Dark Peak

 

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Alport Moor looking over to Grinah Stones

I had a day out on the high moors of the Dark Peak last Friday. The more I visit this area, the more time I want to spend here.  In large measure it is the desolation, the quietness. No paths on a map mean very few people, long windswept views and time.

Just after the trig I sat on a spot height and just looked at the landscape. Following its contours with my eyes, seeing the shapes, curves, how sensual the wind and rain have made this moor with its rises and falls, like the shape of a woman laying on her side.

Following the curves with my eyes colours started to split, it wasn’t just brown, there were greens and orange, flame reds, yellows the black oily ooze on the surface of the peat, iridescent with blues and purples. The moor is dotted now with the vivid green, almost fluorescent, shock of Sphagnum Mosses, planted to hold the water there and regenerate the peat. It really is a shocking contrast in the midst of all the earth colours. Soon white cotton grass will bud near the mosses, splashes of white, like an impressionist painting.  A double rainbow arched over Grinah stones against a deep powder blue sky, that changed with each new front of the storm, the sky shifting from blue to white to gray and then deep black.

Then the smell of the moor. The first I detected was of the peat, it was reasonably dry where I sat but the peat gave up its scent, earthy, metallic, primal. An old tree stub poked out of the peat bog grey and stark against the black peat backdrop. As I sat I became aware of another more powerful smell. Sea air, brought in off the west coast by the storm. It was heavy with sea salt and I was immediately transported back five decades to the end of the south pier at Blackpool and the smell of the green salty sea. I faced the wind and breathed deeply savouring the salty taste.

Kinderscout Grit

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Crow Stones, Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park

Last year I walked one of my favourite routes in the Dark Peak. I followed a bed of Kinderscout Gritstone for several miles, using its vertical edges to cross the landscape.

Kinderscout gritstone is interspersed with layers of shale and mudstones. These can often be seen exposed in sharply incised cloughs, where a stream has cut through the edge of the gritstone bed and revealed its many layers. Going up or down a clough can literally take you through millions of years.

In places the gritstone is 150m thick and at Crow edge both the top and bottom edges of a gritstone layer can be seen. Kinderscout  gritstone tilts both south and east as it flows down the Upper Derwent Valley from Swains and form one half of the watershed. To the north and west gritstone mixes with the coal measures of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Bleaklow Stones, Barrow Stones, are good examples of gritstone left behind through erosion. Bleaklow Stones is a particularly good example, it is as if someone just walked away from a game of marbles. The Horse Stone is similar but has weathered differently showing a the wind sanding down the softer layers to leave a pancake stack effect. In places erosion has weathered the gritstone to form precariously balanced rocking stones, some of the best place to see this is on the tors and outcrops, Crow Stones is I think the best example.

Following a geological walk gives me a very different experience of the landscape and leads to areas well off the beaten path which often reward with wonderful surprises.