Dovedale has to be the worst kept secret of the Peak District. Every weekend floods of people visit this limestone dale just outside of Ashbourne. It is easy to see why, steep sided limestone hills, cliffs, caves all along with a crystal clear River Dove running through it with a gentle path at the side.
So, this then is perhaps why photographers tend to shy away from the area – a quick search on Google doesn’t return much imagery from the enthusiast/professional photographer. However I have a soft spot for the area and have been determined to get the best out of the area. I remember as a kid visiting the area a few times and actually just the other week found a childhood picture of me stood on the top of Thorpe Cloud.
Knowing the area well from my childhood and having a previous successful sunrise last year from the top of Thorpe Cloud I decided to head there on a late spring evening to try and get some images of the dale in colour.
By sunset (or even sunrise) most of the crowds have gone home and you can have this beautiful area to yourself. A challenge photographically is that most of the year the sun never really reaches high enough to illuminate the valley and at sunrise/sunset isn’t in the right place. However in the months of May/June the timing couldn’t be more perfect, the trees have gained most of their leaves for the season, the dale is full of colour and the sun is high enough and in the right place.
I arrived in plenty of time, parking up near the national trust car park in Thorpe and I walked down the road to the entrance of Dovedale. You can park at the bottom for an easier walk in to Dovedale but if you plan to ascend Thorpe Cloud then parking near the top makes more sense.
At the famous stepping stones, which I have learnt today are actually currently out of use at the moment due to floods sweeping away some of the stones is one of the views I wanted. When I first arrived there was a crowd of people who were having their picture taken on the stepping stones, almost one person on each stone! I patiently waited, watching the light and finally got across thankful the tourists were now leaving and taking their 4x4 with them as to not spoil the shot.
The River Dove was calm, providing reflections of the mighty Thorpe Cloud as the last bit of sun stuck the top of it. Thorpe Cloud for me is one of them hills that is taken for granted, for me from the bottom it is a hill that is crying out to be a mountain and the top of the hill offers a relatively narrow but unchallenging ridge.
I set up next to the shores, trying to balance the tricky composition to achieve the below:
The next thing was to climb Thorpe Cloud, the big advantage of this area is actually you can achieve two very different shots in one day. I can’t think of many places you can do this in golden hour and is probably something a lot of photographers may miss. Climbing Thorpe Cloud is steep and relentless, it’s not a big hill but it certainly feels it on the loose limestone path with dizzying views back down below. Reaching about 2/3rd’s of the way up I came back into the light that had previous vanished and I could once again see the setting sun that had before disappeared.
Once I summated onto the limestone summit with the rocky ridge along Thorpe Cloud I elected a few different compositions, my image that made it out of them I took was one looking over towards Bunster Hill with the River Dove flowing between the gap below as the setting sun tipped the Peak.
This blog was brought to you by James Grant