70 reasons to celebrate Peak District National Park's milestone birthday

Trail-blazing Peak District National Park is turning 70 with a host of pandemic-proof activities online to celebrate the platinum anniversary.

By Gay Bolton
Thursday, 15th April 2021, 2:43 pm
Spectacular view of Monsal Viaduct. Photo by Ray Manley/Peak District National Park Authority.
Spectacular view of Monsal Viaduct. Photo by Ray Manley/Peak District National Park Authority.

The park reaches its three score years and ten on April 17 with birthday festivities moved to the following weekend as a mark of respect for the Royal Family who will mourn Prince Philip at his funeral on Saturday.

Here are 70 reasons to celebrate the Peak District National Park on its landmark anniversary:

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Cycling along the Monsal Trail is a popular pastime for visitors to the Peak District National Park. Photo by Daniel Wildey.

1. Twenty million people are estimated to live within an hour's journey of the park. The most accessible National Park, it is close to Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby.

2. The Peak District National Park welcomes around 13 million visitors a year.3. Visitors to the park enjoy walking, climbing, mountain biking, caving, angling, nature-watching, gliding and visiting historic houses.

4. People staying in the park help the Derbyshire tourism industry as a whole to generate more than £2.5 billion for the county’s economy.5. Public footpaths, bridleways and tracks totalling 1,600 miles include 64 miles which are accessible to disabled people.

6. Around 202 square miles are open to walkers without having to stick to paths.

Dovedale offers a tranquil destination for visitors. Photo by Ray Manley/Peak District National Park Authority.

7. There are 65 miles of off-road cycling and walking trails.

8. Following the coronavirus lockdown, the numbers of people using traffic-free trails to exercise doubled to almost 4,000 a day (nearly 230,000 visits over three months).

9. The Peak District National Park Authority owns 34 miles of disused railways: High Peak Trail, Tissington Trail and Monsal Trail.10. The Tissington Trail was opened after the park authority bought the Stanage Northlees Estate in 1971.

11. Britain’s oldest walking trail, the Pennine Way, begins in the Peak District village of Edale and stretches 268 miles to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders.12. A Trans-Pennine Trail through the Peak District connects the National Park to the Turkish border, a walk of 2,500 miles.13. The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 led to the establishment of the Rights of Way Act.14. New rights for access introduced in 2004 doubled the amount of moor and heathland open to the public – from 240 to almost 500 sq km.15. The Eastern Moors Estate came into the ownership of the National Park in 1984 when it was bought from Severn Trent to safeguard ecological and archaeological sites. It was the largest holding of land at that time.

Orchid meadow in the White Peak. Photo by Peak District National Park Authority.

16. The only population of mountain hares outside Scotland lives in the Peak park.

17. A threatened species of bird, the ring ouzel, is protected by the Peak District community partnerships.18. Nature highlights include red deer, water voles, orchids, birds of prey.

19. Peak District peat bogs are home to birds, thousands of rare insect species and a host of unusual plants. More than 94% of the UK's peat bogs have been damaged or destroyed and they are greater risk than tropical rainforest.

20. The peat bogs are a carbon reservoir that lock in CO² and help to combat global warming.

Visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the countryside from Curbar Edge.

21. Three-quarters of the world's heather moorland is in the UK with a large proportion in the Peak park.22. More than a third of the national park (35%) is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where important plants, wildlife and geological formations should be conserved.23. Nine hundred volunteers support the work of full-time employees in the park.

24. The park covers 555 square miles which is equivalent to the size of Greater London.

25. Around 38,000 people have made their home in the park which stretches into the counties of Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester.26. The market town of Bakewell is home to one of the UK’s most important agricultural markets. Bakewell puddings, said to be invented by a lucky mistake in the 18th century , are a popular draw for visitors.27. Villages include Castleton (famous for caverns, “shivering mountain” of Mam Tor, Winnats Pass, Peveril Castle), Eyam (“plague

village”), Hathersage (where Robin Hood’s sidekick Little John is believed to be buried) and Tideswell (14th century cathedral of the Peak).28. There are 109 conservation areas, often in villages, to protect character, architecture, history and landscape.

29. Tourism, quarrying, farming and manufacturing are the main industries in the park.30. The Peak District was first farmed for sheep, cattle and crops 6,000 years ago.

31. Dry stone walls stretch to 26,000 miles in the park which is the equivalent of a wall around the Earth.

Bridge over the River Wye in Ashford in the Water. Photo by Peak District National Park Authority

32. The Peak Park has 70 active and disused quarry sites - more than all other UK national parks put together.33. There are 2,900 listed buildings, including Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, Peveril Castle and Bakewell’s medival bridge.

34. Among the 450 scheduled monuments are the Bronze Age's Nine Ladies Stone Circle and Neolithic henge at Arbor Low.

35. Titan Shaft cave at Castleton is taller than the London Eye and has the largest shaft of any cave in the British isles. The shaft was discovered by local cavers on January 1, 1999.

36. Kinder Scout is the highest point in the park at 2,086ft (637 metres).37. Seven rivers, of which the Derwent is the longest, flow through the Peak District.38. In the 17th century, author Charles Cotton described the River Lathkill as “the purest and most transparent stream I ever yet saw, either home or abroad”.

39. The National Park’s rivers provided power for the world’s first factories including cotton mills at Calver, Cressbrook, Litton and Lumford in the 18th century.

40. Peak reservoirs supply 450 million litres of water to towns and cities.41. There are three main reservoirs in the National Park – Derwent, Howden and Ladybower.42. The dams were constructed by skilled workers who were housed in a specially built village called Tin Town, traces of which can still be seen.

43. From the Victorian period, the Peak District was a source of fresh, clean water for Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester44. The Peak District has some of the purest natural mineral water in the world.45. The mineral water travels through hundreds of metres of porous rock and some that appears today fell as rain up to 5,000 years ago.46. In the 18th century, the National Park’s rivers provided power for the world’s first factories including cotton mills at Calver, Cressbrook, Litton and Lumford.47. Sir Richard Arkwright – a key figure in the Industrial Revolution – built a home in the style of a castle at Cressbrook.48. Peveril Castle in Castleton is one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses, built by Henry II in 1176.49. In 1810 Peak District residents put up an obelisk on Birchen Edge near Baslow as a memorial to the Battle of Trafalgar, stealing a march on London’s Nelson’s Column.50. The lead for Vermeer’s painting of The Girl with the Pearl Earring came from the Peak District.51. More than 70 villages dress their wells with pictures made from petals and seeds every year.52. Tissington holds the honour as the world’s earliest example of well dressing art, recorded in 1349.

53. The RAF’s 617 squadron trained over Derwent and Howden reservoirs as they prepared to unleash Barnes Wallace’s bouncing bomb on Germany’s dams during the Second World War.

54. A TV series of Pride and Prejudice was filmed in the park in 1995.55. Locations for the shooting of feature films include Chatsworth House (Pride and Prejudice), Haddon Hall (Jane Eyre) and North Lees Hall (The Other Boleyn Girl).56. Legendary authors such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and William Wordsworth have been inspired by the park’s treasures.

57. Modern-day crime novelist Stephen Booth chose the Dark and White Peaks as the setting for his books.

58. Millions of years ago the Peak District was a tropical lagoon. Fossils of sea creatures can still be seen today.59. Blue John stone, found in Blue John and Treak Cliff caverns, is made into jewellery and ornaments.

60. The Blue John cavern is also famous for its stalagmites and stalagtites.

61. Gritstone edges (Dark Peak) and steep limestone dales (White Peak) are features of the park.

62. The millstone is the emblem of the Peak District National Park and features on its boundary marks on key gateway routes.

63. Millstones can be traced to before the Norman Conquest in 1066.64. The millstone was shaped like a mushroom, possibly in medieval times, while the cylinder shape was produced in the 18th and 19th centuries.65. Abandoned millstones can be seen at Millstone Edge near Hathersage.66. The Peak District National Park’s Ranger Service was set up in 1954 and the first ranger was Tom Tomlinson.67. A serious moorland blaze saw the formation of The Fire Operations Group in 1996, comprising fire services, National Park rangers and wardens, water companies, landowners and gamekeepers.68. The Peak District National Park has more rainfall and less sunshine than the average for England and Wales.69. While the name Peak is apt for the uplands of the park it is believed to come from the Anglo Saxon tribe Pecsaetan which settled in the area.70. Launched in 1951, the Peak District National Park paved the way for the Lake District, Snowdonia and Dartmoor to be designated National Parks in the same year.

Mam Nic road.
Howden Dam in the Upper Derwent Valley. Photo by Ray Manley/Peak District National Park Authority