If Peak Productions had a philosophy of life, it would be largely based around the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). Maslow's studies of humanistic psychology explain just about everything you need to know about being a good, happy, successful and spiritually pure human being (more or less). It was Maslow who invented the term "peak experience", a transcendental state that marks the absolute apex of what he described as the Pyramid of Needs. A peak experience is a special feeling of euphoria that occurs when all your needs are satisfied and your wishes fulfilled, leaving you feeling totally blissful and at one with the world! Peak Productions is dedicated to the music that gives you these peak experiences.
Occasionally however, music isn't quite enough. At least once a year, if not more often, Peak Productions organises a Mountain Conference in the Peak District National Park. Where else?! This magical location in the heart of England seems to represent a real-life Pyramid of Needs. The massive sprawling metropolitan areas of Leeds, Sheffield, Stoke-On-Trent, Manchester and Bradford surround the lower slopes. These industrial heartlands were built around meeting our demands for basic goods such as coal, steel, pottery, wool etc. As the land rises and the open countryside begins, tourism becomes the dominant industry, satisfying our wishes for leisure and fun-time in the fresh unpolluted air. And at the very highest altitudes, where gales howl strongly and thick clouds swirl ominously around the dark, impenetrable mountain walls...that's where the peak experiences occur. That's where the tourist trail stops and what Maslow described as "self-actualisation" occurs.
Standing on a peak in the Peak District having a peak experience is as good as life gets! It's what Peak Productions is all about. The music we create, play and promote aims to keep those magical feelgood sensations alive even when we can't physically get to the mountaintops. Having heard our music, you may be interested in getting to know the actual locations whose earthly spirits infuse every note. The photo tour you are about to take is the first step in taking the trip for real. If you like the music, love the pictures and are ready to try out the Peak Experience for yourself, then get in touch...
ARRIVING AT THE PEAK
The form of The Peak Experience trip is a circular tour starting and ending at Mam Tor, adjacent to the village of Castleton. Mam Tor means the Mother Mountain and is the epicentre of the Peak's awesome energy. Although not the highest mountain in the Peak District (at only a rather modest 1696 feet above sea level), Mam Tor is certainly one of the most distinctive and spiritually significant, so it makes the perfect focal point for the trip.
The best starting point for our trip is from the south/west, via the M6 to Sandbach (from the north/east it's recommended to reach the M6 via the M66/M60/M56/A556). The route towards Castleton runs around the edge of Holmes Chapel and adjacent to the huge Jodrell Bank satellite dish.
Our route passes through the leafy Cheshire commuter settlements of Alderley Edge, Dean Row and Poynton. Poynton is the proud owner of a new, touchy-feely "shared space" road layout (ie no distinction between roads and pavements, no traffic lights or zebra crossings, just an experimental free-for-all where cars and pedestrians have equal priority).
After Poynton there is a narrow, woody, decidedly more old-fashioned section of road through Norbury Hollow, complete with cobblestoned bridge and manually operated level crossing.
The hills start closing in around Disley. After Chapel-en-le-Frith we climb steeply to Sparrowpit, before making the final descent via the awesome Winnats Pass into the magical village of Castleton.
Castleton lies at the foot of Mam Tor. It will take two days and approximately 200 miles to travel from the bottom to the top, via a huge loop around the Peak District.
CIRCULAR STAGE 1: CASTLETON - BUXTON
A fairly gentle start to the circuit, heading south-west towards Buxton over the central plateau of the Peak District.
Peveril Castle overlooks Castleton (giving the village its name).
The Devil's Arse: Castleton is known for its caves, the Devil's Arse acquiring its memorable moniker centuries ago!
Peak Forest: away from the busy A623 road lies a strange rip in the Earth's surface, Eldon Hole. At nearly 200 feet deep, all sorts of local rumours abound as to where the hole leads...
Tideswell: a beautiful village known as "The Cathedral Of The Peak".
Cheedale is a narrow gorge with a disused railway tunnelling through the hillsides.
CIRCULAR STAGE 2: BUXTON - FLASH
From the highest spa town in England to the highest village, via not-quite-the-highest pub.
At 1023 feet above sea level, Buxton is England's highest spa town. It's like a smaller, more northern version of Bath.
Wash down your Bakewell tart with some Buxton Spa water.
We soon turn off the main road into the heart of the wilderness. Goyt Valley is an almost entirely unpopulated landscape of mountainous moorland.
At the top of the awesome Cat & Fiddle pass is the famous pub of the same name. It narrowly misses the altitude of the slightly loftier Tan Hill Inn in Yorkshire, but does Tan Hill have a pool table? I don't think so!
Not only is Flash the highest village in England, it also has one of the coolest names.
CIRCULAR STAGE 3: FLASH BAR - THORPE
A long run through the heart of the White Peak. The lanes are narrow and the scenery spectacular.
Welcome to Toblerone-land!
Chrome Hill, Parkhouse Hill and High Wheeldon (pictured) are three distinctive shaped peaks just begging to be climbed!
Hartington is a serene, idyllic village.
Caves, cliffs and a long, dark tunnel make the Manifold Valley appear totally cut off from the rest of the world.
Ilam: a charming village with Hansel & Gretel style houses.
CIRCULAR STAGE 4: THORPE - MATLOCK
The circuit swings eastwards towards Matlock, mainly on good, open roads (with a couple of noteable exceptions).
Dovedale is one of the most popular sights of the White Peak. It can be crowded and is best visited away from "peak" hours.
Thorpe Cloud is the southernmost peak on our journey before gradually edging our way up the eastern side of the Pennines.
Tissington: a great stretch of road leads two-thirds of the way to Matlock. But to get to the fast road, you have to first get past this...
Nine Ladies: a Roman stone circle on Stanton Moor.
Stanton-In-Peak: an immacualate village clinging raggedly to the hillsides of Stanton Moor.
CIRCULAR STAGE 5: MATLOCK - BAKEWELL
This stage skirts around the south-eastern corner of the Peak District, with seriously astounding views for virtually its entire length.
The Heights of Abraham is an amazing tourist attraction high above a deep gorge. 1000 feet below lies Matlock Bath, the massively popular "inland resort" section of Matlock.
How do you get up there? By cable car...
Cromford is a fascinating historic village, dominated by Arkwright's Mill.
East of Cromford there are high, open moors with far-reaching views.
Chatsworth: one of Britain's finest stately mansions with some of the most superb grounds in the country.
CIRCULAR STAGE 6: BAKEWELL - HATHERSAGE
A varied stage that starts in pastoral wooded countryside, gradually becoming more rugged before reaching a stunning climax.
Bakewell has only one thing in common with South Tottenham: both are good places to pick up a tart...
There's more to Bakewell than cake. It's a lively little market town alongside the River Wye.
We head north out of Bakewell on the A6 before turning off at Ashford-In-The-Water. The first of many surprises is the viewpoint at Monsal Head.
Surprise View: the road across Froggatt Edge is already pretty dramatic, but a couple of miles past the Fox House pub it turns a sharp corner and suddenly offers an absolutely breath-taking view of the central Peak District.
CIRCULAR STAGE 7: HATHERSAGE - HOLMFIRTH
A long, barren, high-altitude stage along the north-east of the Peak District.
Hathersage: a bustling little "basecamp" town nestling underneath rocky moors.
Stanage Edge is an impressive rocky outcrop that stretches northwards from Hathersage.
Strange as it may seem, the lunar landscapes of Hallam Moors are part of the City of Sheffield.
Across the hills and dales of what used to be Hallamshire (now part of South Yorkshire) towards Deepcar.
Penistone is probably best known for its innuendo-laden name, but it's a pleasant little town in the uppermost stretch of the Don Valley.
CIRCULAR STAGE 8: HOLMFIRTH - LITTLEBOROUGH
The northernmost stage of the circuit and the most mountainous so far. Our route criss-crosses the Pennines back and forth via a series of high-altitude passes.
The route descends towards the lovely old riverside town of Holmfirth, a gateway between the unspoilt Peak and the edge of urban Yorkshire.
Marsden is a small town huddled underneath the Pennines at their most imposing and moody-looking.
Across the moors to Delph via the A62, formerly a major trunk road but, since the construction of the M62, now little more than a footpath for lost sheep.
The M62 over the Pennines is England's highest, bleakest motorway. There's even a farmhouse inbetween the two carriageways!
I wouldn't want to be driving down this lane if the dam wall breaks.
CIRCULAR STAGE 9: LITTLEBOROUGH - GLOSSOP
The circuit gradually starts reaching a climax now. At first the route cuts across the scrappy (but fascinating) urban fringes of Oldham, before breaking free at Greenfield to climb into the brooding heart of the Dark Peak.
Hollingworth Lake at Littleborough marks the beginning of this stage: a mini inland "seaside" resort, complete with small sandy beach and amusement arcades.
Unlike London, many northern cities border wild, rugged uplands of some description. The eastern perimeter of Greater Manchester reaches altitudes of over 1000 feet, offering amazing views of the metropolis.
After Greenfield we enter Jurassic Park. The almost vertical cliff faces rising suddenly from the valley floor present a dauntingly foreboding mountain backdrop.
A radio transmitter tower stands at the top of Holme Moss, a 1700 foot high summit marking the boundary between Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
The Snake Pass gives us our first views of Kinder, resembling a huge lion watching protectively over its cubs. The pass itself is dramatic and, in winter months, seriously nerve-racking!
CIRCULAR STAGE 10: GLOSSOP - CASTLETON
Brace yourself for the grand finale. The ultimate stage is introduced by the highest mountain and Father Figure of the Peak District, Kinder Scout. It reaches its conclusion with none other than the Mother Mountain herself, Mam Tor.
This stage begins in the dour town of Glossop (even the name sounds grey and miserable!) But it's actually a perfectly pleasant place to stock up on supplies for the final ascent.
Kinder Scout: at 2087 feet Kinder hardly qualifies as a world peak. However everything is relative, and there is no point higher between here and the South of France. To put it into perspective, Kinder is roughly the height of three Canary Wharfs stacked on top of each other!
After winding through a maze of tiny lanes, the road starts climbing the southern slopes of Rushup Edge before finally arriving at Mam Tor.
An ethereal path leads gradually up to the summit, shrouded in fog and battered by relentless winds. Bad weather and poor visibility only add to the mystical ambience.
We have made it to the peak. Let the peak experience begin! It's best to climb Mam Tor outside the main daylight hours. Even in the pitch-black dead of night, the atmosphere is out of this world. You feel like you are on top of England, looking down from way on high in all directions, as far as the eye can see. It's like being halfway to heaven.
LEAVING THE PEAK
It's always sad to leave the Peak District behind, and if you choose the wrong exit route you can have a terible jolt as you return to the land of Drive-Thru McDonalds and Tesco Extra superstores. Returning to "reality" (ha ha, like all that is more "real" than the mountains lol!) involves winding our way slowly back down from the Pennines to the lowlands of the South. There are still a few nice surprises to end the trip on a high.
This is what happens when you mess with a mystical mountain. A lesson about the mighty powers of Mother Earth.
The exit route veers away from the entrance route at Chapel-en-le-Frith along the northern banks of the Goyt valley.
New Mills: an interesting and lively town full of steep streets forking off each other at acute angles.
We skirt Marple to the south and pass through the canalside village of Hawk Green.
The final leg before returning to the M6 near Mere involves a spin through the Cheshire commuter towns of Hazel Grove, Bramhall and Wilmslow. Rostherne Mere is the final natural beauty worth checking out before hitting the motorway.