way.

One of the best memories for me was the very first morning of the walk, setting out from the Youth Hostel in Edale early on a bright sunny morning and crossing the little bridge across the River Noe to make the long, increasingly rugged climb up Grindsbrook Clough to Kinder Scout. Oddly enough, neither Jeff not I ever re-visited Edale after that day - that is, until last year when I watched some Youtube Vlogs by Dean Read, a true enthusiast for the Peak who has the magical ability to infect you with his passion for the place with his videos - I very much recommend them and also his many other communications, all easy to access at www.deanread.net.   Thanks to Dean I started re-visiting Edale and surrounding areas, eg Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, Castleton, Hope etc, and climbed up to Kinder by several different routes.  I got fantastic photo opportunities as well as some great walking.  My friend Jeff is actually a big fan of the Peak District and he and his wife Marion have taken holidays there for many years, but they spend their time in the White Peak mostly, with Tideswell a favourite spot to stay.  Eventually Jeff got fed up of me posting endless shots of the Dark Peak area, especially Kinder, and decided that he wanted to re-visit in person.  So we hatched a plan to put up at the excellent Castle Hotel in Castleton this month and repeat the route up to Kinder as a celebration of the third years since we walked the Pennine Way.

We originally planned to do the Kinder walk on the monday and then the Great Ridge - Castleton to Lose Hill and across the Ridge to Mam Tor - on the tuesday.  However, I planned to film our Kinder walk and the weather on the monday was atrocious, with heavy rain and a howling gale, with not chance of even a selfie when we reached the trig point on Mam Tor.  We both managed to slip and fall in the deep mud, leading to mutual hilarity, with us both lying on our backs and laughing at ourselves - the trouble was that we had no chance to clean our muddy clothes properly overnight so when the tuesday dawned dry and sunny and I was able to film our reunion on and with Kinder, we both make our appearance hardly looking our best!  There was still a howling gale on the higher ground, and Jeff looks pretty buffeted in the final scenes as he reaches the top of Grindsbrook Clough - of course, this helps with the drama!  The Grindsbrook route hasn't been the official start of the Pennine Way since the 1990's, when it was replaced with the Jacob's Ladder start, but it was OUR beginning all those years ago and what a pleasure it was to go back.  I hope you enjoy the movie, Reunion: Return to Kinder Scout...

I made a movie!

During the winter months I've been busy learning how to film and edit movies.  This is a side shoot of my photography, which I hope will complement my travel and landscape work.  I started out using the excellent video capabilities of my Nikon D810, and found this big heavy camera was fine for tripod shots but for quicker moving handheld filming I really needed something lighter and more manoeuvrable.   So I upgraded my iPhone to the 7+, which allows for 4K video, and acquired a DJI Osmo Gimbal to balance the phone like a steadicam when I was walking round.  After plenty of practice in the local parks and on my Peak District walks I decided to try to put together my first short film.   I've always loved the architecture of Salford Quays, especially when its all lit up, and I hit on the idea of filming that time when the lights start to come on but its not yet dark, known by photographers as 'blue hour'.  Off I went on the tram one afternoon last week - it turned out to be the start of Storm Doris, unfortunately! - and wandered around trying to capture the sights as people started to drift home from work, the clouds gathered and the Quays were gradually illuminated.  I shot a timelapse, compressing the time it took for the lights to come on into 11 seconds, over 30 minutes:  this was tricky, as although I had my phone on a tripod the wind which heralded the approaching storm was really getting up by then and I had to huddle over it to shield the phone.  A wobbly timelapse wasn't what I had in mind!  I had a kind of cool jazzy music track in mind the accompany the images, and shot the film at just a little slower then reality to get a dreamlike feel.  I spotted one guy walking in front of me with a long slow stride, and followed him - I thought his stride would go well with my chosen music - you can see him in the film, carrying a bright yellow bag.  Cheers, whoever you are - you helped me out there! 

The film is called 'Blue Hour'... 

Wild winter

Thought it was about time I went for another photowalk yesterday.  The forecast was for snow and bitterly cold winds, so where better to head for than the wilds of the Peak District? There were few people around on a freezing Friday, so, reluctantly ignoring the glowing windows of the Nag's Head Inn in a wintry Edale (see first iPhone photo here), I set off to climb up to Kinder Scout via Grindsbrook Clough.  This route is a lovely picturesque ramble for two thirds of the way, after which it becomes very steep, rugged and slippery.  The second of my iPhone photos here shows the exact spot where the walk gets more challenging - Grindsbrook itself had partly frozen, and dramatic fanged icicles were barring the way ahead!  Unusually for me, I avoided stumbling into the water...    It probably doesn't sound like much fun, but its just the kind of thing I enjoy.  I met one other person that day - on the way down a big cheerful guy approached and told me he was a lorry driver from 'down south' - he said he'd never been walking in the Peak before, but he often drove through all this wonderful scenery and, having a day off in the week, he thought he'd park up and follow a footpath!  What a lovely man - he couldn't get over the dramatic views and shared his joy at just being out in the hills.  The snow was falling quite heavily by then but he was undaunted as I explained that he was on the path up to Kinder Scout and as long as he was careful he'd have a great time.   You never know, maybe we'll cross paths again, he seemed like a convert to the hills....

 

Remembering Autumn...

I took many photos last autumn, only a few of which I looked at or published.  I had in mind those dark days after Christmas was over - I thought I'd sort through them then and enjoy the wonderful autumn colours again.  Well, it looks like that time has arrived!   I came across these scenes wandering through deep woodland in the English Peak District.  In fact, I wandered off piste, as I often do without intending to, and found myself with no way forward or back!  There were no paths to be seen, it was perfectly still and silent, and I wondered who the last person to have visited this secret place might have been, and when it was.  It did occur to me that I had no idea of the direction I now needed to take to get back to civilisation, but hey, golden sunlight was breaking through the dense canopy, creating the effect of a natural cathedral, I had my camera, and I wasn't about to complain...

                                                            The Secret Wood

                                                            The Secret Wood

                                                               Woodland magic

                                                               Woodland magic

Midwinter in the forest

Hi folks!  I try to go for what I call a photowalk every week - somewhere in the open countryside, taking my photography gear in case I find a good photo opportunity, but even if I don't, I'm out in the fresh air enjoying the outdoors.  In recent months the beautiful hills of the Peak District have been my usual location, but yesterday I took a fancy to the deep woods.  The forecast was for a cold but sunny day, and on the journey I visualised a particular scene - the midwinter sun breaking through tree branches and illuminating the woodland floor.  Don't know why - it was just a haunting dreamlike image in my head.  I knew just the place, the thick woodland around Padley Gorge near Grindleton, and I even had some particular tall trees in mind - I'd passed them a few weeks ago en route to the photogenic long-abandoned millstones in Bole Hill Quarry.  One or two walkers passed by in the distance, but I was well off the trails, and mostly I had the entire place to myself.  I set up my camera on its tripod, arranged my settings and then I just had to wait for the sun to do its bit.  This was no great hardship!  I sat on a log, drinking coffee from my thermos and relaxing in the peace and silence. Not a bad way to spend a sunny winter afternoon...   Afterwards I thought I'd walk over to Bole Hill Quarry, this time to look at the amazing groves of tall silver birch trees which cluster there.  I'd been trying for a long time to come up with a way of capturing their enormous slender height, but it just doesn't come over in a picture.   Then I hit on the idea I'd used for photographing the Eiffel Tower:  lie on my back and point a wide angle lens upwards...  The icy blue sky made a perfect background for the silver trees...