on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Bole Hill & Padley Gorge, Peak District

In depth location guide

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Padley Gorge is well know in photography circles, mostly for Burbage Brook, the small stream that flows through the length of this wooded, miniature valley. The brook can be intensely peaty, giving the water a deep browny-red colour which contrasts wonderfully with the mossy environment and in autumn gives it a remarkable beauty.

However, there is a side to Padley Gorge that many people don't know of; further away from the gorge itself towards the Surprise View car park. This side of this location blends from open moorland and gritstone tors, through some of the 'cleanest' birches and gradually morphing into the oak woodland you probably know from the areas next to the river.

Accessing Padley Gorge is fairly easy, you can approach from car parks on three different sides, the usual two places are outside Grindleford station, where there are many places on the approach road and some places next to the cafe (although some of these are for cafe users only) and on the B6521 between the Hathersage Road and Grindleford itself, where there is a layby which will take six or seven cars.

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We'll be approaching our part of Padley from Surprise view car park on the A6187 and heading straight toward Bolehill. There is a path from the car park over the moorland on the way to the Gorge (the gate is pretty small, if you have a big backpack you'll be breathing in.. ).

Don't just skip straight across the moorland though, the textures of the heather and grasses here are exquisite. Dav Thomas and I were scouting the area and it took us just about an hour to cross the 400 yards from the car park to the start of the trees!

Once you get to the trees though, the variety is wonderul. The birches here are large and beautiful, and combined with the brackens, it creates lots of scope for intimate details - see Eliot Porter and Neil Bryce in this issue for examples of this genre of photography.

On the Western side of this moorland, there is a drop off to Bolehill quarry (which deserves a guide to itself!) and there are even more of the luscious birches.

Things start to get wonderful as we cross the wall at the South Western corner of the moorland though, this area is approached via a zig-zag of old roadways that were used in the quarry industry. Along this road are wonderful old trees, from oaks, birch and beechs and also the occasional scots pine. The trees in the gorge itself and surprisingly small for being hundreds of years old, the growth being limited by the thin topsoil over the scree (blocks of stone). I also suspect that viruses have had their way with many of the trees, with some trees heartwood and sapwood becoming separated and others being twisted around into spirals.

All of the dark peaks were once like this, the combination of birch and oak covering the edges throughout, only being stripped by the charcoal industry (supporting Sheffield's industrial growth) and with deer making sure the regrowth is limited.

I've included a few 360 panoramas from our route down from the Surprise view car park and also a range of pictures from  both Dav Thomas and myself. Dav is a local to the area and his website is well worth a visit to get a taste of a different side of the Peaks.

The following gallery is wholly composed of pictures that Dav took on the day of our outing and the couple of days after. Dav has kindly included a map that shows where the photographs were taken (please take these as a guide as he didn't use a GPS). I was going to include some of my snaps in a gallery but I'm a little ashamed by Dav's output, very impressive work considering nearly all of them were captured on large format - if you want to see some geocoded snaps, visit the link here. You can check out more of Dav Thomas' wonderful large format imagery at Peak Landscapes. Read Dav Thomas and Joe Wright article on this location.


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