A photographic tour of the South-Western Peak District
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:40 15 October 2018
© Graham Dunn 2013
Photographer Graham Dunn concludes his four-stage visual journey of the great Peak District National Park
Following on from the photographic tours of the Eastern Peak, the Northern Peak District and the White Peak, we now complete our journey of this wonderful and much visited National Park as we reach our last section – the South-Western Peak. After the last article’s exploration of the White Peak and its strikingly different terrain, we return to the Dark Peak and a landscape characterised by gritstone escarpments, valleys and moorland. Though perhaps not as heavily frequented as some other parts of the Peak District, it offers a rich seam of aesthetically delightful features that will not disappoint. Commencing in the south, near to where we parted company last time, we will wind our way north passing features such as The Roaches; the mystical Lud’s Church; the highest points in Cheshire and the River Goyt, before finishing at the site of an Iron Age hill fort just to the north of Buxton…
Adjacent to the The Roaches lies Ramshaw Rocks. This incredible feature almost hangs over the A53 Buxton to Leek road and can be a genuine distraction whilst driving, especially if you manage to spot the Winking Man rock, which lives up to its name as you pass by. The rocks here seem in perfect alignment and you can almost imagine them being thrust dramatically out of the earth many years ago. Some of the rocks are particularly distinctive, such as ‘finger rock’ which you can see in the image.
Our starting point in the south is Morridge Moor, a readily accessible location with unrivalled views over three stunning gritstone features, namely Hen Cloud, The Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks (as seen from left to right in this image). These escarpments are popular with climbers and walkers (and photographers!) and are well worth a visit.
Zooming in on the previous image, we are now atop The Roaches looking south to a distant Hen Cloud. The Roaches, whose name is most likely to derive from the French word ‘roches’ (rocks), is made up of two rocky tiers and is host to a spectacular array of climbing challenges. If you do visit, it is worth keeping your eyes peeled – in the Second World War a small population of wallabies was released from a nearby zoo and rumour has it that sightings still occur today!
Looking west from these dramatic features lies a much gentler and calmer vista. These patterned plains to the north of Leek are an intriguing patchwork of fields – a stark contrast to the rocky prominences of The Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks.
A short distance north from The Roaches, hidden in the depths of Back Forest, is a remarkable natural cleft in the rock called Lud’s Church. At 100m long, 15m high and 2m wide it is an impressive, yet slightly intimidating phenomenon. Along with the jaw-dropping geology comes a little historical interest and even legend. The Lollards, early church reformers, supposedly held secret meetings here whilst striving to avoid persecution. Perhaps less historically verifiable, Lud’s Church was reputedly one of Robin Hood’s hideouts and it was also suggested to be the location of the Green Knight’s chapel from one of the best-known Arthurian tales, the late 14th-century Middle English chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Moving north again, we reach Shutlingsloe, one of the more distinctive landmarks in the area. Although it is only the second highest point in the county – the title of highest belongs to Shining Tor above the Goyt Valley – it is affectionately known as Cheshire’s Matterhorn and is a popular destination for keen walkers who can enjoy unhindered views across the Cheshire Plains to the west.
Making our way east this time, we now come to Dane Colliery chimney, a remnant of the Peak District’s coal industry. Dating back to the 19th century, it stands high on the moorlands above the River Dane and is a reminder of the seams that were worked here from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
North again, and cowering beneath this monstrous and threatening cloud are Shining Tor, the highest point in Cheshire, and the Cat and Fiddle Inn, the second highest pub in the country. Two lofty landmarks utterly dwarfed by the size and power of nature!
Just to the right of the previous image lies the Goyt Valley and its two man-made reservoirs, Errwood and Fernilee. Here we see the River Goyt in the upper parts of the valley as it winds past colourful woodland. The valley itself lies on the Derbyshire–Cheshire border and was home to water mills, coal mines, a railway and even a gunpowder factory before it was flooded in the mid-20th century to form the reservoirs.
And lastly, hopping east to approximately five miles north of Buxton, we reach Castle Naze, our final location. It is the site of an Iron Age hill fort and is positioned on a gritstone crag that sits high above Chapel-en-le-Frith and overlooks Combs Reservoir to the north (pictured).
Thank you for joining me on this journey through some of the wonders of our Peak District National Park. The diversity of this precious landscape has been an absolute pleasure to explore, while I’ve striven to capture it in the type of weather conditions that show it at its dramatic best. My hope is that the resultant imagery will cause others to pause for a moment and absorb some of the beauty so easily missed when we’re distracted by our busy lives. The landscape is a great gift to us and one that we, myself included, all too often take for granted. Please feel free to be inspired to go out and explore!
Graham is a full-time photographer specialising in fine-art landscapes, interiors and portraits. He also enjoys sharing his passion with others, especially those who wish to take their photography to the next level, and offers workshops on a 1-2-1 or small group basis. For more information and to see more of his work please visit his website at www.grahamdunn.co.uk