The Peak District National Park is the first of Britain’s 15 national parks as it was founded in 1951.
Area: 555 sq miles (1,438 sq km) in the centre of England.
It reaches into five counties: Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester. It is the most accessible national park – close to Manchester, Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham.
Resident population: 38,000.
Visitors: The Peak District National Park has 13.25 million visitors every year (STEAM, 2018) and is one of the most popular national parks in the UK. It is NOT the second-most visited national park in the world after Mount Fuji – this is an error which has been widely-repeated on the internet, but is not true.
An estimated 20 million people live within one hour’s journey of the Peak District. More than 50 million people live within four hours’ journey.
It has 1,600 miles of public rights of way (footpaths, bridleways and tracks) including 64 miles accessible to disabled people.
It has 65 miles of off-road dedicated cycling and walking trails and we own 34 miles of disused railways: High Peak Trail, Tissington Trail and Monsal Trail, with cycle-hire centres at Ashbourne, Parsley Hay, Derwent Valley and Middleton Top.
The starting point at the southern end of the Pennine Way, Britain’s oldest long-distance national walking trail, is at Edale in the Peak District National Park. Completed in 1965, it stretches 268 miles from the Nag’s Head pub in Edale to the Border Hotel, Kirk Yetholm, Scotland.
Around 520 sq km (202 sq miles) is open access land – open to walkers without having to stick to paths (more details: www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/visiting/crow).
Landscape: impressive gritstone edges (the Dark Peak); steep limestone dales (White Peak); 196 sq miles (51,000 ha) of moorland; rolling hills and farmland (south west Peak). Caverns famed for rare Blue John stone, 5,440 miles (8756 km) of dry stone wall, 55 reservoirs supplying 450million litres of water a day.
Climate: average rainfall 1025mm a year (Eng/Wales av. 985mm), sunshine 3.9 hours a day (Eng/Wales av. 4.3), average temperature 10.3ºC (Eng/Wales 10.3ºC).
The name ‘Peak’ does not relate to mountains (there are none) – it is thought to derive from the Pecsaetan, an Anglo-Saxon tribe who settled the area.
Highest point: Kinder Scout, 636 metres (2086 ft).
Tallest cave: Titan Shaft, Castleton, 141.5metres (464 ft). Taller than the London Eye, it is the largest known shaft of any cave in the British Isles, discovered Jan 1st 1999 by local cavers.
Town: Bakewell. Market town dating from medieval times, home to one of the UK’s most important agricultural markets, famous for Bakewell puddings (flaky pastry base, moist almond and jam filling, said to be invented by lucky mistake by an 18th century kitchen maid). Close to stately homes of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall.
Villages of interest include Castleton (famous for caverns, “shivering mountain” of Mam Tor, Winnats Pass, Peveril Castle), Eyam (“plague village”), Hathersage (reputed grave-site of Robin Hood’s friend Little John), Tideswell (14th century “cathedral of the Peak”), Ilam (Swiss-style architecture), Ashford-in-the-Water (classic English riverside village), Tissington (Tissington Hall & close to Tissington Trail), Great Hucklow (gliding club & Christmas lights).
Most popular leisure activities: walking, climbing (world-class climbers train here), cycling, mountain-biking, caving, angling, photography, nature-watching, gliding, visiting historic houses, country pubs and tearooms.
Main industries: tourism, quarrying, farming, manufacturing.
Nearly 90 per cent of the national park is farmland (around 1,800 farms).
Has 70 active and disused quarry sites - more than all other UK national parks put together. This is due to centuries of mineral extraction, abundance of sought-after stone and central location. Only a minority of sites are now active. Some are very large (eg: Hope Cement Works, Tunstead, Ballidon), some small to provide traditional building stone. Modern conditions require sites to be restored.
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. Most are privately-owned though often publicly-accessible.
Listed buildings: 2,900, including world-renowned Chatsworth, medieval Haddon Hall, Peveril Castle (Norman), centuries-old farm-buildings, cottages and Bakewell’s medieval bridge, crossed by traffic every day.
Conservation areas: 109 – often in the heart of a village, specially protected for its character, architecture, history and landscape.
Scheduled historic monuments: more than 450, including Nine Ladies Stone Circle (Bronze Age) on Stanton Moor, Neolithic henge at Arbor Low.
Distinctive custom: well dressing – originally a pagan ceremony to honour water gods, now a summer tradition in dozens of villages. Week by week, different villages decorate their wells or springs with natural, ephemeral pictures made of flowers, petals, seeds, twigs, nuts and berries, pressed into soft clay held in wooden frames. Well dressing weeks also include carnivals and streets decorated with bunting.
Film, TV and literary locations: Chatsworth (Pride and Prejudice), Haddon Hall (Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth, Henry VIII, Moll Flanders), Lyme Hall (Pride and Prejudice), North Lees Hall (Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Other Boleyn Girl).