Location Guide: Surprise View

08th May 2014
The first location I'm going to look at is probably about as accessible and popular as they come - so don't expect to have it to yourself - but do expect to come away with plenty of beautiful pictures. I've chosen this spot as it seems to me to have given me some of my personal favourite photos in all sorts of weather conditions - never letting me down... and, importantly... it is technically within Yorkshire rather than the commonly assumed Derbyshire. I had to start with a Yorkshire location, after all.

Surprise View (and Millstone Edge) sits proudly above Hathersage, easily accessible by train on the Hope Valley line or by car/bike/bus on the A6187 road (straight out of Sheffield along Ecclesall Rd.) where it has it's own car park. 

I'll cover this area in a short circular (imaginary) walk. Starting at the car park I'll head west and continue clockwise around the area until ending up back at the start. One thing I should also mention before going too much further is that it's highly recommended that you take a camera/lenses capable of both wide angle and telephoto. The photos here were shot at anything between 17mm and 200mm (full frame, so something like 24-300mm for you cropped folk). 



First of all, on the short walk through the heather towards Millstone Edge you'll notice the randomly scattered rocks which make ideal foreground interest for the wide angle shots. 

This rock especially, entirely different to the dominant gritstone in these parts.

After this you soon come to one of the finest views the Peak District has to offer - west up the entire Hope Valley to the surprisingly photogenic cement works, south down the Derwent Valley towards Chatsworth and vertically downwards to the lovely woodland below. 
Hope Cement works - a perfect focal point.
Beautiful autumn trees, Hathersage and the Hope Valley.
Down the Derwent Valley.
Mid-winter landscape - down the Derwent Valley.

At this point I much prefer to hop over the fence using one of the many evenly spaced stiles and make my way north along the edge itself. This has the benefit of even better views over the birches below and loads of foreground interest with various types of rock evident along the top of the crumbling cliff face. Yes, plenty of millstone grit, but also some rich red, smooth, weathered pebbles. Not that the main path has terrible views, but the other side of the fence is the place to be.

A couple of hundred metres later and you reach the top of the hill, where Higger Tor and Winyard's Nick come into view to the north. At this point the prominent rocky outcrop of Over Owler Tor looms a short walk to the east - which you can now head over to. Just down the hill from Over Owler Tor is Mother Cap too, another well known rock formation.

Higger Tor on the left, Over Owler on the right - just as the heather began to fade.
Mother Cap from Millstone Edge during a murky sunrise.

After a brief look around Over Owler Tor you can start heading south - back towards the car park. By no means is this little exploration over though, for now you'll find more well known, interestingly shaped rocks in amongst the ever changing bracken. Whilst autumn would be the obvious time of year for colour in the landscape, the fact that the ferns and heather are mixed together means you get greens, browns, oranges, yellows, purples and even whites depending on the month. You have to time it pretty badly to get no colour at all!

The polar bear (as named by Duncan Fawkes), above the Derwent Valley.
Colourful autumnal bracken.
The Beehive.

From here, the final section is dominated by birch filled woodland. In my opinion, the most beautiful of all trees - looking amazing in their autumn colour - but their spindly trunks looking crisp and interesting throughout the year. The trees also give you a bad weather option, as at this height rain in the valleys very often results in fog up top - simplifying the often chaotic background of a forest and allowing you to both focus on interesting details whilst adding a sense of depth to your shots. It's not just the woods themselves either, the outlying trees, uneven in stature and alone in the middle of the moor can result in a very pleasing shot themselves. Their awkwardness captured in contrast to the simplicity of the open moorland.

So these last shots will sum up the sort of thing to expect here - but you're best off just having a good wander to get a feel for the place.

Autumn below Mother Cap, right by the car park.
Misty moorland, with varied bracken colours and miserable, but lovely light.
Alone in a frozen, windswept landscape.
Depth in the woodland on a wet autumnal day.

Finally, one of the most alluring features of this location is its suitability for both sunrise and sunset. At either end of the day, throughout the year, you can always find a number of spots to capture the sun straight on or make most of the side lighting. So, with such varied landscape, being so accessible, at all times of year, in all weathers, at all times of day... you can see why I made this my first location pick.