In this conversation about the landscape, I aim to explore the connection between people and the environment from two different perspectives of solitude and sharing.
So here it is – the landscape. So beautiful that on a clear day, on a day very much like this, with the warmth of spring in the air, shimmering in the distance, you can sit and stare for hours. An arm around your loved one, your feet dangling over what I may say, is quite a stretch of fresh air.
And there’s the smell, of grass grazed by sheep. Not to mention the feel of the sun of your skin. The way it tingles a little where the light strikes the tip of your nose. You forgot the sunscreen – when you set off this morning you had no idea what was in store.
It is so beautiful it makes your sides ache, and now and then, when you can’t take any more of the beauty of it, you turn to your loved one and you smile. Maybe you steal a kiss, that’s up to you, but either way you couldn’t be happier.
It brings jobs to the valley, so people say. And people are probably right. Jobs are needed, everyone needs a job. Right?
But just look at it, how it intrudes on the view. How it looms over the village of Castleton, spewing out cement dust from its lofty chimney. On the hill to one side, there’s a quarry, where they rip out the limestone from the hillsides. This area was once known for mining, but the caverns dotted over the hillside were excavated from the inside, leaving no trace to spoil the view.
Now there are quarries everywhere and there’s no doubt about it, they spoil the view. And don’t even think about walking over - -- you’ll end up on a dirt road, peering into excavation pits, and skirting around spoil heaps. Mid week, you’d better watch out for the lorries that trundle up and down here. And make sure you get out of the way because they won’t stop for you. If you want the peace and quiet of the countryside, you’d better go somewhere else.
We love to get up here at weekends, take a stroll along the flank of the Great Ridge. It’s less than half an hour from Sheffield, we take the train, pull on our boots and head off up the wide path. I love that they put in these paths. I wouldn’t come otherwise, there’s too much mud, and in some places you can sink right in. The locals might be used to it, but if you live in a city you’re used to pavements under your feet. You feel safe, and that means you can get out here and explore a little. One of these days I’ll make it all the way up onto Kinder Scout.
I love it out here – there’s no noise, no sirens wailing, no cars, just the chatter of birds and the swish of the breeze through the trees. There aren’t any trees on our street, we never get to heard birdsong, so out here it’s another world to us. And the people we meet as so friendly, everyone says hello when they meet you on the path – you wouldn’t get that at home.
There are too many people up here. On a day like this you can’t get anywhere near the trig point. And if you try walking the path, you'll risk getting mowed down by a mountain biker, or pushed aside by a hiking group.
I used to love coming here back when I was a kid, but now, just look at it. They built a path with steps all the way up the hill and you know where that leads - now everyone thinks it’s ok to park their car and stop off to admire the view. If you can get anywhere near the view – even if you do, the very moment you begin to fix your eyes on the horizon, a crowd of hikers from Sheffield or Stockport will emerge up those steps they should never have put in and spoil everything.
Why can’t it be quiet like it used to be? No car parks, no stone staircases. The next thing you know there’ll be a man selling ice creams and hot dogs. Forget I said that. No need to give them ideas.
There is so much to photograph up here, the main problem is not getting a good shot, it’s how to get it all in. How to do justice to the immense undulations of the landscape. How to capture the essence of limestone and peat. There’s the wide expanse of Kinder – this time of year it’s livid with new grass in the fields beneath the plateau. In summer the top is smothered with purple and when you walk the footpath around the edge you can stop for hours and snack on bilberries.
The Great Ridge that runs from Lords Seat to Win Hill is quite another thing. A paved paths runs along it most of the way, and there are cyclists whizzing by, runners pounding the pavement and hiking clubs chatting breathlessly as they climb the hill. if you're lucky, you might get a shot of the highland cattle that climb the hill to graze at the top.
And there is nothing like a winter sunrise from this spot.
These days everyone has a camera, so everyone takes photos. Only it’s not so much taking photos as collecting photos. You snap a few times, then gather all your friends together and play them back. Will you even look at them when you get home?
Maybe later that night in the pub. You might load them up to facebook for everyone to see. But everyone is taking photos, so is anyone actually looking.
Sometimes it’s better to leave your phone in your pocket and take a minute to admire the view. If you let the image develop in your memory, you’ll have no issues about how it came out. You’ll remember the intense blue of the sky, the green of the fields. And what’s more, you’ll remember the smell of that spring day. The sound of the child laughing as she ran along the path. And if you take your shoes off just for a moment, you’ll be surprised by how much new shoots of grass can tickle your feet.