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Sunset and snow on London Road, near Mankinholes

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Salmon skies light up the snowy ridge of Langfield Common, near Todmorden. Stoodley Pike sits on the hillside, overlooking  the Upper Valley.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.

Tod in snow 4: Overlooking the town

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The upper Calder valley, transformed into a winter wonderland by the generous pre-Christmas snows.

My mate and I went sledging here; just down the hill you can see a couple of snowboarders also taking advantage of the conditions. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.

An alien structure on the moors

This odd structure is certainly alien to the landscape around it, but there’s a more prosaic explanation than that of little green men.

This is one of the NATS (National Air Traffic service) radar control beacons used to monitor aircraft movements across the country. It lies on the main trans-Atlantic air corridor and on clear days and nights jets regularly criss-cross the skies above: aircraft also routinely circle and stack on approach to nearby Manchester airport.

Returning to the alien theme for a second, Todmorden has been a hotspot of alleged UFO sightings in the past: this may be at least partially explained by so much civilian air traffic in the vicinity. Then again, round here anything is possible…

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Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.

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Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.

Snow in the Upper Calder valley, looking towards Tod

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Like much of the country we’ve just had the first snow of the winter; perfectly timed to make the valley look gloriously seasonal.

I’d already planned to take the afternoon off and it would’ve been a shame to let such a wonderful day go to waste, so I rounded up a couple of willing accomplices for a spot of walking and photography. This spot, just off Broad Lane on the road up to Kebs, offers a cracking view over the Upper Valley. The visibility was so good you could make out the transmitter masts at Emley Moor, Moorside Edge and Holme Moss, many miles away. On another note, love the corona around the sun…

Perhaps I’m over-optimistic, but now I’m dreaming of a White Christmas…

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.

Like a motorway: the Trans-Pennine express

The M62 is the great trans-Pennine highway which bisects northern England, running from Mersyside in the west to Humberside on the east coast. Opened in the early 1970s, the M62 cuts across the spine of the southern Pennines, and provides the main route for transporting goods between the two halves of the north. Millions of people (and millions of tons of commercial traffic) travel along this route every year, but probably few spare much thought for the work needed to create this stretch of asphalt across the moors, linking Manchester and Leeds together in less than an hour’s drive.

A fascinating three part BBC4 documentary, ‘The Secret Life of the Motorway’ aired last year, shining a light on the technological prowess, social changes and romance which surrounded the development of the motorway network in the UK. The second episode concentrated on the massive engineering challenges faced by the teams constructing this stretch of the M62, from west of Huddersfield through to the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. You can read more about the construction here.

I’ve always loved this section of the motorway as it climbs up past Blackstone Edge and Windy Hill and opens out onto the vast expanse of Moss Moor, but until I watched the BBC documentary didn’t know much about it, except for the sign near Junction 22 which proclaims that this is England’s highest motorway. I’ve travelled along here hundreds, perhaps even thousands of times in the last decade for business and pleasure, and I love the soft rawness of the moorland against the giant expanse of sky. When you use this road regularly you start to appreciate the subtleties of the seasons and weather conditions: the cottongrass blooming in early summer, the brief flashes of colour as the heather flowers in August, the monochromatic undulations when snow and ice coats the hillsides in winter.

At the eastern end of Moss Moor lies Scammonden Bridge, carrying the Saddleworth Road across the vast cutting at Deanhead. Nowadays the landscaped sides of the cutting help to disguise its man-made origins, where the six lane motorway cuts straight through the hillside. Millions of tons of rock were removed, and became the basis of the 2100ft long Scammonden Dam on the approach. You don’t appreciate just how massive this bridge is when you drive along the motorway – at the time of opening it was the longest single span concrete bridge in the world – but it’s in such an enormous cutting, and at the crest of the hill, that its elegant structure seems understated. This view, from the top of the cutting, provides a clearer view of the scale of the bridge and the landscape beyond.

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Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.

At the other end of the upper moorland stretch, just past the Rockingstones junction, the motorway starts to drop down towards Greater Manchester. Another massive cutting sweeps between Windy Hill and the climb towards Blackstone Edge, spanned by the Pennine Way footbridge. Walkers on this 200 mile long distance footpath are uninterrupted by the constant flow of traffic below, and can look west towards the Yorkshire/Lancashire county border (now the West Yorkshire/Greater Manchester boundary to be precise) a hundred or so metres away.

I originally tried to shoot this same scene over 4 years ago for a WWP submission, but the homebrew pano kit I then used, combined with the savage winds, conspired to produce a thoroughly unsuccessful result. This time I was more fortunate: the dying seconds of the setting sun vividly lit up the tops behind me, and created a glorious focal point for the long exposures light-trails of the traffic zooming off into the distance. A minute later it was gone.

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Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.