I’m still working my way through the images from Cornwall and Devon, while wondering where I might find myself next year. Silly really that I let my thoughts stray back to early September 2012 and my first trip to Curbar Edge in the Peak District. I had never been to that area before, but there seemed to be so many wonderful locations and I wanted to do them all. On paper it seemed an easy task to climb this peak for sunrise, climb back down again and drive to another peak the same morning. I had planned to do Mam Tor, followed by a stunning ridge walk along Chrome Hill (also known as the Dragon’s Back). From there to the Headstone viaduct (that would be a climb in reverse – going down to explore the tunnel and along the viaduct before climbing back up again). I still had plans for the late afternoon and evening, but it was with only a week to go that I realised this was far too ambitious and the locations were cut by over 50%. In reality, I could barely struggle up one hill per day, so I had to think about logistics and work on preserving my knees.
That was another thing… I had planned to be in some beauty spots for sunrise, but that would have meant finding the location with no delays and knowing where to stand for the best view, all while it was still dark. There had to be a better way. Then it dawned on me that it would be sensible to spend the evening at one location and return the next morning for sunrise. I looked more closely at my chosen destinations. Stanage looked wonderful, but as the largest gritstone edge in Derbyshire, maybe it was too much. Baslow had been selected for the views, plus the highland cattle that graze in the area, but perhaps it wasn’t the most photogenic location. In the end I abandoned those and settled for Curbar. Parking and access seemed easy and from Google Earth it looked like a ten minute walk to the famous Pillar Rock.
So that is where I ended up on a glorious late afternoon. Having made almost the entire ascent by car, I simply had to park and walk up a short incline before entering through a small kissing gate. It couldn’t have been better. Walking was easy on short grass and heather, with many of the rocks finishing at the same level. The edge was never more than 15 yards away from a well maintained path and the views were stunning. Although it was still too early for the special light needed for landscapes, I was happy to wander around and check out suitable spots for sunset, or sunrise the following day. Although I was sorry to miss out on the cattle along the adjacent edge, I knew in my heart that I had made the right decision.
Imagine my surprise when hearing a noise from behind, I turned around to see a small herd of highland cattle in assorted colours. Not only the traditional reddish-brown, but a couple were verging on pale blond and one was nearly black. They were very friendly too and as I talked to them, they took it in turns to pause along the track as if waiting for me to capture their portrait (which of course, I was happy to do).
One in particular wanted an even closer look and as I peered through the viewfinder, he changed from a full portrait, to a classic head shot, to a blurred muzzle only inches from the lens. I stayed calm and carried on shooting and just after this was taken, he transferred his attentions to the contents of my rucksack!
I was pleased as punch with this set, but it got even better the following morning when I turned up well before dawn. I admit that I hadn’t really given the cattle much thought, as I had been planning what I would do with the landscape, especially as there was a temperature inversion (mist) in the valley. The boys were still there though, having spent the night in the heather along the ridge and after I was done with Pillar Rock, I made my way back to say hello. The sun was beginning to break through the mist and as one of the boys made his way to the very edge, I managed to capture this. I was worried in case I spooked him – I daresay they didn’t get many visitors at this hour, but he seemed to remember me from the day before and posed beautifully in just the right spot.
The sun rose a little higher and the fog crept up from below creating a golden haze over Curbar. It wasn’t easy for the camera to focus, but I eventually got lucky.
I had gone to Curbar for the landscapes, but in the end I came away with far more. The views were awesome, but my fondest memories will be of the friendly highland cattle.