70 facts for 70 years of the Peak District National Park

It's 70 years on 17 April since the Peak District became the UK’s first National Park.

This meant the natural landscape and history would be protected for the benefit of everyone.

A stunning part of the world we're lucky enough to have in our region, and however much you know and love it, you might learn something new below.

1. There are 15 national parks across the UK.

2. Three other national parks will also celebrate their 70th anniversaries this year; the Lake District (May 9), Snowdonia (October 18), and Dartmoor (October 30), but the Peak District was the first by being created in the April.

3. 38,000 people live in the Peak District.

4. There are normally 13 million visitors a year.

5. Following the coronavirus lockdown, the numbers of people using the trails doubled to almost 4,000 a day - that's nearly 230,000 visits over three months.

6. The Peak District covers 555 square miles (1,438 square kilometres) - that's around the size of Greater London.

Curbar Edge Credit: PA

7. Nearly 90% of the national park is farmland, with around 1,800 farms.

8. More than a third of the national park is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where important plants, wildlife and geology should be protected.

9. It's spread over Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

10. Around 20 million people live within an hour’s drive. 

11. 50 million people live within four hours’ journey.

12. People have lived in the Peaks for 10,000 years.

13. The Peak District is divided into three areas; the Dark Peak, White Peak and South West Peak.

Credit: PA

14. It has 1,600 miles of public rights of way - these are footpaths, bridleways and tracks.

15. There are 64 miles which are accessible to disabled people.

16. It has 65 miles of off-road cycling and walking trails.

17. It has 34 miles of disused railways, like the Tissington Trail.

18. Britain’s oldest long-distance national walking trail, the Pennine Way, starts at Edale in the National Park.

19. The Pennine Way was completed in 1965 and stretches 268 miles from the Nag’s Head pub in Edale to the Border Hotel, Kirk Yetholm, Scotland.

20. Around 520 square km (202 square miles) of the Peak District is open access land which means it is open to walkers who don't have to walk just on paths.

21. It has 1,600 miles of public rights of way (footpaths, bridleways and tracks).

22. There are 196 square miles (51,000 hectares) of moorland.

23. There are 5,440 miles (8756 km) of dry stone wall.

Credit: PA

24. There are 55 reservoirs in the Peak District, which supply 450 million litres of water a day.

25. The highest point is Kinder Scout, which is 636 metres (2086 ft).

Kinder Scout

26. The tallest cave is Titan Shaft, in Castleton, at 141.5 metres (464 ft). It is taller than the London Eye, and is the largest known shaft in the British Isles. It was discovered on Jan 1st 1999.

The London Eye Credit: PA

27. Hathersage is said to feature in the novels of Charlotte Bronte.

28. The town of Bakewell is famous for Bakewell puddings. They have a flaky pastry base, moist almond and jam filling, and are said to have been invented by lucky mistake by an 18th century kitchen maid.

23. Chatsworth House is one of 2,900 listed buildings in the Peak District, along with medieval Haddon Hall, Peveril Castle, which is Norman, and Bakewell’s medieval bridge.

Chatsworth House Credit: PA

24. Castleton, a village in the Hope Valley, is known for its caverns. Blue John cavern contain beautiful caves decorated with stalactites formations, and blue john stone. 

25. Mam Tor, which means Mother Hill, is also known as the 'Shivering Mountain' because of the frequency of landslips as shale slips off its surface.

Paragliders over Mam Tor Credit: PA

26. Eyam became famous during the Black Death, when the villagers decided to isolate themselves from surrounding communities.

27. During the Matlock Illuminations a parade of illuminated and decorated boats sail down the River Derwent.

Credit: PA

28. Tideswell's Church of St John the Baptist is known as the "Cathedral of the Peak".

29. Ilam, on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border, has Alpine style cottages.

30. The main industries in the Peak District are tourism, quarrying, farming, manufacturing.

31. The Peak District has 70 active and disused quarry sites - more than all other UK national parks put together.

32. There are more than 450 historic monuments, including a Bronze Age Stone Circle on Stanton Moor, and a Neolithic henge at Arbor Low.

33. The Peak District is famous for well dressing.

Credit: PA

34. It was originally a pagan ceremony to honour water gods, and is now a summer tradition.

35. People decorate their village wells or springs with flowers, and there are also carnivals during the well dressing weeks.

36. The Peak District has appeared in films like Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and The Other Boleyn Girl.

37. The first memorial to the Battle of Trafalgar was an obelisk on Birchen Edge near Baslow - not the famous Nelson's Column in London.

Credit: PA

38. Three rocks close by - which people say look like ships’ prows - are inscribed with the names Victory, Defiant and Soverin.

39. The lead for white paint in Vermeer’s painting of Girl with a Pearl Earring came from the Peak District.

Credit: PA

40. Millions of years ago the Peak District was a tropical lagoon.

41. The fossils of tiny sea creatures can still be seen.

42. The Peak District was first farmed for sheep, cattle and crops 6,000 years ago.

43. Peveril Castle in Castleton is one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses. The stone keep was built by Henry II in 1176.

44. In the late 1800s, campaigns began calling for public access to the countryside and in 1932, there was a mass trespass on Kinder Scout - where people called for the right to walk on open land.

45. This was the start of the ‘right to roam’ movement.

46. In 1945, a man called John Dower produced a report on how national parks could work in England and Wales. It led to the National Parks Act of 1949 and the parks we have today, which are open to all.

47. Pauline Dower, his wife, was a member of the National Parks Commission for 16 years, and oversaw creation of the first ten national parks

48. Michael Dower, their son, and a former National Parks Officer himself, explains that the development of National Parks was part of post-war rebuilding.

49. The millstone is the emblem of the Peak District National Park.

50. The first reference to millstone production in Derbyshire is as early as the 13th century.

51. Millstones have changed in shape through the centuries, from conical to cylinder.

52. They're used to grind corn, sharpen tools and crush timber.

53. Today they are used at the side of roads to mark entrances to the Park.

Credit: PA

54. Since 1976 there have been over 350 reported wildfires in the Peaks. The majority are started by arson, discarded cigarettes, barbecues and campfires.

55. A poet and recording artist is creating a series of audio artworks to celebrate the 70th anniversary.

56. Last year as Covid-19 restrictions eased the Peak District was forced to introduce 'extreme litter picking' where trained rangers clear litter from hard to reach places like in rock formations and caves.

The waste left behind by campers Credit: National Trust

57. Barbecues and open fires are banned in all open countryside in the Peaks.

58. In 2020, Peregrine falcons had their best year in a decade, with 14 young.

59. Over the last two years, the number of goshawks successfully breeding in the Dark Peak has also increased.

60. The name ‘Peak’ does not relate to mountains - it is thought to derive from the Pecsaetan, an Anglo-Saxon tribe who settled the area.

61. Folk Artist Sue Prince documented the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 by posting her artwork, created in the Peak District, on social media.

62. The Peak District moorland is made up of peat, a heavy, rich soil.

63. Peat is formed when plants decay slowly in waterlogged conditions.

64. Special plants grow in peat which help direct water, take in carbon dioxide, and provide habitats for wildlife.

65. More than 94% of the UK’s peat bogs have been damaged or destroyed – they are at greater risk than tropical rainforest.

66. Royal Mail has produced stamps to mark the 70th anniversary of the National Parks.

Credit: PA

67. The Peak District Boundary Walk is 188 miles and circles the entire Peak District National Park.

68. Seven rivers flow through the Peak District. The longest is the River Derwent. Others are the Bradford, Dove, Lathkill, Manifold, Trent and Wye.

69. The Peak District has the only UK population of mountain hares outside the Scottish highlands.

70. There are four visitor centres in the Peak District, if you fancy finding out more as they reopen to welcome visitors.

With thanks to the Peak District National Park and the National Trust

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