White Peak

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Typical White Peak plateau landscape, near Litton View towards Litton - geograph.org.uk - 45154.jpg
Typical White Peak plateau landscape, near Litton

The White Peak, also known as the Low Peak, is a limestone plateau that forms the central and southern part of the Peak District in England. It is mostly between 270 metres (900 ft) and 430 metres (1,400 ft) above sea-level [1] and is enclosed by the higher altitude Dark Peak (also known as the High Peak) to the west, north and east. [2]

Peak District Upland area in England

The Peak District is an upland area in England at the southern end of the Pennines. It is mostly in northern Derbyshire, but also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. An area of great diversity, it is mostly split into the Dark Peak, where most of the moorland is found and the geology is gritstone, and the limestone area of the White Peak.

Dark Peak

The Dark Peak is the higher and wilder part of the Peak District in England, mostly forming the northern Peak District but also extends south into its eastern and western margins. It is mainly in Derbyshire and parts of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.



Broadly speaking, the White Peak covers the Derbyshire and Staffordshire parts of the Peak District from the Hope Valley southwards [3] to the Weaver Hills [4] near the Churnet Valley. As defined by Natural England, the White Peak national character area covers 52,860 hectares (204 sq mi) and includes the area approximately bounded by Ashbourne, Buxton, Castleton, Matlock and Wirksworth. [5]

Derbyshire ceremonial county in East Midlands, England

Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire, containing the southern extremity of the Pennine range of hills which extend into the north of the county. The county contains part of the National Forest, and borders on Greater Manchester to the northwest, West Yorkshire to the north, South Yorkshire to the northeast, Nottinghamshire to the east, Leicestershire to the southeast, Staffordshire to the west and southwest and Cheshire also to the west. Kinder Scout, at 636 metres (2,087 ft), is the highest point in the county, whilst Trent Meadows, where the River Trent leaves Derbyshire, is its lowest point at 27 metres (89 ft). The River Derwent is the county's longest river at 66 miles (106 km), and runs roughly north to south through the county. In 2003 the Ordnance Survey placed Church Flatts Farm at Coton in the Elms as the furthest point from the sea in Great Britain.

Staffordshire County of England

Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It borders with Cheshire to the northwest, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwickshire to the southeast, West Midlands and Worcestershire to the south, and Shropshire to the west.

Hope Valley, Derbyshire valley in Derbyshire, England

The Hope Valley is a rural area centred on the village of Hope, Derbyshire in the Peak District in the northern Midlands of England.

Cressbrook Dale, one of several steep-sided valleys that cut into the limestone plateau Cressbrook Dale - geograph.org.uk - 11079.jpg
Cressbrook Dale, one of several steep-sided valleys that cut into the limestone plateau

Geology and soils

The geology of the White Peak has its origins in the Carboniferous Period, when the area was under a shallow sea that was fringed by reefs, leading to thick deposits of shelly calcareous material. Over millions of years the area rose up and subsided several times, leading to muddy, sandy and peaty deposits overlying the calcareous shells. Compression turned the deposits into rock - the shells became limestone, and the overlying deposits became gritstone, shales and coal. Further uplifting and folding raised the area into a dome, then subsequent erosion removed the younger deposits to expose the limestone. [6] [7]

Limestone is porous, so caves, limestone gorges and dry valleys are common features of the area. The soils are mostly derived from loess deposited by cold winds in the last part of the last glacial period. [8] Notable valleys in the White Peak include Dovedale, Monsal Dale, Lathkill Dale and the Manifold Valley. The area is of interest to geologists, since much of the underlying strata have been exposed by extensive quarrying, and can be seen in the old railway cuttings along the Monsal Trail through Monsal Dale and Millers Dale.

Cave Natural underground space large enough for a human to enter

A cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the weathering of rock and often extend deep underground. The word cave can also refer to much smaller openings such as sea caves, rock shelters, and grottos, though strictly speaking a cave is exogene, meaning it is deeper than its opening is wide, and a rock shelter is endogene.

Dry valley valley, that does not regularly sustain surface water flow

A dry valley may develop on many kinds of permeable rock, such as limestone and chalk, or sandy terrains that do not regularly sustain surface water flow. Such valleys do not hold surface water because it sinks into the permeable bedrock.

Loess A predominantly silt-sized clastic sediment of accumulated wind-blown dust

Loess is a clastic, predominantly silt-sized sediment that is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust. Ten percent of the Earth's land area is covered by loess or similar deposits.


The generally good quality loess soil means much of the area is agriculturally productive pasture, though hay meadows - containing species such as Rhinanthus minor (yellow rattle) and Galium verum (lady’s bedstraw)- occur in places. On steep slopes and higher points where soils are shallower and pasture improvement difficult, species-rich calcareous grassland can be found, containing species such as Orchis mascula (early purple orchid), Primula veris (cowslip) and Thymus serpyllum (wild thyme). On high ground leaching has resulted in acidic grassland - where Viola lutea (mountain pansy) and Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) occur - and, in a few places, remnants of limestone heath. [8]

<i>Rhinanthus minor</i> species of plant

Rhinanthus minor, the yellow rattle, little yellow rattle, hayrattle or cockscomb, is a flowering plant in the genus Rhinanthus in the family Orobanchaceae, native to Europe, northern North America, and Western Asia.

<i>Galium verum</i> species of plant

Galium verum is a herbaceous perennial plant of the family Rubiaceae. It is widespread across most of Europe, North Africa, and temperate Asia from Israel and Turkey to Japan and Kamchatka. It is naturalized in Tasmania, New Zealand, Canada, and the northern half of the United States. It is considered a noxious weed in some places.

Calcareous grassland an ecosystem associated with thin basic soil

Calcareous grassland is an ecosystem associated with thin basic soil, such as that on chalk and limestone downland. Plants on calcareous grassland are typically short and hardy, and include grasses and herbs such as clover. Calcareous grassland is an important habitat for insects, particularly butterflies, and is kept at a plagioclimax by grazing animals, usually sheep and sometimes cattle. Rabbits used to play a part but due to the onset of myxomatosis their numbers decreased so dramatically that they no longer have much of a grazing effect.


The largest towns in the White Peak are outside the area of the Peak District national park. These towns include Matlock and Buxton, while Bakewell and most of the villages in the park are in the White Peak area. Around the areas of Tideswell, Hartington, Flagg, Chelmorton and Youlgrave, long thin fields created by the enclosure of medieval strip fields can be seen.

National park Park used for conservation purposes of animal life and plants

A national park is a park in use for conservation purposes. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently, there is a common idea: the conservation of 'wild nature' for posterity and as a symbol of national pride.

Bakewell town and civil parish in Derbyshire Dales district, Derbyshire, England

Bakewell is a small market town and civil parish in the Derbyshire Dales district of Derbyshire, England, well known for the local confection Bakewell pudding. It is located on the River Wye, about thirteen miles (21 km) southwest of Sheffield. In the 2011 census the civil parish of Bakewell had a population of 3,949. The town is close to the tourist attractions of Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall.

Tideswell village and civil parish in Derbyshire Dales district, Derbyshire, England

Tideswell is a village and civil parish in the Peak District of Derbyshire, England. It lies 6 miles (9.7 km) east of Buxton on the B6049, in a wide valley on a limestone plateau, at an altitude of 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level, and is within the District of Derbyshire Dales. The population was 1,820 in 2001, increasing slightly to 1,827 at the 2011 Census, making it the second-largest settlement within the National Park, after Bakewell.


The region is rich in footpaths, bridleways and green tracks that give access to the area. Longer-distance routes include the Limestone Way and the Pennine Bridleway, and former railway trackbeds such as the Monsal Trail, the High Peak Trail, the Tissington Trail and the Manifold Way.

Related Research Articles

Pennines mountain range

The Pennines, also known as the Pennine Chain or Pennine Hills, are a range of mountains and hills in England separating North West England from Yorkshire and North East England.

River Wye, Derbyshire river in the Peak District of Derbyshire, England

The River Wye is a limestone river in the Peak District of Derbyshire, England. It is 15 miles (24 km) in length, and is one of the major tributaries of the River Derwent, which flows into the River Trent, and ultimately into the Humber and the North Sea.

High Peak, Derbyshire Place in England

High Peak is a borough in Derbyshire, England. Administered by High Peak Borough Council from Buxton and Glossop, it is mostly composed of high moorland plateau in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park. The district stretches from Holme Moss in the north to Sterndale Moor in the south and from Hague Bar in the west to Bamford in the east. The population of the borough taken at the 2011 Census was 90,892.

Dovedale valley in Great Britain

Dovedale is a valley in the Peak District of England. The land is owned by the National Trust, and annually attracts a million visitors. The valley was cut by the River Dove and runs for just over 3 miles (5 km) between Milldale in the north and a wooded ravine near Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill in the south. In the wooded ravine, a set of stepping stones cross the river, and there are two caves known as the Dove Holes.

Peak Rail is a preserved railway in Derbyshire, Central England, which operates a steam and heritage diesel service for tourists and visitors to both the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales.

Tissington Trail

The Tissington Trail is a bridleway, footpath and cycleway in Derbyshire, England, along part of the trackbed of the former railway line connecting Ashbourne to Buxton. It takes its name from the village of Tissington, which it skirts. Opened in 1971, and now a part of the National Cycle Network, it stretches for 13 miles (21 km) from Parsley Hay (53.1706°N 1.7828°W) in the north to Ashbourne (53.0196°N 1.7397°W) in the south.

Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway

The Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway ran from a junction with the Midland Railway at Ambergate to Rowsley north of Matlock and thence to Buxton.

Pennine Bridleway

The Pennine Bridleway is a new National Trail in Northern England.

Monsal Dale is a valley in Derbyshire, England, in the White Peak limestone area of the Peak District National Park. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) (1) and part of a Europe wide network called Natura 2000.

Millers Dale human settlement in United Kingdom

Millers Dale is a valley on the River Wye in Derbyshire.

Great Longstone village and civil parish in Derbyshire Dales district, Derbyshire, England

Great Longstone with Little Longstone is one of two villages in the local government district of Derbyshire Dales in Derbyshire, England. The population as taken at the 2011 Census was 843.

Millers Dale railway station

Millers Dale railway station was situated in Millers Dale in the Peak District. It was built in 1863 by the Midland Railway on its extension of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway from Rowsley.

Cressbrook village in United Kingdom

Cressbrook is a village in the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire. Population details at the 2011 Census are included in the civil parish of Litton. Before its Enclosure Act of 1762 Cressbrook did not exist. It later grew up around a textile mill complex built alongside the River Wye, first by Richard Arkwright and then later by his son Richard, JL Philips and Brother Cotton Spinners and McConnel and Company.

The Monsal Trail is a cycling, horse riding and walking trail in the Derbyshire Peak District. It was constructed from a section of the former Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, built by the Midland Railway in 1863 to link Manchester with London, which closed in 1968. The Monsal Trail is about 8.5 miles in length and opened in 1981. It starts at the Topley Pike junction in Wye Dale, three miles East of Buxton, and runs to Coombs Viaduct, one mile South-East of Bakewell. It follows the valley of the River Wye. The trail passes through Blackwell Mill, Millers Dale, Cressbrook, Monsal Dale, Great Longstone, Hassop and Bakewell. The trail has numerous landmarks including Headstone Viaduct, Cressbrook Mill, Litton Mill, Hassop railway station and passes through six tunnels.

Monsal Dale railway station

Monsal Dale railway station was opened in 1866 by the Midland Railway on its line from Rowsley, extending the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway.

The following are lists of recreational walks in Derbyshire, England.


  1. Christian, Roy (1976). The Peak District. David & Charles. p. 11. ISBN   0-7153-7094-4.
  2. "Accommodation in Derbyshire and the Peak National Park". Discover Derbyshire and the Peak District. Discover Derbyshire and the Peak District. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  3. "The White Peak". peakdistrictonline.co.uk. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  4. Walks in the Ancient Peak District. Robert Harris. p. 143. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  5. "NCA 52: White Peak Key Facts & Data" (PDF). Natural England. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  6. Christian, pp24-27
  7. Millward, Roy; Robinson, Adrian (1975). The Peak District. Eyre Methuen. p. 22. ISBN   0-413-31550-9.
  8. 1 2 "Peak District Landscape Character Assessment / White Peak" (PDF). Peak District National Park Authority. July 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2019.

Coordinates: 53°12′N1°48′W / 53.2°N 1.8°W / 53.2; -1.8