A Wander Along Bamford Edge

Bamford Edge offers some of the best views in the Peaks.

Bamford Edge offers some of the best views in the Peaks.

Bamford Edge is an oddly overlooked place, considering its prominence between Stanage Edge and Derwent Valley. In the numerous times that I have been there, I have probably encountered less than half a dozen people in total. Very different to the southern section of Stanage Edge, which is often teeming with walkers.

My preferred method of getting onto the edge is to park by the stile over the fence and do the short, sharp assent through the quarry and up onto the top of the moor, getting all of the hard work over and done early on!

The top of the moor and the slow moorland descent to the foot of Stanage Edge, is peppered with cairns, enclosures, a small stone circle and a toppled standing stone, known as the Old Woman Stone (toppled during World War Two, along with many other markers and signposts). Most of these are now hidden in the heather and very hard to find.

This route affords some great views to the south and is the best spot on the moor for sunrise. For most of the year, the sun rises over Stanage Edge, so by the time it has risen enough to clear Stanage as well as the brow of the moor, to cast light on the rocks of Bamford Edge, it has lost much of its softness and is starting to get quite harsh.

The view south from Bamford Moor

The view south from Bamford Moor

Sunrise over Stanage Edge

Sunrise over Stanage Edge

Early light onBamford Moor

Early light on Bamford Moor

The path to the edge

The path to the edge

After a short walk along the top of the moor, you reach the scattered remains of a grouse butt, from here you can take the path to your left and walk down to the edge. If Bamford Moor is the domain of the ancient dead, then Bamford Edge is the domain of the mason, with evidence of quarrying and millstone production scattered across the edge.

Bamford Edge offers some of the finest views in the Peaks, particularly from Great Tor. To the north is Ladybower Reservoir, spanned by Ashopton Bridge, to the south, Derwent Valley stretches away towards Hathersage and to the west, the arm of Hope Valley sweeps towards Winnats Pass. Directly in front of you is the mass of Win Hill, behind it lurking the Great Ridge and Kinder Scout.

At the southern end of Bamford Edge lies what almost looks like a stone mason’s shelter, surrounded by quarry spoil and unfinished millstones. From here you can take the winding, slowly descending path back to the road.

Bamford Edge and WIn Hill

Bamford Edge and Win Hill

Early morning mist in Derwent Valley

Early morning mist in Derwent Valley

Storm over Bleaklow, from Great Tor.

Storm over Bleaklow, from Great Tor.

Remains of millstone production

Remains of millstone production

An old grouse butt, overlooking Win Hill

An old grouse butt, overlooking Win Hill

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Curbar Edge Pinnacle Stone: The Sentinel

The Watcher

A single finger of rock, perched on the edge,
that only the brave dare to conquer.
I edge closer, shuffling, seated on crumbling rock,
clinging to last year’s heather.

Lone and mute, birds give you your voice,
the early risers in the crow’s nest.
Swathed in eiderdown mist, the valley below,
villages still slumber beneath you.

The slow creep of cold dawn, shows the ice on your face,
but time to you has no meaning.
Surely, as season follows season, year after year,
you will always be watching.

Music For Landscapes Pt1

The question about what music would be suitable for landscapes arose when I was considering putting a video of my photography together. I noticed that some photographers like to use some manner of generic mush to accompany their videos (the kind of thing that you can download from iTunes), but to me, this seems to be void of personality and against the point of undertaking such an exercise in the first place.

Although it is rare for me to listen to music while I’m out in the landscape (preferring just the sound of the wind rustling the heather and grasses), I usually like to play something in the car on my way to a location that sets the atmosphere. So what follows is highly personalised and certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

The Enid – In the Region of the Summer Stars

The Enid are an odd band and that is probably exactly why I like them. Pigeon-holed as ‘Classical Rock’ or ‘Prog’, tags that really don’t do them justice, their music can be ethereal, stirring and bizarre all at the same time.

They have been around in one form or another since 1973, often going through major line up changes and re-constitutions, but always centred by the great Robert John Godfrey. The history of the band has been well documented and is as fascinating as their music.

In the Region of the Summer Stars was their debut album, released in 1976, based mostly on cards from the Tarot deck. It was partially re-recorded and re-released independently by the band in 1984, when EMI deleted it from their catalogue and lost the master tapes for side two.

The track listing for both versions is as follows:

1976 Original

1976 Original

1. The Fool..The Falling Tower
2. Death, The Reaper
3. The Lovers
4. The Devil

5. The Sun
6. The Last Judgement
7. In The Region Of The Summer Stars

1984 Re-issue

1984 Reissue

  1. Fool
  2. The Tower of Babel
  3. The Reaper
  4. The Loved Ones
  5. The Demon King
  6. Pre-Dawn/Sunrise
  7. The Last Day/ The Flood
  8. Under the Summer Stars/ Adieu.

My personal preference is for the 1984 reissue. Technology had moved on somewhat in the intervening years and some of the keyboard sounds that may have sounded current in the mid-70s, haven’t dated well since.

This is an album that I have loved for many years. It has a sense of delicacy and finesse that informs even the heaviest, most stirring passages. Embodying a sense of grandeur on an epic scale, it could almost have been written for a night on a Pennine moor.

‘The Fool’ glistens and shimmers, while a bell tolls in the distance, serving as a prelude to the manic energy of ‘The Falling Tower’. ‘Death, The Reaper’ is a mournful piece that builds towards its crescendo.  The gentle piano of ‘The Lovers’ serves as a direct contrast to the mocking intensity of ‘The Devil’.

Side two can almost be taken as a single piece in a number of movements. ‘The Sun’ is a wonderfully celestial passage with an orchestral bombast that builds in grandeur. ‘The Last Judgement’ and ‘In the Region of the Summer Stars’ is a true masterpiece, with a scope and depth that defies description. I would urge you to listen for yourself. I hope that one day, In the Region of the Summer Stars comes to be lauded as the overlooked classic that it is.

Listen to the full album (1984 reissue) here.

The many layers of landscape photography

What is it about landscape photography that makes me keep going back for more?

I spent much of one Sunday morning asking myself this question, as a ferocious wind did its damnedest to blast me off of Marsden Moor.

A wind blasted morning at Millstone Edge

A wind blasted morning at Millstone Edge

Crouched behind a large rock, which provided at least a little shelter from the grasping fingers of the Pennine wind, waiting for a break in the clouds, I began to ponder just what it was that had coaxed me out of bed at 4.00am and up on to the moor on a day like this. I spotted a jogger approaching, the only other living soul that I saw all morning. We waved at each other in grim solidarity, in recognition of each other’s battle with the elements.

It was this that made me realise that it was a question of motivation. I could have been happily snoozing in a warm bed, but it was the promise of possibilities that had lured me up to the moor. The prospect of capturing something unique and beautiful, that told a little of the story of this amazing and often overlooked corner of the British Isles.

In my mind, landscape photography is about much more than taking photographs. It isn’t about the amount of kit that you carry with you. All of the stuff that you read in photography magazines is about making you buy more products from their advertisers, not about making you a better photographer.

To me, landscape photography is about getting to know your locations inside out. Appreciating how  geology has formed the shape of the land, how human interaction has affected its appearance and the values that have been placed upon it. Going back time after time, experiencing locations in all seasons and weather conditions. After a while, you learn to read the landscape before you. Knowing where the sun will rise and set at any given time of year and which angles you can effectively photograph. How history has interacted with the landscape, building up layers of meaning and telling the story of the location.

Muddy moorland tracks

Muddy moorland tracks

Hidden beauty! It is surprising what beauty can be found in a bit of boggy moorland

Hidden beauty! It is surprising what beauty can be found in a bit of boggy moorland

I have already written about the history of Marsden Moor here and here. Also about the area’s greatest son, Ammon Wrigley here. As you walk (or on this occasion, stagger) across the moor, you are surrounded by history. Every hilltop around you has something on it. Fragments of flint left by Mesolithic hunters, or burials left by Bronze Age farmers. Down in the valley of Castleshaw, the Romans built two forts, driving their road northwards over the moor and around Pule Hill. Angles, Saxons and Vikings made their farmsteads in the area (one Viking losing a gold ring in Chew Valley, over the hill in Saddleworth). The Normans used much of the area around Huddersfield for hunting, building their castle at Castle Hill nearby.

The industrial revolution swept through the area, bringing textile manufacture and sowing the seeds of the early Labour Movement throughout the valleys, in the shape of Luddites, Plug Rioters and Chartists. History even passes under your feet here, in the shape of the Standedge Tunnels. Redbrook engine house was used to haul rock out of the tunnel and you can still even see the rows in which the rock was tipped from carts on the spoil heaps surrounding the building. As the narrowest point of the Pennines, Standedge has for millennia, been the place where transport routes cross the hills.

The drystone wall outlines of fields wrestled from the moor, now lie jumbled, as the moor once again takes back its own. The Pennine Way crosses the moor. A symbol of hard won victories by our forefathers (in this case particularly Tom Stephenson) in wrestling access to the land from the ownership of the privileged few, for the enjoyment of the many. A battle fought famously on Kinder Scout, just a couple of hilltops away from here.

A small section of the Pennine Way, as it crosses Marsden Moor
A small section of the Pennine Way, as it crosses Marsden Moor

 

Light breaking around the Pennine Way on Marsden Moor
Light breaking around the Pennine Way on Marsden Moor

I feel a deep connection with the Southern Pennines, particularly the areas around Huddersfield where I was born and where my father took me walking when I was as a child. The sense of wonder at the contrasts between the industrialised valleys, with dark mills and grim looking factories, clustering around the rivers and canals, and the wild hilltops has never left me. Once I left school and began work in those foreboding places, where daylight hardly penetrated through over a century of accumulated grime, those wild and airy hilltops became even more important as a means of escape. A liminal place to dream of better things. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the Chartists took their meetings on to the hills. Not just to evade the watchful eye of authority, but to take their ideas to a place where freedom is tangible and ideas are received by the expansive sky, rather than the stamping boot of oppression.

Most of those factories are now gone. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Milnsbridge, which once bristled with mill chimneys. I am just about old enough to remember the last few that rose out of Colne Valley. I would stand on the hillside above Manchester Road, where I played as a child and marvel at their height, the sense of space and depth that they created. But they have now passed into history and many of the mills have been scoured of that accumulated grime and turned into flats.

Even though those old places of toil are now largely gone, the open spaces of the Pennines are still as important now as they ever were. Work in places of production may have been replaced with work in places of service. Job security has been replaced with fear of redundancy, our wages stagnated and our rights eroded by temporary or zero hour contracts. Where austerity has replaced hope of a better future for ordinary people, we once again need those open spaces to dream of better things. Places that allow the human spirit to soar and our ideas to take form, away from the suffocating grasp of an increasingly judgemental media and the authoritarian tone that is pervading society.

Fast moving clouds on a windy Millstone Edge

Fast moving clouds on a windy Millstone Edge

It is these layers of history, threads of intertwining meaning stretching back in to early human development and beyond, that fuel my passion for these hills. Over the course of thousands of years, people have come and gone, each using the landscape in different ways, each placing different meanings on the land.

Those layers remain, waiting for us to discover them. And that is the thing that motivates me out of bed and onto the hills, to take up the promise of discovery. Another chance to untangle those layers, using my viewfinder as a frame to tell those stories and the various screens that we place in front of ourselves to advertise the importance of these places. To remind people in the present, that those who went before us placed values on the landscape that transcend our modern interpretations.

Our landscapes and access to them must be protected, for they belong to us all. Including everyone who has been here before us, those of us who are here now and those who will follow us. The weight of custodianship is upon us and in order to protect them, we need to understand and appreciate our landscapes first.

As I crouched behind that stone on Marsden Moor, I could almost see Ammon Wrigley striding up onto the moor as he would have done 100 years ago. The Pennine wind pulling at his coat and scarf, past the Dinner Stone, where his ashes were scattered. It is his words that I think may be most pertinent to end this piece.

The strange wild people of the past
Have vanished race on race,
And we, like shadows on the grass,
Now pass before its face.

Ammon Wrigley, On a Yorkshire Moor

Sunrise at Northern Rotcher

Sunrise on Northern Rotcher