Monday, 22 October 2018
Escape To The Milky Way
Early October and another road trip into Weardale, to capture more images of the night sky. Within Weardale lies the tiny village of Rookhope, which is on the edge of County Durham. A former lead and fluorspar mining community, it first existed as a group of cattle farms in the 13th Century. It is situated in the Pennines to the north of Weardale. W.H. Auden once called Rookhope 'the most wonderfully desolate of all the dales'. In the 2001 census, Rookhope had a population of 267. The village pub, the Rookhope Inn and the Swallow's Rest on the fell surrounding Rookhope are popular with cyclists on the coast to coast cycling route which runs from Sunderland on the east coast to Whitehaven on the west coast of northern England. The draw for me is undoubtedly down to one simple factor - a dark sky region with very little light pollution, which brings me nicely on to the main objective of this trip - to capture the milky way!
I'd done the obligatory homework beforehand, to determine the position of the milky way in relation to the nearby Rookhope Arch, a local landmark at Lintzgarth, a few hundred yards west up the valley and one of the few remaining parts of the 2 miles Rookhope Chimney. This "horizontal" chimney (parallel to the ground, which actually rises steeply to the moors) was used to carry poisonous flue gases from the Rookhope lead smelting works up onto the high moor. Periodically, lead and silver carried over in the gases and deposited in the chimney were dug out and recovered, rather than going to waste. When driving past the arch, which sits in the middle of a cattle grazing pasture, it simply screams out to be photographed at night. One of those light bulb moments. This is a subject and a half for astro photography.
Me and my brother Chris headed out there on a crystal clear night in early October and we weren't disappointed. Although there were a number of sheep in the field, access was fairly straightforward and nearby parking was also a plus. Negotiating the arch climb was an easy one too, although it was quite breezy up there, once I was ready for my cameo role. I had to position myself on the edge of the arch top so that my full profile could be seen in the shot. Any further forward and the bottom half of my legs would have been cut off from the lens. 15 second exposures were fired off before I descended from this ancient arch. Another job done. The view of the milky way was mesmerising and one of the best experiences since I began my astro photography two years ago. Perched on top of that arch gave me a sense of attachment - that I was almost at touching distance between myself and the galactic Corr (see what I done there?)
A very memorable night and it wasn't over yet. A quick stop off at St. Andrew's Church @ Kiln Pitt Hill was in order, as we cut our journey home in two. St
ay tuned for that one … coming soon!