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The Peak District National Park

Located in the heart of England, Derbyshire's Peak District National Park encompasses the southern tip of the Pennine Hills, between Sheffield and Manchester. Established in 1951, it was the first area of natural beauty in Britain to be granted National Park status, and is popular for its unique landscapes, wildlife, and cultural heritage. In the centre of the Park is the beautiful White Peak, with its deep limestone dales and undulating fields. To the north, east and west is the dramatic Dark Peak - peat moor lands cut across by edges of precipitous millstone grit, where heather and bracken predominate. One third of the British population lives within an hour of the Peak District National Park, and covering approximately 1,438 sq km (555 sq miles), incorporates parts of some six counties.

Ancient stone circles, hill forts and medieval castles are but a few of the features that entice millions of visitors and holiday makers to explore the Peak District every year, and with the area boasting of the most extensive public transport network of any other National Park, it offers a chance to visit the countryside 'without having to worry about taking the car'.

The towns, villages and stately homes situated within the boundaries of the Park are rich in custom and local legends, and throughout the summer months there are many Well Dressing festivals held by the local residents. Many villages within the Derbyshire Peaks have their own unique customs; for example, the football match played through the streets of Ashbourne, the Garland Ceremony at Castleton and the Longnor races. Entertaining as many of these customs may be, few areas in Britain can compare with the Peak District when it comes to the wealth of plants, birds and animals, many species of which are of international importance. Because of the Parks natural location on the very edge of highlands and lowlands, species of wildlife, flora and fauna from both climates may be found. In some areas of the Peaks, rare species of plants such as Jacob's Ladder, Alpine Pennycross and Mountain Pansy have been found, and are undergoing a strict supervised conservation programme.

The wild bogs of the Dark Peak present a vivid contrast with the vibrant purple heather moors and fragrant hay meadows. As well as the breath-taking landscapes, natural woodlands create a special environment, and support many important wildlife habitats, such as that of the Curlew, Ring Ouzel, Short-eared Owl, the Merlin, Badgers, weasels, and the distinctive white-coated Mountain Hare.

"These are just a few of the special plants, birds and animals that can be seen in the Peak District. Worryingly, the area's wildlife faces many pressures from agricultural policies that put food production before conservation, from visitors who don't stop to think about the damage they may be causing and, not least, from the changes we are beginning to see because of global warming."Comment from the National Parks Commission


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