Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.
Find out more
The Group
CREDIT: Dave Glenn

Field Trip to Bolehill Quarry

Bolehill Quarry is in the Derbyshire Peak District, a short walk from Surprise View car park near Hathersage. John revisits his member-led field trip.

The Group © Dave Glenn

Bolehill Quarry is in the Derbyshire Peak District, a short walk from Surprise View car park near Hathersage. The quarry has been disused for about a century, and the National Trust took it over in 1954. For around 600 years, until the late 19th century, the quarry produced millstones for flour grinding and industry. This ceased due to cheaper imports from France. It was a very abrupt cessation, evidenced by the large number of millstones still lying around, often neatly stacked. The quarry had a brief resurgence from 1901 due to a demand for stone to build dams for the nearby Howden and Derwent reservoirs. When these projects ended, the quarry shut down again, this time to be taken over by nature.

3 Millstones
CREDIT: John Rutherford


With the quarry remains, the left-behind millstones, silver birches growing on former quarry land, and the gnarly old trees in nearby ancient woodland, Bolehill is a wonderful place for photographers. Dave Glenn, our leader for the trip, had carefully planned guidance to ensure we didn’t miss out on any of its treasures.

There were seven of us in the group, and we quickly settled into a day of convivial conversation and great photography. There was plenty to suit various photographic preferences, whether it was the grand landscape or its more intimate detail, the man-made landscape or industrial archaeology. Much of it inspired a more creative interpretation.

We had not walked far from the car park when we found the first subject to get the cameras out of our bags. The attraction was ‘trees’, but not just any old trees. These ones were growing straight out of the rock face and were very healthy despite no obvious source of nutrition. This provided a new angle on the ‘lone tree’ theme. 

Ancient Woodland
CREDIT: Barry Quatermass

Ancient Woodland © Barry Quatermass

We then made the short, easy descent into the quarry and were immediately confronted by piles of millstones. They looked as though they might have been made yesterday were it not for the fact that they were covered in moss. Dave gave us plenty of time here to exploit the many opportunities presented for striking compositions. Periods of bright sunshine alternating with light cloud cover gave us a useful range of lighting conditions for photographing the beautiful colours and textures around us.

Our next stop was the silver birch wood flanked by a blasted-out rock face, showing we were in the middle of the old quarry. Both the woodland and the rocks contained a range of interesting patterns, shapes, and textures. A large pond at the base of the cliff face allowed us to add reflections to our images. As we walked through the woodland, it was important to slow down, observe, and find the beauty in ‘intimate’ detail. There was plenty on offer.


Quarry Reflections
CREDIT: John Rutherford
Silver Birch Wood
CREDIT: John Rutherford

Quarry Reflections and Silver Birch Wood

Finally, there was a complete contrast as we walked out of the silver birches and into the ancient woodland. We could have easily spent another day there. Nevertheless, we had plenty of time to get our ‘magical, mystery’ shots before slowly walking back to the car. The shortness of the walk underlined how much great photography had been available to us in such a small area. Dave's pace for the day was ideal for making the most of this. We would have missed so much if we hadn’t had time to ‘stop and stare’.

All Images unless otherwise stated © John Rutherford