A Taste of the
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The Peak District was the first region in the UK to be designated as a National Park. It is now allegedly the second most visited National Park in the world after Mt. Fuji in Japan. The reason for that is perhaps its proximity to Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham. It needs careful management in order to maintain a balance between the needs of farming, industry, tourism and the need to preserve the fragile beauty of this gem at the heart of England.
The Peak District was designated as a National Park in 1951, almost 2 years after the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed by Parliament. That had been passed after the Great Depression of the 1930s had lead to conflicts of countryside access between ordinary folk and landowners, conflicts like the Kinder Mass Trespass of 1932.
The Ranger Service was established in 1954 in order to ensure that the public kept to the bye-laws of the park. The voluntary warden service was established, based at the Nags head at Edale ... that's my type of HQ!! It wasn't until 1960 that the second full-time warden was appointed and the HQ moved to Fieldhead. It was also the 1960s that saw the establishment of the Edale Mountain Rescue team following the deaths of 2 climbers in the Chew Valley and 3 participants in the 4 inns challenge walk. Prior to that, mountain rescue had been a bit 'ad-hoc' and had no trained teams on standby. The role of the Ranger Service has evolved from the original 'policing' role. Whilst that role still exists, Rangers have been involved in managing the foot and mouth outbreaks, guided walks and education too.
It covers an area of about 540 square miles and has a great diversity of scenery. It is mostly in the county of Derbyshire but the edges lie in neighbouring counties (Yorkshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire). It is informally divided by its geology into two main areas, the ‘White Peak’ and the ‘Dark Peak’. The former is the name given to the southern half of the Peak District where greyish-white limestone rocks outcrop at the surface whilst the latter describes the northern area where the hard, brown coarse-grained sandstones (millstone grit or gritstone) and large tracts of peat covered moorland are found. The gritstone fringes the limestone in an inverted ‘U’ shape to the North, East and West. Most of the region's rocks are Carboniferous in age but there are younger rocks such as Permian sandstones and glacial till.
Click here for an outline map showing main roads and some other features of the region and on the links in the text for further information.
Over the millennia, the Peak District has supported a wide variety of industries, sheep farming, market gardening, dairy farming, mining, cement making ... the list is long. Look closely around the towns and villages and you will see the evidence. Tourism is currently amongst the major industries.
The origins of the name of the Peak District are obscure. The term ‘Peaclond’ appears in the literature of the tenth century to describe the area around Castleton where Peveril had his stronghold. Other sources suggest that it comes from corruptions of the word ‘Pict’. There is a similar word in Irish Gaelic ‘Pooka’ which translates as spirit or ghost - perhaps this is where the many ghost tales of the Peak District have arisen.
The Peak District Climate
Winters in the Dark Peak can be harsh in the moorland areas, in the 1970s, there were regularly over 70 days when snow was recorded. I remember being pretty much guaranteed snow walks (I mean proper snowy winter conditions where the ground is thoroughly frozen, icy and snow cover pretty much 100% including on the roads) during the 1980s but these days, if you get more than 2 or 3 weekends where you can walk the fells in the snow it is unusual. And even then, it is usually the horrible slushy stuff. Despite this there are generally frosts on the moors for 25 - 30 percent of the winter although nowhere near as intense as 20 years ago. Winters on the limestone plateau of the White Peak are not as harsh (10% frosts), since it is generally less than 350m in altitude. Rainfall in the Dark Peak is about 150cm per year on average. The White Peak is drier with just under 100cm on average.
Weather - from online weather.com
Peak District Location and maps ...
Peak District - how to get there the easy way with Midland Mainline, Virgin, Central, Transpennine Express or by National Express coach
Travel to the Peak District by coach or by train (tickets from ).
The Peak District in the past
The human history of the Peak District stretches back to the Ice Age and the nearby Creswell Crags Heritage Area in Nottinghamshire. The limestone landscape created by geological activity since before the times of the dinosaurs was a perfect place for our ancient ancestors to settle during after the last big cold snap around 12,000 years back. Settlement of the Peak District was sporadic with various caves such as those in the Manifold valley yielding evidence of people from the palaeolithic (old stone age), mesolithic (middle stone age) and neolithic (new stone age). Once we get to the bronze age, the evidence is much more obvious with Henges, most notably Arbor Low and Staden Henge. There are many stone circles in the Peak District as well as burial chambers and cairn circles. Most of these were plundered in the 19th century and many of the artefacts are found in museums such as the one at Sheffield.
Moving forward in time, the Romans arrived in the Peak District, attracted by the lead. Lead mining continued on and off right up until the 20th century, but the heyday was the 18th century when hamlets close to mines became towns to home to around 10,000 miners. The remains of the mines can be seen throughout the Derbyshire Orefield as ruined pump houses and winding shafts, the courses of flues for smelting, the entrances to adits, holes in the ground, spoil heaps with their unique flora adapted to cope with the heavy metal residues and of course the lines of bell pits pockmarking the White Peak.
In the Middle ages, the Peak District was heavily forested and was a favourite hunting ground of the nobility. In fact, the area around Castleton was a royal hunting forest. Several of the regions castles were established during these times, Peveril Castle being one of the most notable, perhaps because of its truly spectacular position.
More iconic than the mining or the hunting was the production of millstones. The rock from which they were fashioned has been called millstone grit and all along the Eastern Edges like Stanage Edge and Lawrencefield Quarry you can still see partially finished mill stones abandoned when the industry collapsed. The grinding stones were mainly supplied to the mills in and around Sheffield but also further afield. The millstone was adopted as the Symbol of the Peak District National Park.