Finally I made it to The Roaches in the Peak District.
The Dramatic Roaches, along with Ramshaw Rocks, loom over the rolling hills of the Staffordshire side of the Peak District. Not far from the little town of Leek this is a fantastic area of the Peak District and well worth a visit.
In August the heather is in full purple bloom and set against the dark gritstone of the Peak makes a compelling place to grab some great images. The Roaches is a large rocky ridge with distinctively shaped outcrops. At the top of the ridge is a pool of water which is where Jenny Greenteeth lives. Jenny is The Blue Nymph, and drags the elderly and children into the water. I am not sure what happens to them then, being middle aged I would be safe enough. Also, the chance of seeing one of the Peak District wallabies. The Peak wallabies are Macropus rufogriseus, which is translated red neck wallabies. A little colony lives in and around the Roaches.
My visit was spread across two days. The first day was very hot and humid, couple with low visibility and a heavy mist. Having made my way to Bearstone Rock, just above Roach Road, I zipped up the footpath to the Roaches.
I had chosen this route, not because of the ice-cream van, but as the footpath had a shallower incline and I thought it would be easier on the old lungs and heart. As it happens it is the longest possible route. I took a few images, but with a mist hanging in the air they proved to be nothing special.
It took me all afternoon to get to Doxey Pool (at about 1650ft) to catch a glimpse of Jenny. Sadly, either Jenny was a bit shy (there were lots of people about) or perhaps she was social distancing - whatever way there was no sign of her. Looking into the water (which is not that deep) I could not make out the signs of any life at all…perhaps this pool deserves more investigation at a later date.
Although it was misty the sun was still very hot and draining. I was so hot and tired that my inspiration was at an all time low. The thought of carrying on was just too much and I headed back. On the way back down to the car I decided to sit in the heather and rest. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that sitting in heather in the sun is not the most relaxing place to be. However, it did Gove me the opportunity to see close up the various kinds of bees and other flying insects that live and work around heather in the summer sun.
My second visit was much more photographically successful. I planned to park as close to the Roaches as I could and chose a spot near to Don Whillans hut. This meant that it would be a sharp but short climb. Don was a climbing legend of the 1960’s and 70’s. Along with Joe Brown and Chris Bonnington he scaled mountains across the world, often making new routes and first ascents.
As an homage to Don I decided to climb the path up to my photo spot in the quickest time I could. Gasping for breath I made it to the top without having to stop for a rest at all. Being rather pleased with myself I sat down by the path and lay down for a short rest in front of the ‘Queen’s Chair’.
With other photographers gathering around I noticed that I had laid down in the prime spot for a shot of the rocks with the steps in full view. Quickly jumping up I set up my tripod and started acting like I knew what I was doing.
As the afternoon wore on my colleagues started to get a little restless. Murmurings about ‘having our turn’ and kicking nearby rocks seemed to be the order of the day. One chap resigned himself to the wait and he set up his kit just a few feet away.
Most photographers are looking for a great sunset shot. The warm golden light as the sun dips below the horizon is beautiful and can really lift a scene.
On this occasion I was not looking for a sunset. Firstly, the sun would be behind me and to the right. Secondly, the weather was set for more murky cloud so it would be unlikely to be lovely colours and a dramatic display.
I was looking for strong directional light with a warm glow - the sort of light with sun and clouds in the early evening. The weather was perfect and my set up was great - I had arrived once and early so it was just a waiting game.
I sat back and started my ham sandwich.
A bird landed on the rock in front of me. He sat for a while while I snapped away. He seemed to be looking out over Leek and Tittesworth Reservoir.
Then the clouds made the most dramatic sweep across the sky…you could almost feel the tension in the air and the landscape patched light and dark as the cloud crossed the sun.
The image you see includes the bird and that dramatic cloud scape, I hope you enjoy it!
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Location: The Roaches, Leek ST13 8TA.Keywords: England (26), Peak District (17), Staffordshire.