The Geology of the Peak District National Park
The Peak District mainly lies in Derbyshire but parts also stretch out into Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. Annually the Park plays host to an estimated 22 million visitors per year, making it the second most visited national park in the world after Japan’s Mount Fuji National Park. With it being such a large tourist destination it’s now home to a variety of repurposed country house hotels, cottages and bed and breakfasts.
The rocks making up the Peak District are almost entirely sedimentary in nature, and date from the carboniferous period 2.5 million years ago. They are mostly made up of gritstone, carboniferous limestone and coal measures. There are also a few outcroppings of igneous rock including lavas, tuffs and volcanic vent agglomerates.
The southern and central sections of the Peak District are where the majority of the limestone is found, which can be at the surface or underground. At one point it is believed that the Earth’s crust sank and that the area would have been covered by the sea. There are a number of mineral veins in the area which contain lead and have been mined as far back as Roman times. The limestone in the area is what makes a stay in one of the many country house hotels and cottages in the Peaks so popular as the landscape is simply stunning.
As well as been underwater, the Peak District has also suffered through an ice age. Evidence from glacial till and boulder clay suggest the area may have been under a glacier approximately 450,000 years ago, though it wasn’t affected by the most recent ice age approximately 20,000 years ago. The melting of the glacial ice is responsible for the many cave networks that run throughout the Park and are very popular tourist attractions.
Much of the wildlife and vegetation on the landscape is governed by the types of rock beneath the soil. Limestone is full of fissures and is soluble in water, so rivers easily carve deep and narrow valleys and sometimes underground, forming cave systems. The millstone grit in the park is insoluble, but it is porous and absorbs water which seeps through and will form a spring if it reaches the surface again. Natural springs are one of the reasons why the Peaks became popular in Victorian times with people flocking to country houses and cottages in the area to take in the waters in places such as Buxton.
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