This week will be hearing where photographer James Grant’s ‘ultimate viewpoint’ is in the Peak District…
Photographically, for me, Chrome and Parkhouse Hill are my two favourite Peaks in the Peak District, with their shapely profile rising out of the Dove Valley. They are just so different from anything else the Peak District has to offer. There’s a route I have done quite a few times around these two hills which allow you to capture both hills, world war bunkers and limestone pavements. I am sharing with you this location as it appears in my book, Peak District Through The Lens.
The Peak District is a strange name for a National Park consisting of moors, tors and flat tops. Nestled in the Upper Dove Valley, though, are the two true peaks of Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill. Both hills are reef knolls, once submerged under water in the Carboniferous period. On the way up, some fossils can still be found embedded in the limestone. Chrome Hill is often referred to as ‘The Dragon’s Back’ due to its striking resemblance.
Photo by James Grant
How to get here:
From Buxton railway station head west and take the A53 towards Leek/Flash for 4.5 miles. You will come to a bend in the road with Flash Bar Stores on your left and the Knight’s Table pub dead ahead, take the road left between these. Drive down this narrow and windy road for 3.7 miles and at the bottom you will see a sign for Hollinsclough left, this is a sharp turn in. Carry on up this road for 1.3 miles and you will reach the small village. Park in the laybys across from the chapel or back further down the road. Viewpoint 3 can be quickly accessed by parking near High Edge Racecourse. Both hills can also be accessed from Hollinsclough but also quickly from Glutton Bridge, however parking is very limited.
Access Rating: 4
Map: Explorer OL24 – White Peak
Parking Grid Reference: SK065665
Parking GPS Coordinates: Latitude : 53.195756 Longitude : -1.903966
Parking Postal Code: SK17 0RH
Car Park: Hollinsclough Village
Best Season:All year
Best Time of Day: All Day
Distance: Up To 5 ½ Miles
Time to Location: 2 Hours 40 Minutes
What To Shoot & Viewpoints
Viewpoint 1: In May there are bluebells growing on the steep sides of Hollinsclough Rake. From the parking place, follow the road up the hill heading north. After about 50m there is a gate on your right leading you through a muddy field. Follow the muddy path down to the footbridge over the River Dove and then carry on bearing a left at the top of the steps, taking the right-hand fork. You will reach a small clearing where the bluebells are. Depending on whether or not you choose to do this as part of the walk may determine what kind of shot you get. If in the earlier, brighter light, a portrait or macro lens with a wide aperture will be better. Get a detail shot of the flowers with a smooth bokeh. Manual focus will work best to absolutely nail where you want the point of focus to be.
Viewpoint 2: From the bluebells you have the option to go up Hollins Hill if you like. There are some good views up here towards Chrome Hill, with scenic
drystone walls leading down the hillside but there aren’t a lot of photos to be had. Instead the walk will lead you to High Edge via some limestone outcrops with a few lone hawthorn trees. From the clearing, take the footpath leading up the hillside and turn left on the track for 0.7 miles to Booth Farm. At the farm you will come to a small road, follow the steep road up, at the hairpin turn you can see some limestone outcrops to your left. Walk over to these as there are gnarly hawthorn trees growing out of the limestone fissures. May and June are a good time for these trees because they have leaves on them. You won’t be able to shoot anything in the golden hour because there will be no side lighting. Instead, try and opt for a stormy day where the big clouds will help diffuse some of the strong light.
Viewpoint 3: Head back to the road from viewpoint 2 to visit one of the Peak District’s few limestone pavements. Carry on up the steep road, head over the cattle grid and continue until you get to the junction. Directly ahead of you is a fenced off section with a stile into the field. You can see two World War II bunkers from here, one to your left and one to your right. You can still go inside the bunker on the right, but it is situated on private land. Instead head to the one on the left which is now filled in. This is where the limestone pavement is. It might not be up to the standards of the Yorkshire Dales but it’s impressive nonetheless. If on the walk, a stormy day is best to diffuse some of the light. Sunset in winter is great if you are looking for a golden hour shot.
Viewpoint 4: From High Edge, head back down to the road and turn left, which heads in the direction of Chrome Hill. Walk down the road for 500m and there is a sign turning right to Stoop Farm. From here walk along the track to near the farm. Turn left, you will take the concession path through the three gates. Here there are good views towards Chrome Hill. Please note Tor Rock, the rocky outcrop here, is private land so please respect this. From here head down the hill following the fence line to the stile.
Viewpoint 5: Now it’s time to walk ‘The Dragon’s Back’. Chrome Hill is the higher of the two hills with great views all around. The challenge is to walk up the main ridge of the hill, not deviating from the limestone. However, when wet or if you are less able, it is easy to circumnavigate the ridgeline. From the last stile this will take you along a narrow and muddy track towards Chrome Hill. After the gate you will be at the start of Chrome Hill. There is a narrow mud path on your left which takes you up to the base. Walk from here up the limestone steps to reach the summit. Be sure to keep checking behind you to see the views down the ridge. There are great views from the summit and photographic opportunities to be had. Just down from the summit there is also a limestone pinnacle that looks down the steep sides of Chrome Hill and catches the morning light in winter.
Viewpoint 6: From the summit of Chrome Hill, drop down the ridge, taking care as it’s often slippery. About ⅔ of the way down you will come across a large oak tree next to a wall and stile. This is a picture perfect spot as it frames well with Parkhouse Hill behind. This is best in the summer/autumn months when there is foliage on the tree but all year round can work e.g. in the winter with a dusting of snow. There are also opportunities along the humped ridge line beyond the tree.
Viewpoint 7: From the stile with the tree, walk the rest of the ridge down to the single track road at the bottom. You will be at the foot of both Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill. On the far side of the road, there is a narrow stream and after a high amount of rain gets interesting enough to act as a great foreground interest with Parkhouse Hill behind
Viewpoint 8: Parkhouse Hill is perhaps the closest to a knife-edge ridge you will get in the Peak District. At times it is not for the faint-hearted. The ascent is tricky and sometimes slippery. Please only go up if you are confident. The return route to the car is the same whether you decide to go up Parkhouse or not. From the road head to the
base of Parkhouse Hill, where there is a limestone pinnacle jutting out. Go to the right of this and you will find the path up. Take this narrow path and follow it to just below the summit. The best viewpoint is here, on a grass perch looking down the ridge, with a sheer drop to the right towards Chrome Hill. It’s best here in November as the light will be to your left at sunset. Other times of year the sun will be in your shot; if you like shooting into the sun May is perfect as it tips the top of Chrome Hill.
Return to Car: Parkhouse Hill can be a tricky descent. You can either come off the southern slopes and drop to the road below or carry along the ridge to the east and come off the path which goes around the north side back to the road between Chrome and Parkhouse Hill. Either way, you need to ensure you are on the road between the two hills. From here, head south following the flow of the stream next to the road and turn right onto the track through the gates of Stannery Farm. From here follow the track along, over the footbridge, crossing the ford and carry on. You will come to a public footpath sign pointing left for Hollinsclough. Follow this track all the way to the road and head straight on up to the village and return to your car.
When exploring the Peak District always take the best of care, being careful with your footing and always bring a map and compass with you- just in case!