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Touring Britain bit by bit with a pair of boots, a few bicycles, a lot of trains and a bag of lenses. I take pictures and then I write about them.

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Landslide victory

Mam Tor

Mam Tor, the shivering mountain, stands at the head of the Hope Valley in the High Peak District of Derbyshire. Though not a small hill, standing 60 metres over the valley (and 500 above sea level), it stands out for its unusually sheer eastern face in a region of rolling green hills and limestone gorges. This bare rock cliff could at first be mistaken for a long abandoned example of the many quarries in the area, but it doesn't quite have the mark of man. Rather, in a land of tame weather and gentle geology, it's the finest example of man's rare concession of the landscape to nature.


The cliff was actually formed by bronze age climate change, when Britain got even wetter. The persistent waterlogging of the weak shale hill and washing out of small particles eventually led to its undermining and collapse. A hillside slumped into its valley.

Mam Tor

Three millennia later, in 1847, the Manchester and Sheffield Turnpike Company decided to build a bypass of the steep Winnats pass, and chose the gentle slope beneath Mam Tor for the route.

Mam Tor

Forgetting, of course, that the gentle slope was a loosely stuck heap of shale scree, still calmly creeping down the valley.

Mam Tor Mam Tor

Man didn't give up this hillside without a fight. The highways authorities that inherited the road, by then renamed the A625, rebuilt it six times between 1912 and 1974, when large sections slid away. On the final occasion, the road was reopened as only a single lane, with traffic taking turns.

Mam Tor

Further flows in 1977 and 1979 finally finished it off. The A625 ended at Castleton, the last village in the valley; drivers from Sheffield to Manchester forced to find a new road.

Mam Tor

The carriageway was left to freely flow with the landscape, looking first like the fresh destruction of a powerful earthquake, cracked and folded, filled with steps and waves, the strata of a century of road repairs exposed as cliffs.

Mam Tor Mam Tor

Then, falling away, the last surface stripped by rain and ice, paint peeling, catseyes rusting, the cracks nurturing grasses and alpine flowers, the sunken sections flooded and filling with bog plants. A picture of a post-apocalyptic Britain reclaimed by nature.

Mam Tor

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[Edit] Edit | [Delete] Delete | [History] History | [Version] Last edited by Joe D, 2012-05-13 23:54:03 | [Views] Viewed 113270 times






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Usky /

Been stooging around your blog - some very impressive work here. Keep it up!

Posted at 2010-05-16 10:45:39 - [Ban] - [Del]

Tom Geraghty

I love this place. We go there quite often as part of our mountain biking trips around the peaks. It's a fascinating place to see, and incidentally a great place to ride too.

Posted at 2011-03-16 20:21:39 - [Ban] - [Del]

My other blog is a...
  • Science blog! A blog about cancer cell and molecular biology, coming soon...
  • Skepticism blog! I contribute to the group blog Lay Science on the nature of science, skepticism, and bad arguments.
  • Science publishing blog! It's called Journalology and it's a group blog about publishers, journals, papers and data.
  • Fiction blog! Where I make stuff up, coming soon...
  • Cycling and transport policy blog! I run the group blog At War With The Motorist, where we look at evidence-based urban planning and transport policy, and ride bikes.

Follow them all here.

Find me here...

Creative Commons License All text and photography on this site is Joe Dunckley 2001-10, except where stated otherwise. Text and photos are released under the terms of the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, meaning that you may reuse, remix, and republish the work for non-commercial purposes, on the condition that a credit is given to "Joe Dunckley/" and you make it clear that the work is released under this license. See this page for more detailed conditions. Contact me to enquire about commercial and editorial use.