Meet the Old Man of the Peak
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