I absolutely love being up on Stanage, which is a mighty gritstone edge that rises high above the village of Hathersage, where I live. It’s a bit of a tough climb to get up in places, but the effort is completely worth it. The surface of the edge is made up of huge, flat, gritstone boulders that create a wild and windswept natural playground. It’s always great to see other people out enjoying the same landscape too, and Stanage is usually pretty busy with hikers, runners, rock-climbers and paragliders.
Oh, and the views! Stanage is an impressive four miles long; at one end the whole sweep of the Hope Valley is laid out before you, and at the other you have views over Win Hill, Lose Hill and Mam Tor, to the vast ridges of Kinder Scout. And in every direction, layer upon layer of hills and fields, each one slightly more misty than the next as they recede into the distance.
Stanage is a haven for wildlife. The rocks are home to shy common lizards and adders, whilst in the skies you may see endangered ring ouzels, ravens, curlews or buzzards. The expanses of heather moorland also shelter hordes of red grouse, and they love nothing better than scaring visitors witless by flying right out in front of them with a clatter of wings, squawking noisily, and then ‘laughing’ at them from a safe distance.
All along Stanage are flocks of hardy, sure-footed Blackface sheep. I captured this shot of a solitary Stanage sheep whilst out running on a summer evening. She stood there for quite a while, watching me, and looked so perfect in her landscape – poised on a gritstone boulder, heather to the foreground, with the sweep of hills and trees and fields beyond. In editing the image I wanted to really bring out the purples and pinks of the heather, so that the colours echoed those on the far hills and in the evening sky. Equally, I wanted to enhance the sharp rocky crags in the distance to mimic the sharp tufts of foreground grass. It is a picture that makes me smile every time I look at it because it contains all the elements of what makes the Peak District so special, and everything that makes Stanage so perfect.