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The perfect place for landscape photography?

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Alston Moor and its wider area is an ideal location for landscape and nature photography.

It's sparsely populated and comparatively little visited by tourists, often overlooked by visitors seeking honey-pot locations in nearby national parks such as the Lake District and North York Moors. There is, however, a diverse range of subject matter to interest the photographer and indeed artist in general.

The sometimes bleak, wild, windswept, high moors of Nenthead, Allendale, Teesdale and Weardale are great subjects and there are numerous waterfalls and watercourses to photograph as well. Interesting ruins and old mine buildings and workings are easily accessible and a considerable portion of the land is hill-farmed, so rural scenes are easy to capture.

Compared to over-visited locations like the Lake District, wildlife sightings are relatively commonplace. Roedeer roam freely across the landscape and are easily viewed. Red squirrels are often sighted in many locations around Alston Moor.

Springtime not only brings an abundance of wildflowers but also the return in good numbers of curlew, lapwing, snipe and other wading birds. Birds of prey are often spotted too, with many kestrels, sparrow-hawks and buzzards to be seen. The North Pennines is also a refuge for the black grouse which has seen an 80% decline in numbers elsewhere in the UK.

Most of the immediate local area of Alston is part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, England’s remotest. The area is indeed outstandingly beautiful though arguably not exactly natural as it is largely a product of human intervention.

The landscape has been created through mining and industrial purpose, as well as hill farming. Nowadays most of the original tree and scrub cover has been replaced by managed grouse moorland.

Alston is the principal town on the high moorlands and remains isolated to this day due to its height above sea level. It

is, arguably, the highest market town in England. The nearest large population centres are Penrith and Hexham, both around 25 miles away.

Lone tree near Roughside

Winter here can be harsh, leaving Alston’s residents cut off, sometimes for days at a time due to snow cover on the high passes such as Hartside leading to Penrith, Killhope leading to Weardale and near Yad Moss leading to Teesdale.

The Pennine Way long distance footpath passes through Garrigill and Alston after walkers leave the remote heights of Cross Fell. A long distance cycle route, the C2C or coast to coast also passes near Alston. There is also a narrow gauge steam railway that uses Alston as its base.

Galligill Burn

What I love about this area as a local photographer is that I can often find interesting subjects literally right on my doorstep. Being so far from large towns and cities, the quality and clarity of the light here is exceptional.

Subjects for photography are diverse and include rural scenes; ruined barns and abandoned farmsteads; fellsides; wildflowers in profusion; mine workings; grouse moors and remote waterfalls.

When restrictions allow, I and the other photographers that are part of ALATI look forward to helping others enjoy the special place that is Alston Moor through workshops and guided walks to showcase the best the Pennines has to offer to landscape and nature photographers and artists.

Meanwhile, here are some of my photographs for you to enjoy.

Mike Knowles

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