DERBYSHIRE and PEAK DISTRICT HERITAGE
Derbyshire Heritage is an ongoing project to collate information about many natural places of special interest in DERBYSHIRE and the PEAK DISTRICT the first National Park. It is a mixture of literature (see bibliography) and ‘on the ground’ information.
There are a vast number of Derbyshire Heritage and Peak District Heritage sites – prehistoric, ancient and relatively modern – sometimes curious or unusual – which can give an insight into Derbyshire heritage and history .
All of the locations mentioned on the Derbyshire Heritage website are accessible with varying degrees of walking difficulty but most are easy to moderate. A few sites are just outside the Derbyshire or Peak District boundary but are worth mentioning.
Located virtually in the centre of England, Derbyshire is 55 miles long north to south and 35 miles wide east to west with a total area of about 650,000 acres or just over 1,000 square miles. Derbyshire is home to the first National Park – the Peak District, established in 1951. The Peak District covers over 500 square miles and is divided basically into two areas – the Dark Peak (which rises to 2,088 feet at Kinder Scout) and the White Peak (or north Peak District and south Peak District) which are distinctly different landscapes due to their geology. Over millions of years geological differences created the scenery and landscapes seen today, making Derbyshire a County of great diversity and impressive contrasts from gritstone crags and moors to limestone dales and the fertile valleys of the Derwent, Dove and Trent rivers.
After the Ice Age Derbyshire population levels increased and archaeology provides evidence of ancient Neolithic and Bronze age occupation. This is still visible today as many stone circles, cairns and the ‘Stonehenge of the North’, Arbor Low can still be seen.
Derbyshire is rich in natural resources with extensive deposits of limestone, marble, gritstone, lead and coal.
The South Pennine ore field consists of deposits containing fluorite, barytes, calcite and galena and many other minor minerals.
White Peak limestone was formed in the Carboniferous period 350 million years ago when Derbyshire was located close to the equator and there were lagoons and coral reefs. It is composed of the fossilised remains of dead sea organisms such as corals, brachiopods, and crinoids which accumulated as sediment, either on the lagoon bottom to create bedded layers or combining with coral to form un-bedded reef limestone. Fossils from this can be seen in many places in Derbyshire. Limestone can be dissolved in slightly acidic rainwater which makes it very porous and over thousands of years this has resulted in the formation of underground passages, caves and caverns.
Derbyshire gritstone was formed when river borne sands and gravels deposited in deltas at the top of Carboniferous limestone and unlike limestone is impervious to water. Thus gritstone areas are characterised by areas of badly drained peat moors with drainage channels known as groughs and in places gritstone has been weather eroded into tors which were left after the erosion of softer gritstone.
Coal measures were also laid down during the Carboniferous period and formed from tropical forest swamps.
The Romans controlled Derbyshire for a period when they built forts such as Navio and were involved with lead mining.
Derbyshire played a large role in the Industrial Revolution as Cromford was where Richard Arkwright built his cotton mill in 1771. Other mills powered by the rivers and streams of Derbyshire processed cotton, silk, wool, timber and bone.
Derbyshire is an an ideal location for outdoor leisure activities – for the rambler there are many miles of Derbyshire walks with footpaths ranging from gentle walks in limestone dales to strenuous rambling over gritstone moorland. For the more energetic there are many classic rock climbing challenges.
Magnificent stately homes and National Trust properties in Derbyshire include Chatsworth (the Palace of the Peak), Haddon Hall, Hardwick Hall (of Bess of Hardwick fame).
Although the site attempts to hold up to date information this is not always absolutely possible.