Monthly Archives: December 2018

Stone Barns of the Derbyshire Peak District

Limestone and gritstone field barns have been a defining feature of the landscape of the Peak District of Derbyshire for centuries.

Built by farmers using locally sourced stone, they fit naturally into the landscape from which they rose, even enhancing the natural beauty of the Derbyshire countryside.

Field barns explain how the countryside has been managed over the course of hundreds of years.

Such stone barns have served a variety of purposes, including housing cattle, lambing, milking, winter shelter and hay storage. They also serve as valuable wildlife habitats, as many birds build their nests in the barns’ eaves.

But, with recent changes in farming practices, many of these centuries-old buildings have slowly fallen into disrepair. Farmers are understandably reluctant to put money into maintaining them when they no longer serve any agricultural purpose.

Some stone barns have been converted into houses, a particularly regrettable change of use as the owners lay paved driveways, install utilities and park their cars nearby, fundamentally changing the character of the structures in ways incongruous with the surrounding natural landscape.

These two stone barns, called the Staden Barns, named for the family who built them, are among the prettiest of the many barns I photographed in the Peak District. They straddle a narrow country lane about half a mile southeast of the village of Hartington, on the western edge of the Peak District.

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Roach End Barn

During my solo photography tour of the Peak District this past June, one of the locations I was most looking forward to photographing was the famous (among photographers, at least) Roach End barn.

Roach End Barn at sunset

While most of the Peak District lies within the county of Derbyshire, the Roaches, in the southwest corner of the District, lies in Staffordshire, just north of the town of Leek.

The Roaches area is loved by hikers and climbers alike for its steep, rugged gritstone ridge. It groups together two main gritstone outcrops, Ramshaw Rocks and Hen Cloud, both of which offer stunning panoramic views over much of Cheshire and, on a clear day, even as far west as Snowdonia in Wales.

But I came to The Roaches only to photograph this picturesque, tumbledown barn, which stands on a hillside semi-encircled by a clump of trees.

Though I was primarily interested in photographing the barn at sunset, I arrived in mid-afternoon and spent a few hours walking around the site, familiarizing myself with the scene and shooting the barn from different angles. I had seen so many inspirational photographs of the barn in the preceding years that I had to make a conscious effort to clear my mind of those images and seek out my own vision of it.

Finally, I settled on a composition from above the barn, shooting towards the west, looking out over the Cheshire plain. While the light had been flat during the first couple of hours of my visit, just as the sun sank to the west, a spectacular cloud moved across the sky from the southwest and was dramatically illuminated by the warm, pink light of the setting sun, which also lit up the brickwork of the barn with a warm, reddish glow (lead image).

(click on an image to enlarge it)

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