Pilsbury Castle was a Norman Castle in the Peak District near the hamlet of Pilsbury, a few miles down the road from Longor and Hartington. It is situated next to the River Dove looking up to Chrome and Parkhouse Hill and Axe Edge with much of the White Peak Behind. It is also right on the border of Derbyshire and Staffordshire but actually lies on the Derbyshire Side.
Pilsbury Castle is a location I had never photographed before and there didn’t seem to be many images of it floating around on the internet either. I had previously drove down the single track road (questionable at times) to Pilsbury to look for a parking space and to see if I could see the Pilsbury Castle but with no luck and ended up driving straight on to Hartington. The next time I went up to Sheen and could see Pilsbury Castle in the distance from the roadside. I still wasn’t convinced this was the best place to park for shortest walk in but after consulting the map it would seem I’d have to.
Checking a sun calculator, it showed that really the rising sun wouldn’t get much further round to the south and as the valley lies in South to North direction, so I knew it’d be a perfect time to go if there ever was one. I knew sunset the sun would but perfectly 90 degrees to the left, but I feared the surrounding hills would quite quickly cast Pilsbury Castle into shadow before the light even got nice.
Arriving on location in plenty of time after a slippery walk down also dodging fallen trees from the recent high winds I had a bit of an explore. In places there was a slight ground frost but nothing considerable.
Pilsbury Castle is a motte-and-bailey variant and all that remains to be seen are the earthworks which have now been fenced off due to damage done to them and hopefully allow them to recover. The prominent feature though is the odd limestone outcrop with the tree next to it which I’m sure would have been used as the high point of Pilsbury Castle, maybe even a watch tower?
I positioned myself a little higher than the castle on one of the flanking hillsides, which put me at a little bit of a distance from the castle and also introduced a drystone wall in the foreground. I spent a long time with the composition, kept switching positions and lenses and in the end I decided rather than to try and exclude the wall (which most pictures seem to do) to actually try and include it and use it to my advantage as a leading line. It was also imperative to have this high position to include Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill in the distance.
I hadn’t actually been on location before, so it was very new to me and hadn’t actually calculated that there was this bank I was stood on behind the castle. This was getting in the way of the rising sun so it would take a while for the sun to get high enough to light anything in the foreground up. When I looked at the map, I thought the Pilsbury Castle was more in the open valley. At least I know now.
There were some nice red skies at the start, something which seems to be quite frequent at the moment but I was facing the wrong way with no possible composition so for once just watched and enjoyed them. Every now and again a bunch of starlings would take off and form their patterns in the sky, shame they were always too quick for me to photograph.
After patiently waiting, the light started to break but cloud was starting to build up making the appearance of it teasing. Eventually though, my efforts were rewarded with some dappled light spread across the landscape with the limestone outcrop next to the castle just getting tipped with a patch of light.
Here is the final image, I was glad to have left the wall in as it sort of repeats the lay of the land throughout the image as well as the limestone outcrop running in line with Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill in the distance. There is a lot of repetition in the image, which leads me to a natural balance in the image.