The Peak District is Britain’s oldest National Park, formed in 1951. Located at the southern extremity of the Pennine range, the National Park covers an area of 555 square miles (1,440 km2) incorporating parts of Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.
The National Park is home to approximately 38,000 people and is within an hour's travel of an estimated 16 million people (a third of the UK population). Understandably the Peak District is a very popular tourist destination, receiving over 22 million visits each year (and depending upon which set of statistic's you refer to - making it the 2nd most visited National Park on earth).
However, despite the vast hordes of visitors there are plenty of opportunities to find a quiet corner far from the madding crowds...
The Peak District is essentially made up to two distinct areas; the northern Dark Peak and the southern White Peak. The Dark Peak takes its name from the high upland plateaus of Kinder and Bleaklow, wild forbidding areas characterised by black peat bogs, wind swept moorland and rough rocky outcrops and edges (escarpments). The White Peak in turn is characterised by deep green limestone dales, rounded rolling farmland, dry stone walls, babbling rivers and green woodland.
Both areas are of interest to the Summitposter, the Dark Peak contains some of the finest gritstone climbing at world famous venues such as Stanage, Burbage and Curbar, together with the heights of Kinder Scout (2088ft/636m) and Bleaklow (2077 ft/633m), whilst the depths of the Limestone dales provide excellent
sport climbing in the Wye Valley, at Stoney Middleton and other less frequented locations. The Limestone also provides hidden delights (for those of a speleological persuasion!); the subterranean caverns of the Peak/Speedwell Cavern system (which includes Titan - the deepest cave shaft in Britain), Stoney Middleton and others.
The underlying geology of the Peak District has a distinct influence on the overlying geography and ecology of the area, which is perhaps more apparent here than in many other areas of the country. (For more detail than I can possibly give, click here.)
Essentially, the whole of the district is underpinned by carboniferous Limestone, which in turn is capped by layers of Shale and Gritstone (a form of sandstone). The geographic history of the district played out by upheaval, erosion and glaciation has resulted in the overlying Gritstone remaining in place (as in the moors and edges of the Dark Peak) or the exposure of the Limestone of the White Peak, whilst in some areas the soft Shale remains on the surface (witness the shivering mountain - Mam Tor), which is prone to landslips and subsidence.
This geographical divide results in two distinct areas, as I have explained above. However the underlying geology also influences the ecology of the district with flower rich low-lying meadows and farmland predominating in the White Peak and wild, rugged moorland in the Dark Peak. The White Peak is rich in wildlife, trees, flowers, etc, whilst the Dark Peak (at first glance) appears more barren. However this could not be further from the truth.
The Dark Peak is home to many of Britain’s indigenous wild species including; Mountain Hare, Brown Hare, Rabbit, Red Deer, Slow Worm, Common Lizard, Adder, Grass Snake, Wallaby... As well as numerous resident and migrant bird species.
Whilst the Wasdale and the Lake District can rightfully claim to be the birthplace of British Mountaineering and Rock Climbing, it is the Gritstone edges of the Peak District which are the location where rock climbing came of age. The Peak District has long been a stomping ground for the lads (and lasses) of the industrial towns of Sheffield, Manchester, Derby and Nottingham, from which the rock climbing pioneers came forth. Famous names such as Joe Brown, Don Whillans, Tom Proctor, etc established many of the Gritstone test pieces, many of which still represent the standard for the grade today (albeit becoming very polished).
Any given weekend the edges on the moors above Sheffield are teeming with brightly clad rope dangling weekend warriors trying their luck and skill on any of the thousands of documented routes. Modern climbing pioneers have stretched the grades up to and beyond E10 filling in the blanks with tenuous state of the art routes such as Parthian Shot (E9 7a) and Equilibrium (E10 7a). The crags and quarried Limestone is also subject to furious assault by the bolting fraternity with innumerable sport (and traditional) routes up to (and probably beyond) The Bastard (F8c) and Hubble (F8c+).
Much more information and guidance than I can possibly distil on to one page is available on the web - try the UKClimbing website logbook for the Peak District area or the Peak District Rock Climbing website as a starting point, or for those of you who prefer paper, obtain one of the many (and I mean many) guidebooks to the area.
CampingWild camping is not permitted on the moors (mainly due to the fire risk) but there are many popular campsites located around the district. See this website for comprehensive listings.
Getting thereConveniently located between the M6, M1 and M62 motorways, the Peak District is about as easy to get to as anywhere in Britain. There are a number of "gateways" to the National Park affording the day tripper easy access to the best "honeypot" sites, such as Dove dale, the Manifold Trail, Ladybower, Chatsworth, Bakewell, Matlock, etc, etc...
But for those of you looking for an outdoor adventure it is best to set out a bit earlier, and wind you way into the hills to find the best spot.
Due to the National Parks popularity, some areas get extremely busy and it can be a nightmare to travel around on a Bank Holiday weekend...
Having said that, travel on a weekday, in Autumn, Winter or Spring (avoiding school holidays) and you can almost guarantee to have the place to yourself!
Red TapeNone - now (see below). Much of the upland area of the Peak District is now, thanks to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, open access land, affording the walker, climber, wildlife spotter and day tripper unhindered access to many of the areas our great-grandparents generation could only dream of.
See Countryside Access for details of the open access requirements.
The Kinder TrespassThe Peak District was once almost exclusively a no go area for the common man; the upland areas the preserve of the rich and well-to-do, reserved for the grouse. But on 24th April 1932 an organised mass trespass initiated by ramblers and conservationists made their way up William Clough and out on to the Kinder plateau, meeting forceful opposition from gamekeepers employed by the landowners, and highlighting the inequalities in English land law at the time. The repercussions of this wilful act are still being played out today across England (and Wales) with the introduction of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000 and the current debate on access to coastal areas.
For more information see http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,689869,00.html and
PostscriptThis page is likely to expand over time, especially as I get more of my photos digitised. Please add your photos too.
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