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James Grant - An infatuation with the true Peaks of the Peak District

Blog Posted on 20 Dec 2011

The Peak District, despite it's name is mainly moorland or rolling dales from gritstone escarpments of the Dark Peak to the high sided limestone craggy dales of the White Peak. So despite it's name there's not many true "Peaks" to speak of in the Peak District.

Chrome Hill Close

There's many theories as to why it's called the Peak District with the main one being that a British tribe called the "Picts" used to live here. You might be thinking at this point I'm totally underselling the area because we don't have these huge jagged hills but  quite the contrary, I love the diversity we have and having the choice between two main areas to go to and even then each little area has it's own charm.

Chrome Storm

However, one area stands out for me and always has even from before I really got into photography and that's the area in the Upper Dove Valley, namely around Hollingsclough because of two fantastic hills there named "Chrome Hill" and "Parkhouse Hill". Both hills are believed to have once been submerged under an ocean forming part of a reef, evidence visible on the limestone rocks of the hills with fossils being embedded.

Parkhouse Hill

These two hills, despite not being all that big rise sharply in a valley and despite being overshadowed by Axe Edge really gains all the attention. They are to me, the only two true Peaks in the Peak District though Shutlingsloe and Thorpe Cloud do come close and have a character of their own. Chrome Hill is the larger of the two hills by some way and for me, its defining characteristic is that from any angle you look at it it always looks very different, very good in my opinion for a photographic subject. Parkhouse Hill is a lot smaller, but it the more dramatic of the two once you are up there forming quite a narrow ridge and a tricky decent whichever way you try and get down. Both hills though are sharp jagged hills that look like mini Alp's in my opinion and certainly feel like it in the snow.

Parkhouse Hill Snowy Sunset

My personal favourite view of these peaks is on the road from High Needham as you're dropping into Crowdecote.  There is a point where you just turn a bend and out of no where these two hills rise out of no where and scream at you, beckoning for a photo and to be climbed. I will never forget the first time I saw them when I first turned that corner. It was like an ephinany. But the area looks great from the summit of High Wheeldon, the A53 below Axe Edge and the road between Longnor and Flash.

Parkhouse Sunset

Personally though I think this area of the Peak District is quite the untapped honeypot, especially for photographers. Whenever I've been it's never been THAT busy and I've never been up Parkhouse Hill without having the summit to myself. I've never encountered someone else with a tripod there. Try to look around for photos of the area and you'll be hard pressed to find a great deal of imagery compared to the rest of the Peak District including the nearby "The Roaches".  It only helps build the area's charm for me yet I bet if you talk to the more seasoned walker of the Peaks and mention the area it will have a special place in their heart.

A lot of photographers I have spoken to have always played the lack of photos down to the location of the place as both hills are set relatively low down in the valley meaning that the light at it's best rarely reaches the hills and to some extent I agree. However using resources such as The Photographer Ephemeris, doing reccy and doing quite a few revisit's helps you really understand the area and build a connection. You do have to plan some shots for certain times of the year for sure, but it is certainly worth it when you pull it off.

That Tree

For this reason I have spent a lot of time dedicated to the area, going back time and again, sometimes not getting the shot I saw in my minds eye but then I start planning the next visit. It has also given me quite an intimate knowledge of the area and as a consequence I have managed to find quite a few spots that are untapped in the area to give me my own unique view and hopefully I'll spot some more in my future visits.

As you can see in the images for this blog you'll see I've made the effort to revisit the location including a trip on the weekend just gone when I got the chance to see the area in snow for the first time.I hope you enjoyed this post and if you haven't visited the area already put it on your to do list! Also check out both Flash Bar Stores and Longnor Craft Centre while in the area and perhaps have a look through my work in the shops while in there.

This blog was brought to you by James Grant

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