Close up to the Dark Peak

There are lots of photos of views of the Dark Peak available on the web, but it occured to me that there wasn't much that gave you a feel for what the ground under your feet actually looked like. I've attempted to giva a feel for some of the landscape features and plants in the pictures that follow.

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Gritstone Drystone wall Peat and Gritstone
The Dark Peak area is underlain by Millstone Grit, a coarse quartz-rich sandstone that was laid down in a huge river delta. The softer layers within the gristone often weather out in this distinctive way. The entire Dark Peak is criss-crossed by drystone walls made of the local gritstone. The walls have no mortar, but are stay upright by virtue of the 'batter' of the walls - thicker at the base and thinner at the top, and the 'throughs' - large stones that tie together both faces of the wall, as well as the capstones at the top. The gritstone is quartz-rich, and when it has been in contact with the extremely acidic peat for a long period, it becomes bleached, etched and eroded, contrasting sharply with the peat - as shown by this small stone.
Pool Heather Cottongrass
The Dark Peak has extensive areas of raised blanket bog - the flat plateaus at the top of many of the hills have a thick cover of peat, which is punctuated with occasional small pools such as this. The predominant vegetation over much of the area is heather which is actively managed as a food source for the grouse, which in turn are hunted. During the summer the hills are cloaked with the bright purple blooms of the heather. Another important plant that grows in the Dark Peak is Cottongrass, so called because the seed heads resemble tiny tufts of cotton wool. Towards autumn the stems often turn this brilliant red colour at the base.
Cracked peat Lichen Red algae
In some places the surface of the peat is bare, and it often dries out into these polygonal cracks, which remain even when it becomes waterlogged again. Step on one of these and you may go in up to your knee! The gritstone rocks are home to many species of slow-growing lichen - this 6cm diameter example may have taken over a hundred years to reach this size. The startling orange colouration in this stream is not some sort of noxious industrial pollution, it is caused by a bloom af algae. I suspect the colour is mainly derived from the iron-rich water that is present in the stream.

Categories : Peak District