The Peak District 2009

A hint of mountains, perhaps.

The Peak District is a range of hills between the English Midlands and Northern England. It is almost encircled by the sprawling cities of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and Stoke-on-Trent.

Despite its name, it has no mountain peaks whatsoever. In fact, it only has two hills tall enough to be considered metric mountains, with a total of just three mountain summits (two are on the same hill base). The hills in the north, east and west of the park are large boggy moorlands on shale and gritstone, with occasional steep scarps, referred to as the Dark Peak. Those in the centre and south are limestone, and are referred to as the White Peak. The term High Peak is also used for the Dark Peak, as well as being an official administrative name for part of the hills and mountains in the north. However, just about everywhere wants to claim to be in the High Peak, just to seem more impressive than it is, so the name loosely covers just about anything that vaguely resembles a hill. And sometimes things that are not even hills.

The White Peak is one of the major caving areas in the UK, and displays a lot of karst scenery. Though far surpassed by other karst areas, it does have many admirable gorges and cliffs. It also has 6 show caves or mines, which is a very high number for such a small area. The mining industry has plundered this area in search of metals like lead, and decorative minerals like Blue John. Many caves were located by miners, and enlarged, backfilled, or destroyed completely, though often it is the miners who provided access to otherwise hidden systems.

The Peak District is covered by the Peak District National Park, the first national park in the UK. Considering the astounding beauty of other national parks, it may seem surprising that this was the first one, but it seems to stem from the Right To Roam movement that was at its strongest here, as well as the vulnerability of the land. Being so low-lying, most of it could easily be urbanised or converted to farmland, and what remained could be further exploited for minerals, and grazing or private hunting land. The national park intentionally avoids the larger towns like Buxton and Chapel-en-le-Frith. It receives far too many visitors, supposedly more than any other national park in the UK. The crazy A road speed limitations (slower than B roads) appear to be an attempt to reduce the number of motor-biker deaths, though since they don't generally care about speed limits anyway, it just slows down the roads for regular drivers, making it feel even more busy than it already is.