So, there I was on my last day in the Peak District and I had just given up on a location. My morning had started as usual at 4.00 when I woke to what appeared to be a damp and foggy day. Of course, as I blogged some time ago, this turned out to be a stunning inversion and I got some of my favourite images along Curbar Edge. That session ended around 7.00 though and I still had to pack up and drive to the beautiful Padley Gorge. I had read that some of the paths could be difficult and considering the distance from one end to the other, I doubted that I could do everything. Still, it was always worth a go. I found the place without too much difficulty and parked up not far from the start. It wasn’t clearly marked though and I had to wander further up to make sure there was nothing else signposted. There wasn’t, so I pulled my rucksack firmly on my back and headed into the woods.
The going was fine for all of about 100 yards and then I had to negotiate a stretch under a large tree with tricky roots. Reaching the top of that incline, I found the path wasn’t easy at all. If it wasn’t roots, it was mud. If it wasn’t mud, then it was a difficult camber and if it wasn’t that, then it was loose stones underfoot. With one fixed ankle, I found it very hard going. I wondered why these “free access” beauty spots couldn’t have some simple signs. One logo for the quality of the view and perhaps coloured to show the difficulty. Having several miles of river bank ahead and with no guidance at all left me feeling uneasy.
I attempted one awkward downhill scramble to get a closer look at the river and maybe a chance to photograph some little waterfalls. The views were there, but sadly the weather wasn’t co-operating and the strong sun filtering through to the bottom of the gorge left me with large blown areas and I moved on. For some reason I had this idea that the paths closer to the river were the most tricky, so I headed uphill with the intention of making some headway along one of the wider, top paths. It worked too, for all of 100 yards and then there was another difficult climb of around 15 feet, in between lumpy tree roots. Having reached the top of that particular ascent, the way ahead seemed fairly level. At least, I couldn’t see any more inclines and I pressed on.
About 20 yards ahead I came across what I can only describe as a deep cut in the ground. It was about 15 feet deep, but the sides were almost sheer. The other side was a little over 2 yards away, but there was absolutely no way I was going to attempt to jump. So I stood there for several minutes, wondering if this place was really worth all the aggravation, or whether I ought to give up before I caused myself a serious injury. I decided to quit, but it went against my nature and put me in a decidedly bad mood.
Getting back to the car about an hour later, I fished out the map and wondered what to do with myself for the next few hours. I had planned on being at Higger Tor for sunset. It wasn’t far away and I didn’t feel up to another long drive just to fill in the time. I opened a warm can of drink and discovered a half eaten bag of chips from the night before. I’m afraid that’s how my trips usually work out. Leaving the B&B still in the middle of the night, I never take advantage of their breakfast and usually make do with one or two biscuits. I have lunch when I can find it, but being in the lovely locations means I’m often in the middle of nowhere. I don’t do that well with dinner either, so the chips had been something of a celebration dinner. They had been nice that evening – vinegar with no salt, but the bag was too much for my shrinking stomach and I had left them on the passenger seat. Now they were cold and hard. I munched on a few and decided even I wasn’t that desperate. It was time to start the car and set off to find a decent pub.
I found one not too far away and from what I can recall, the meal was pretty good. They had toilets, which is another rarity when I go away and they even pointed me in the direction of Higger Tor. Of course I got there far too early and the place looked a lot smaller than I had expected. There was a gale blowing too, so I locked the car doors, turned on the radio and napped for a bit. I woke when a mini-bus of local scouts parked up next to me. They all ran up the hill leaving me wishing I had at least half their energy. No matter, this was my very last chance for a few photographs. I didn’t even have to wait until I had reached the summit as I had spotted some very odd cloud formations during the climb. All I needed was some foreground interest and I found it in a small rocky outcrop just ahead. From an artistic point of view, it’s not my best image, but the clouds still fascinate me. It can be seen below and I called it “The Twilight Zone”.
It turned out that the rock I had intended to photograph was only a short distance away and it was still nearly two hours before sunset. I had a long wait. Setting up first on top of a large, flat rock, I found I had to keep moving to avoid my shadow getting in the way. By the time the sun was nearing the horizon, I was way over to the left and crouched down to avoid the strong wind. The photograph featured at the top is the result and was taken just as the sun was disappearing behind a low cloud for the very last time that day. The colours are unearthly, but they haven’t been altered. If you look closely, you will see some yellow streaks running down the side of the central rock. It didn’t look like paint, so I can only assume this was the effect of rainwater on the rock itself.