The wonderful thing about heading up into the hills at 5 pm, is that most people seem to think that the hills are inaccessible after that time, and have all come down…
I met quite a few people as I headed out of Edale towards the path that would take me up to Hollins cross, and they all looked at me as though I was totally mad (although, in their defense, I had a huge camera bag with a tripod hanging off the back…). Turning off of the lane I was on, to the path that climbs the side of the ridge in a gentle incline, I found myself in a beautiful woodland of hawthorn and blackthorn. All around was a gentle chorus of birdsong, accompanied by the soft tinkling melody of running water. I have been this way before, but with all of the trees in blossom, have never seen it looking so wonderful. As I walked trying to take it all in, I noticed signs of the local sheep everywhere; wool caught on the spines of the trees, footprints in the soft earth by the water. I was reminded that although to many of us, places like the Peak District are a picturesque landscape to visit of a weekend, to the locals it is land that they have farmed, often for generations (take a look at The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks for a fascinating insight to this). I grew up in a very agricultural region of Devon, in the South West of England and although have not ever been a farmer (though we kept poultry), always feel a strong affinity to farmed landscapes, and this one in particular, on that calm evening, was perfection.
Breaking free of the woodland onto the open hillside I was surprised to see how much I had climbed already; the valley spread before me and the occasional train passing by. Continuing upward, I reached Hollins cross and turned left, making my way slowly towards Back Tor, soaking in as much of the environment as I could. The wind was howling, and I was afraid that any chances of taking a long exposure were going to be destroyed, but having come so far I knew I had to try. High above me a skylark was riding the strong wing, singing its unmistakable song. I paused a while and watched, transfixed as the little bird surfed the intense wind like a boarder rides the rolling surf on a summer beach. Eventually he turned away and was carried into the distance, and I began moving again.
Cresting the hill, I got my first full view of Back Tor, with its signature lone tree stark against the skyline.
Time for the work to begin.