A walk on Bleaklow
Saturday 3rd February dawned sunny and bright and I succumbed to temptation and bought a new camera, a Canon EOS 350D digital SLR, with plans to take it out that day. However when I got it back from the shop I discovered/remembered that the battery would need charging overnight, so that put paid to that idea. Fortunately Sunday dawned similarly clear, cold and bright, so like a kid on Christmas morning I set off not long after first light and was on the hill by 8.30am. I started from near the Woodhead tunnel entrance (SK1199 : Woodhead Tunnel) at Black Clough, very familiar territory for me as for a couple of years I carried out regular bird surveys here for the Sheffield Bird Study Group.
My first few shots were nothing special as the low morning sun hadn't penetrated the valley yet, but I took a picture of the cascades in Black Clough:
then walked up Far Black Clough snapping away at anything and everything:
and had some fun taking arty shots of a photogenic moorland stream and reflections of con trails:
and gaining a first geograph point to boot. A detour across trackless heather and tussock brought me to the isolated but rather unimpressive White Stones and I took a few snaps to bag the second of the several first geographs I'd planned for the day:
then I headed back across Far Black Clough bound for the Barrow Stones, seeing several white-coated Mountain Hares on the way:
(one thing the Canon lacks that my previous camera, a Minolta Dimage Z1, had is a powerful inbuilt zoom). I noticed this line of low blue hills on the northeastern horizon:
The only high area I could think of in that direction was the North York Moors, but they looked awfully close - perhaps 30 or 40 miles tops. I put it to the back of my mind, thinking either I was mistaken or the North York Moors were closer than I'd previously thought. To the east I could see three power stations in a line (SE4724 : Ferrybridge 'C' Power Station, SE5724 : Eggborough Power Station and SE6626 : Drax power station, in ascending order of distance, I was informed by a passer-by who I walked with for a while).
Having passed Swains Greave (the source of the Derbyshire Derwent) en route:
on reaching the Barrow Stones I took lots of pictures:
The Derwent valley held a layer of mist, which suggested a temperature inversion:
My new-found friend and I walked together as far as the Grinah Stones:
then I left him to yomp off the path again through leggy heather to bag two more First Geographs between the Grinah Stones and Westend Head:
That done, I headed back to the Bleaklow ridge via Alport Head:
I was intrigued by the signs of peat restoration by the Moors for the Future Foundation (in fact a helicopter was sowing seed as I walked):
As is customary on Bleaklow, I took a detour to the Wain Stones:
where I noticed how the temperature inversion had filled the Cheshire Plain with a layer of smoggy haze:
You can just about make out a line of mountains beyond the haze...I've seen mountains to the west from the hills around Buxton before and always assumed they were the Berwyns or similar, but these (through the binoculars) just looked too precipitous. Anyway, to cut a long story short, when I got home I magnified the picture:
and, comparing it with the computer-generated Bleaklow panorama at viewfinderpanoramas.org, I was able to establish for certain that the mountains are those of Snowdonia, and the twin-peaked mountain to the left is in fact Snowdon itself, a massive 96 miles from where I took the photograph! I had no idea it was even physically possible to see that far with the naked eye. I posted this picture on Geograph with a link to the viewfinderpanoramas.org site, and not long after received an email back, asking permission to use the picture there. This was the result. The picture seems to have generated quite a lot of interest - I've had emails from visitors to both viewfinderpanoramas.org and geograph.org.uk, and a friend tells me the picture was used to settle an argument on a fell-runners' forum (which I've yet to find) about what is and isn't visible from the Peak District. The temperature inversion was a big one: some other people admiring the view told me their in-car thermometer had gone from 0°C in Sheffield to 9°C by the time they reached Woodhead.
Further investigation revealed that I had been looking at the North York Moors earlier, but what I estimated at 30-40 miles was actually over 60 miles away; similarly I could easily make out the Three Peaks in Yorkshire (Whernside is 58 miles from Bleaklow):
I couldn't, however, find Ill Bell (NY4307) or NY4411 : High Street in the Lakes (which are theoretically visible to the right of SD8041 : Pendle Hill) in any of my photos, nor the furthest point apparently visible, Pen Pumlumon Arwystli near Llanidloes in mid-Wales, 104 miles distant:
After all that, the route back to the car down Near Black Clough was a bit of an anticlimax (though I did bag another first geograph to make it five for the day) but this has to go down as one of my most memorable days on the hills and a great try-out for the new camera.