I’ve heard the Peak District is the most popular UK National Park. I find this curious because it is not, surely, the most attractive or adventurous place compared for example to the Lake District or Snowdonia. It consists of relatively flat and gentle hills and peat moorland, divided into the Dark Peak in the north and the White Peak in the south. These names refer to gritstone and limestone respectively.
Other reasons why the Peak District may be so popular are in fact because it is relatively tame, and large numbers of people enjoy that kind of walking, and because of the situation of the Park. The Peak District sits between the large conurbations of Manchester and Sheffield and also in close proximity to Nottingham and Derby. Historically, it’s a country area where workers sought escape and respite from exploitative working conditions. The gritstone boulders are a fine place for climbing and scrambling, historically important for those activities. The Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout – 24 April 1932 – was a critically important moment for land access and the establishing of walking rights. There’s a strange and arrogant tradition of land ownership in Britain which traces back to feudalism and inherited wealth inequality. There is also – I think – a defiant and confrontational spirit in British people if we sense injustice and cant. It’s part of our character. When we say “don’t take the piss” we mean it.
The Lake District is historically and associatively different insofar as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Ruskin and Beatrix Potter were more Romantic than Marxist. Some people take this stuff quite seriously, attaching it to the hills and writing about it accordingly. The hills for me are an escape from all such nonsense: they are what they are, inert geography to enjoy on such terms, a hint of freedom which you don’t find in any ideology.
Most importantly, I enjoy the hills in photographic terms. If I get good photographs, that means it’s a place I will love. I’m not sure which is most important for me, the walking or the making of beautiful images. The answer I think, is both are important like the Chinese yin yang symbol where light chases darkness and darkness chases light, where both are necessary as part of an overall synergy.
The Peak District has its own photogenic character which I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy as I have, too, the more tame walking you find there. It’s a lovely place to escape the horrors of the city. I consider this theme in my video at the Goyt Valley which is a notably scenic part of the Peak District.
Note: the book I refer to in the video is The Secret Places – the author is Holbrook, not Holroyd. My words are completely improvised – I never plan them except occasionally for a rough idea about theme – which means I’m pulling to mind facts, topics and references entirely from random memory. David Holbrook died in 2011. The Independent said this:
In 1964 he went…..to a four-year fellowship at King’s, Cambridge and there published The Secret Places, an astonishing application of DW Winnicott’s psychoanalysis to the writings of barely literate children obdurately hostile to school but turned by the magic of Holbrook’s teaching and interpretation into makers of selves and poets of their day
It’s an outdated book, but the core idea is inspiring and wonderful.