Dramatic character created by sharply defined, elevated
and vast plateaux with 'gritstone ridges' and edges
and long uninterrupted views.
Wild and remote semi-natural character created
by blanket bog, dwarf shrub heath and heather moorland
with rough grazing and a lack of habitation.
Contrasting valley heads created by combination
of sheltered, deeply-incised cloughs with fast-flowing
streams around margins of plateaux and greater diversity
of vegetation including semi-natural broadleaved
Cultivated character of margins created by
in-bye with dispersed farmsteads, gritstone wall
boundaries and hedgerows in valley bottoms and small
scale of enclosure.
Major valleys some of which are dominated
by coniferous woodland and reservoirs.
Durable and stocky architectural style to
dispersed buildings and settlements constructed
from local gritstone with typical blackened appearance.
Dark Peak is an extensive area of high moorland
and adjacent in-bye land within the Pennines comprising
a large part of the Peak District National Park.
The area lies between the population centres of
Manchester, Huddersfield and Sheffield and extends
south towards Matlock. It is a highly valued environmental
resource and is heavily used for recreation. Much
of the area is designated as open access land and
the Pennine Way starts in Edale village and rises
to cross the Dark Peak on its way north.
This expansive upland area is one of the most extensive
semi-natural wilderness areas in England. Altitude
and exposure are reflected in the land use and vegetation
patterns with grouse shooting and sheep grazing
dominating the wild, semi-natural open moors, known
as 'gaits'. Dairy farming with some beef cattle
is typical in the sheltered valleys around the margins
to the plateaux.
The environmental value of the area lies in the
contrast between the extensive tracts of wild moorland
and the small-scale domesticated farmland within
the enclosed in-bye land around the margins. Further
contributions to the character are made by the large-scale
man-made reservoirs, with wide areas of coniferous
planting as can be found in the Upper Derwent and
Upper Longdendale valleys, and the consistent stock
of traditional farm buildings and dry stone walls
constructed from local 'gritstone'.
High altitude together with the broadly rolling
plateau topography enables long open views of the
surrounding lower landscapes.
name Dark Peak refers to the underlying geology
of Millstone Grit sandstones ('gritstone') which
give the landscape a dark hue, in contrast to the
adjoining White Peak. It contains the 'High Peak'
with the great mass of Kinder Scout rising to 636
It comprises wild, open, elevated plateaux of broadly
rolling terrain and steep slopes punctuated by 'gritstone'
edges and rocky tors. The plateau tops are heavily
dissected by drainage channels in the peat (groughs).
The blanket bog gives a slightly domed shape to
the landform in places.
The Millstone Grit consists of hard 'gritstone'
beds with softer shales between. 'Gritstone' outcrops
punctuate the extensive rolling moorland tops creating
rocky tors. Vertical cliff-like faces of 'gritstones',
known as edges, also occur. These can be up to 20
metres high and on the eastern side run for some
19 kilometres along the Derwent-Stanage Edge. The
craggy outcrops heighten the wild character of the
open moorland areas and increase the sense of exposure.
Steep rocky 'cloughs' (small V-shaped valleys) lie
within the rounded shoulders of the plateaux. Where
rock falls, scree and crags lie within these valleys,
this brings the wild moorland character over the
edge of the upland plateaux.
Several of the broader valleys have been flooded
to form reservoirs, the most notable being those
in the Upper Derwent, Upper Longdendale and at Ladybower.
Within these valleys, the landform provides a strong
sense of containment. Elsewhere on the plateaux
the frequent and distinctive ridge formations provide
opportunities for long views across and out of the
and Cultural Influences
archaeological importance of the area dates from
prehistoric times with Mesolithic remains found
beneath the high blanket bog. Neolithic and Bronze
Age remains occur on the moors to the east of the
area. There is evidence here for considerable activity
in prehistoric times. Although little remains to
indicate settlement sites there is extensive evidence
of burial activity in the form of barrows, which
are clustered on high ground, and possibly place
name evidence (eg low - a tumulus or hill). The
Domesday Book describes a sparsely populated and
economically backward area. The present farming
landscape has developed over at least the last millennium.
Roads and tracks are infrequent and direct, tending
to follow straight lines across the plateau tops
and some were former Roman roads or packhorse routes.
The open heather moorland areas have traditionally
been managed for grouse shooting since the early
19th century in addition to sheep grazing. Shooting
rights on the grouse moors are held separately from
grazing rights although management of the heather
involves all tenants. Management, involving periodic
burning and regular grazing, has produced the characteristic
land cover and appearance of these moorland areas.
highest land of the plateaux is remote, devoid of
buildings and man-made structures. Farmsteads are
scattered around the more sheltered and lower margins
of the plateaux associated with the moorland edge
or with small areas of enclosed in-bye land. Traditional
buildings are built and detailed in local 'gritstone',
often solitary or in a compact cluster. Settlements
are mostly villages and restricted to lower-lying
valley bottoms and sides. New Mills is one of the
larger settlements on the western fringe. The vernacular
style is robust with a low profile and often set
into or against the landform. Large man-made structures
tend to be incongruous and highly visible in this
open landscape. Grouse shooting butts, constructed
from peat, are low-key, small-scale structures which
are sympathetic to the landscape.
Dry 'gritstone' walls are the only traditional form
of field enclosure. Enclosures are generally regular
in shape on flatter lower margins and larger in
scale towards higher ground. Small-scale often older
enclosures are associated with the in-bye of isolated
farmsteads. Fences are not typical and interrupt
the sweeping horizontal lines of the landform.
The substantial engineering works associated with
reservoirs, such as dams, bridges and buildings
are unmistakable for their robust construction and
consistent water authority detailing.
land cover is homogeneous expanses of unenclosed
heather and grass moorland on the rolling upland
plateaux, with meadow and pasture on the lower in-bye
land. Areas of semi-natural broadleaved tree cover
exist in sheltered cloughs and gullies. Extensive
conifer planting has generally occurred in those
major valleys associated with water catchment reservoirs.
The distinction between these land covers has become
less obvious in recent years with moorland vegetation
and rough grassland spreading into previously enclosed
in-bye land creating a gradation of intensity of
use down the slopes. Grassland management has been
intensified on the lower accessible land and reduced
towards the moor.
The combination of moor and low intensity grassland
is of value both visually and for birds. Heather
is important as the preferred nesting site and a
major source of food for a number of rare birds.
Although much of the area is thought to have been
originally under broadleaved woodland, today even
individual trees are rare on the plateaux. Occasionally,
small windswept groups of sycamore, beech or oak
are associated with isolated farmsteads. Silver
birch is found in some of the lower areas.
The area includes extensive tracts of cultivated
land to the south together with parkland landscapes
associated with historic houses such as Chatsworth.
The boundary between moorland and in-bye land has
fluctuated over time according to the economic fortunes
of farming. This continual change around the margins
is important and should not be fossilised at any
Traditional farm buildings are becoming redundant
because of changing farming practices leading to
demands for modern buildings accessible by machinery
and capable of housing more stock.
An increase in intensity of farm production
has brought about a decline of wet rushy pastures,
herb-rich hay meadows, rough pasture and in-bye
land. Also, increased stocking on some moorland
(mostly prior to the ESA) has led to conversion
from heather to grass moor.
Access roads and tracks have been provided
to assist grouse moorland and woodland management
creating visually prominent detractors in wild areas.
Increased recreational access by walkers,
cyclists, horse riding and four-wheel drive vehicles
causing erosion of paths and tracks.
Loss of heather and dwarf shrub species due
to wild fire which can result in erosion and/or
replacement by species-poor short grasses.
Loss of tranquillity in the wild areas due
to increased recreational use.
Flagstone restoration of heavily used paths.
Grazing and stock sheltering in clough woodlands
is leading to their long-term decline and loss.
Increase in housing demand on fringes is
leading to loss of pasture and woodland.
Sympathetic forestry management is important in
Managing recreational access would help to
ensure recovery of heavily eroded paths and tracks
and the sustainable use of all routes.
The restoration of stone walls needs to be
The conservation of herb-rich hay meadows
and wet rushy pastures through appropriate management
measures needs to be considered.
There is scope for improved moorland management
and restoration, including bracken control.
Stock exclusion would assist the management
(1994), North Peak Environmentally Sensitive Area,
Landscape Assessment, ADAS.
Millward. R and Robinson. A (1975), The Peak District,
Eyre Methuen, London.
Peak National Park (1989), Peak National Park Plan
- First Review.
Smith. R (1987), The Peak National Park, Webb and
Trueman. A E (1972), Geology and Scenery in England
and Wales, Penguin Books Ltd, Middlesex.
Whittow. J (1992), Geology and Scenery in Britain,
Chapman and Hall, London.
cloughs: ravines; steep valleys
in-bye: enclosed land below the open fell, often
surrounding farm buildings