Meet the Old Man of the Peak

Derbyshire Life - - Places -

Snit­ter­ton ama­teur pho­tog­ra­pher Tony Saun­ders could hardly be­lieve his eyes. He was in the Up­per Der­went Val­ley get­ting some pic­tures of the foun­da­tions of Der­went vil­lage as the wa­ters of Lady­bower Reser­voir re­ceded dur­ing last year’s drought. For some rea­son, he looked up to­wards the dis­tant crag of Great Tor on Bam­ford

Edge two miles to the south.

There, clearly out­lined against the sky, was the un­mis­take­able craggy pro­file of a man’s head. It bore a star­tling re­sem­blance to New Hamp­shire’s fa­mous but now van­ished Old Man of the Moun­tain, which he had seen 20 years ago. From dif­fer­ent an­gles, he looked like he had a pro­trud­ing quiff of hair or was wear­ing a tra­di­tional North­ern flat cap, but his eye­brows, nose and chin were all clearly de­fined.

‘I won­dered if I had dis­cov­ered the Old Man of the Peak,’ said Tony, a 54-year-old re­tired soft­ware ex­ec­u­tive who has his own web­site: pho­tog­ra­phy­by­bones.com. ‘The sun­light just hap­pened to fall on Bam­ford Edge, and I liked the dif­fer­ent coloured lay­ers of trees be­tween me and the edge. So

I shot off a few frames with my 560mm tele­photo lens.’

Tony has been tak­ing pho­to­graphs se­ri­ously for about four years since his re­tire­ment, and loves to get out and about in the Peak Dis­trict. He lives at Snit­ter­ton with his wife, Clare.

New Hamp­shire’s Old Man of the Moun­tain was ac­tu­ally a se­ries of five sep­a­rate, gran­ite ledges on Can­non Moun­tain which, when viewed from Pro­file Lake at Fran­co­nia Notch, in the White Moun­tains of New Hamp­shire, formed the out­line of the face.

This Old Man, known to nov­el­ist Nathaniel Hawthorne as The Great Stone Face, was only iden­ti­fied by non-na­tive Amer­i­cans in 1805. So fa­mous be­came the 40-foot-high craggy pro­file that it fea­tured on US postage stamps and later on New Hamp­shire’s li­cence plates and quar­ter dol­lar (25 cent) coin, un­der the state motto ‘Live Free or Die.’ I was also lucky enough to see New Hamp­shire’s Old Man of the Moun­tain on a visit to New Eng­land about 20 years ago, when we stopped off by the shores of Pro­file Lake. Peo­ple were queu­ing up to use the tele­scope to in­spect his fa­mous gran­ite fea­tures.

But few re­alised that he was ar­ti­fi­cially be­ing held in place by three gi­ant turn­buck­les dar­ingly put into place by Ed­ward Ged­des, a lo­cal quar­ry­man, in 1916, and of­fi­cially watched over for many years by the Niel­son fam­ily.

But Na­ture fi­nally had her way on the night of 3rd May 2003, when the whole 700-ton struc­ture crashed down onto the slopes be­low. Ap­par­ently, dis­may over the col­lapse was so great that peo­ple left flow­ers at the base of the cliffs in trib­ute. ‘It was like los­ing a mem­ber of the fam­ily,’ said one dis­traught lo­cal.

Soon af­ter the col­lapse, a re­place­ment con­crete replica was con­sid­ered. But that daft idea was soon re­jected, and seven years later, work started on a view­ing plat­form at Pro­file Lake. This con­sists of a line of steel ‘pro­fil­ers’ which, when aligned with the cliff above, recre­ate the well-loved for­mer fea­ture.

We can only hope that the tough Na­murian sand­stones which form the pro­file of Tony’s Old Man of the Peak on Bam­ford Edge are more re­sis­tant to ero­sion than those of his New Hamp­shire coun­ter­part.

Con­tact: [email protected]­con­nect.com

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