Images of the White Peak, Derbyshire Peak District limesstone plateau.When I first visited Derbyshire in the 1960s, I was always intrigued by the White Peak signs. As a lad, I had not quite grasped that it was the collective name given to the area of the Peak District National Park that was underlain by limestone rocks!

The area takes the form of a limestone plateau, about 300m (100 feet) above sea level. The plateau is criss-crossed with dry stone walls. It is well drained and is dissected by both dry valleys and river valleys. The soils are poor and calcareous, creating grazing land for both sheep and cattle. Follow the links below for more information about the plants, animals, books, maps and geology of the White Peak.

The area of the White Peak has been comprehensively enclosed with fields of all shapes and sizes thanks to the various Enclosure Acts. Round the areas of Tideswell (pronounced ‘Tidsall’), Flagg, Chelmorton and Youlgrave, you can see long thin fields created by the enclosure of medieval strip fields. There are hundreds of miles of footpaths, bridleways and green tracks that give access to the area. If you come to the Peak District to drive off road in motor vehicles, please use the latter sensitively in order to ensure that they are not destroyed - many have already been badly damaged by trail bikes and 4x4 drivers despite the provision of alternative venues that preserve these. Recently (June 2008) where they have completely worn out part of the Roman Road that crosses Stanage edge (The Causeway), creating a huge hole, the off road drivers have now destroyed the land at the side of the road by driving round it. This is definitely not the 'soft touch' approach that is promoted by the responsible section of that fraternity. There is a also a network of dismantled railways that provide easy trails for visitors and locals to exploit, traffic free.

Derbyshire house built from limestone and decorated with gritstone.The greyish-white Limestone has been used extensively to construct walls, barns and houses and on a wet day, some of the villages can look rather grey. In some villages such as Monyash, Wormhill and Great Longstone, the builders have used the warmer colour of the gritstone around the windows and doors.

Limestone is chemically weathered. Carbon dioxide dissolves into the falling rain, creating carbonic acid. This reacts chemically with the limestone which is mainly made from the compound calcium carbonate. Thus the rock becomes eroded away. Add in the action of running water and in limestone country you will end up with caverns. The great show caverns (like the Great Masson Cavern or the Devils Arse) of the Peak District are exclusively in the limestone areas, and there are some big 'uns too! There are a host of smaller passages too, the potholes, through which the cavers squirm. Where the rivers have dissected the limestone plateau, steep sided valleys have been formed, sheltering some interesting and rare species.

In the Buxton area, the quarrying of limestone from the edges of the plateau is a major industry. Mining was a major industry during the 18th and 19th centuries with underground mines like Ecton and Millclose providing copper and lead not only for Britain but also to the rest of the world. The Peak District National Park was formed in 1951 and has roughly the shape of a right hand (fingers together, thumb spread apart) laid flat on the surface of the Earth. The part between the index finger and thumb incorporates the quarrying round Buxton, thus avoiding the conflict between conservation and destruction. In more recent times, there has been much controversy over the re-opening and extending of quarries within the Peak Park, such as Longstone Edge and Stanton Moor. Despite the protests of conservation groups and local people, who will inevitably be affected by heavier traffic, more noise and dust, the mining companies always seem to win out - I wonder why? Ah well, money talks!

The following information comes from Jonathan Avis, at the time he gave me this quote, he was the Policy Assistant at the Council for National Parks.

"The National Parks in Britain are areas of outstanding natural beauty that merit special protection. The Peak District was the first National Park to be designated in Britain, in 1951, and eleven National Parks have been designated in England and Wales since the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. National Parks were designated for two purposes: to conserve and enhance their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and to promote opportunities for the public understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities (such as beautiful landscapes, tranquillity, and rich wildlife).

The Government regards National Park designation as conferring the highest status of protection as far as landscape and scenic beauty are concerned - these are very special areas that must be protected now, and for future generations, from threats such as major developments, destructive land uses, congestion and pollution. To help achieve this, each National Park has its own National Park Authority, a public body that administers and manages the Park. The Parks are also working 'living landscapes', however, being important areas for agriculture, tourism, and other businesses - the Parks have been shaped by human use for centuries, giving them a rich cultural heritage and a wealth of historic buildings, villages and towns. This combination of natural beauty, a rich cultural heritage, diverse wildlife, and fantastic opportunities for recreation and enjoyment by the public means that National Parks continue to be Britain's most loved and most valued areas of countryside."

Still, I shouldn't complain. Several of the worked out quarries left behind rock faces of interest to Peak District climbers, local activists like Gary Gibson and ‘Sid’ Siddiqui have created large numbers of bolted climbs (thanks guys) and some have trad routes, notably Staden Quarry. Access can be a little sensitive, the quarry owners are not always sympathetic to climbing!


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