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The Peak District-England’s First National Park

Some of the most beautiful countryside is located in The Peak District, England’s first national park. If you like to hike, are into photography, desire to experience village life in England, or just walk through the most gorgeous gardens in all of Europe, The Peak District is the place to be.

[00:36] English National Parks

[02:16] Peak District-Land of the Shires

  • Derbyshire
  • Yorkshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Cheshire
  • History

[05:30] Peak District Topography

  • Dark peak – Kinder Scout, Mam Tor
  • White peak
  • Southwest peak

[07:46] Where to stay in the Peak District

  • Camp
  • Stay in a village – Bakewell, Castleton
  • Stay in a larger city – Sheffield, Chesterfield, Manchester, Liverpool

[09:45] Blue John Caverns

[11:37] Chatsworth

  • Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
  • Gardens

[14:35] Must see list for The Peak District

  • Castleton
  • Peveril Castle
  • Heights of Abraham

Dream. Learn. Plan. Prepare. Go to Guidester/Virtual-Vacation

Season 1: Episode 8

#travel #Europe #vacation #traveleurope #England #PeakDistrict #NationalPark #Chatsworth #Bluejohn #mineral #savagegarden #heightsofabraham #prideandprejudice #Ashfordinthewater #Castleton #Bakewell #bakewelltart #bluejohncavern #Derby #Sheffield #PeverilCastle #LymePark #photography

Transcript
Arnold:

You want a slice of rural England? We're going to talk about that. What does Pride and Prejudice have to do with the Peak District? Discover what mineral is found only in the Peak District of England. Where should you stay when you go to the Peak District? You'll get the answers to these and more questions in this episode. Travel to Europe is off limits for the time being, but we can still keep the flame of wanderlust alive through the Virtual Vacation with Guidester, the weekly podcast, where host Jack Baumann, founder of Guidester and travel enthusiast, Arnold Stricker, dive into new destinations, exploring their unique history, culture and special vibe. Now let's join our host, the Guidester himself, Jack Baumann. In the United States we have a lot of national parks. As I think about England, do they have the same kind of national parks that we have over here? Are people allowed to go to them? Do they charge to get in them?

Jack:

Britain has 15 national parks, so their national parks are similar to ours. A lot of them are free to use just like ours, some of ours have fees to use, but to my knowledge, they don't. The one that comes to mind right off the bat is the Peak District National Park. That's the one I definitely want to delve into today. The Peak District, not to be confused with the Lake District, which is the probably the most famous national park in Britain, or at least certainly one of them.

Arnold:

So they call their parks districts?

Jack:

No just the Peak District and the Lake District; I guess they probably call it a district because these are big and they encompass a lot of areas. There's actually towns and villages in these areas. Yellowstone doesn't really have a city or town you have some little buildings and things for amenities Peak District and Lake District you have living, breathing towns that have been there for centuries and centuries. But those are the only two districts that I know. Other parks like Cairngorms in Scotland, it is called Cairngorms. The South Downs is another one in the south of England. So I dunno these two just have the designation of the district, but it probably has to do with their diversity, their size. The Lake District and the Peak District really are two of the bigger ones and the Lake District is the more famous one. That's the one that William Wordsworth, famous English poet got a lot of his inspiration from. The Peak District was actually Britain's first national park designated in 1951.

Arnold:

Let's get some location here. I think most people know where London's located. Where is it in relationship to London?

Jack:

So it's North of London, about three hours. The Peak District is in several counties: Derbyshire, Yorkshire; and I'm putting on my English accent here, so Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and Cheshire, most of the Peak District is in Derbyshire. But there's quite a bit in Yorkshire and a little bit in these other counties. It's 555 square miles in size so depending on where you're coming from London, it'll take you three to four hours, three hours to get to the Southern part; four plus to get you to the Northern part. It's an expansive area, just outstanding beauty, breathtaking views, bustling market towns, quaint villages, giant historic houses. It is reachable from London.

Arnold:

So was this something that the crown formed or was this something parliament put together or how did this come about? In the United States we have national parks are a designation by Congress. How do they go about doing this in England?

Jack:

It's similar. So it was a designated by the government in 1951, it was really born out of a need for more green space for those living in the cities. The 20th century saw growing appreciation of the outdoors and the benefits of physical exercise. This also is tied to World War I too. You've got the aristocracy with these thousands of acre estates, just dominating these entire areas and then you've got the blue collar workers that just went off to fought a war. They fought a war, they came back and they're stuffed back into these cities. The three cities that encompass or surround rather the Peak District are Liverpool, Sheffield and Darby. Manchester's in there as well, but you had these three big cities that surround the Peak District, which really at that point was totally owned by the aristocracy.

Arnold:

So is that a coal area?

Jack:

Yeah, there is a mining in this area, but really it's an area of outstanding natural beauty. So these are large estates owned by landed gentry and they had livestock. They really just had thousands of acres that they would farm that they would till. There is some industry in the area, but really it was just like Chatsworth, is very famous home of pride and prejudice. We'll have to get into that later, but that's a cool one. This is thousands of acres, tens of thousands of acres owned by one family, the Cavendish family.

Arnold:

Wow.

Jack:

How much land does one person need and so really this goes back to the days of yore when the aristocracy in England was very powerful. So in the turn of the century, the people and these blue collar workers in these cities were looking at this land and they just thought it was wrong and they petitioned. This really started in the turn of the century culminated in the 1920s but then eventually got to 1950s and that's when they made the determination okay, we're going to make this area national park. But what these blue collar workers did is they just started walking on to the land. There's an episode that spanned years where these, in Sheffield in Darby, these big cities that are right on the edges of now the national park, then it was just these estates. They just said, we're just going to go and start walking onto this land by the thousands. And there's not much the aristocracy was able to do. And there was pushback. I'm quite sure people were arrested, probably beat. But eventually the crown and the government kind of relented, relented. Exactly. And they designated this area as the first national park in Britain.

Arnold:

That's an interesting way to get a national park.

Jack:

I know it just going to start walking onto the land..

Arnold:

Yeah. Maybe the animals in Yosemite out there need to do the same thing.

Jack:

Exactly. Take a page from England. I find that a fascinating story.

Arnold:

So the topography you mentioned, it's very beautiful and the lay of the land is picturesque. Give us a little bit more, a description about that. What are we looking at when we're driving to the park?

Jack:

That's a good question. So it's, well-known for its Gritstone plateaus, heather moorlands, it's rock outcrops; the landscape's wild and remote and includes wooded areas as well as a lot of small villages and towns, big stately homes, as we discussed, it's mostly natural beauty. So there's a lot of rolling hills and the wooded areas and the small villages. There's three main landscapes that it's broken up into. So you have the dark peak, the white peak and the Southwest peak. The dark peak is composed of more rugged landscapes ideal territory for visitors looking for challenging walks and hikes. This is where you'll get Kinder Scout, the largest peak in the Peak District at about 2000 feet. Mam Tor, which is unbelievable. The views from the top of Mam Tor are spectacular. The white peak is characterized more by limestone dales, meadows, pastures, stonewalls, and a little bit more diversity in the habitat. Then the Southwest peak is similar to the dark peak with smaller areas of moorland interlink with hedges and pastures and farmland. So there is some diversity to the Peak District, depending on, what you find beautiful. I liked the more dramatic landscape. So for me, the Northern part, the Western part, the dark moor, the dark peak are where I would spend my time, but it just depends what you're looking for. If you have time to see it all.

Arnold:

So do people from the surrounding towns go or do people come up from London or where do the people come from that really utilize the park?

Jack:

It's really probably mostly domestic travelers, myself included, I've been to the peak district several times. When I was there, it was mostly English and Scottish that I would run into; some Welsh mostly people that are in the area. So people living in Sheffield, Chesterfield, Manchester, Liverpool, Derby; so people in the Midlands region. It's very common for British travelers in England, Scotland and Wales to go to the Peak District for holiday. We call it vacation. They call it going on the holiday. So British go on holiday there. They definitely get some international travel. I think the Peak District is the third, most visited national park in Britain, but most of that is domestic travelers. Again like Lake District and the Cairngorms and Scotland and other areas, you'll get American travelers in other Europeans. But the Peak District, every time I've been, it's mostly British that I run into.

Arnold:

So they camp out. Do they stay at hotels or what do they do?

Jack:

You can camp; most people are staying in the villages. So Bakewell is a city in the Southern part of the Peak District. Most people will stay in a place like Bakewell. Bakewell is for the Peak District, a very sizeable town maybe five or 10,000 people. That's really big for the Peak District and that's where people will base themselves; will stay in a hotel, nice little BNB, they'll rent a car and then use that to base themselves. Other people will stay in a little smaller towns like Castleton. I'm quite sure. There's a percentage of people that'll camp and that'll stay, but I think most people are going to stay in one of the little villages inside the park or stay in one of the big cities like Sheffield or Chesterfield. Chesterfield's right on the Eastern edges of the Peak District. And that's a city, not a huge city like Manchester, Liverpool, but it really cool quaint city and that'll have everything you need as far as shops and restaurants. So that's what most people do is find a city or town and base himself.

Arnold:

Gotcha. Jack, what's this park known for?

Jack:

It's known for several things and, I'll just go through what it's known for and why it's worth visiting. As we mentioned, the stunning landscapes, open spaces, really the natural beauty it's an amazing photographers dream. Vast open landscapes and moors and crags and rocks and things like that. So the outdoor activities, along with that, you're walking, you're hiking, cycling, climbing, and other outdoor pursuits truly known for its history, culture and events throughout the year, especially known for its large stately homes like Chatsworth, which we'll get into when we talk about some of the best things to see here soon. But Chatsworth and Lyme Park are fantastic; stately homes in the Peak District National Park that are well worth visiting. So it's known for that historical and cultural significance, the quaint and picturesque villages. Some of these villages, Arnold are like, too much to take. Ashford in the Water; it's a little stone, little tiny little village of the stone bridge going over a quaint little stream. You're surrounded by little Woodlands and some rolling hills. The village is literally it just a couple streets.

Arnold:

You don't see any hobbits walking around?

Jack:

I'm not quite sure I haven't stopped everyone and asked them if they're a Hobbit or not, but they could be you really do get a sense of where Tolkien was. Tolkien was all over Britain and Ireland, but this is definitely one of those areas that feels very Lord of the Ringy; it's very cool. Then it's also known for Blue John. Do you know what a Blue John is? It's a gemstone. It's it's a blue and yellow gemstone that's only found in this part of England. Nowhere else in the entire world can you get this gemstone other than the Blue John Caverns in the Peak District National Park. And I've been in that cavern and I've seen the mineral there, the gemstone, and it's beautiful. So a little side note: bleu jaune is French. It's French for...

Arnold:

Blue and yellow,

Jack:

It was discovered by French or mined by French and they called it bleu jaune or bleu et jaune and the English aren't really great with their accents. So over time, bleu jaune became blue john; that's where the name came from. The English, just simplify and English are notorious for that, like Leichester. We'd look at that word or that name place, and we'd say Leicester, Leicester. Or Nottingham, Nottingham; the British, definitely have to simplify.

Arnold:

Like Mississippi and Mississippi.

Jack:

They take it to an extreme, they leave out many letters. If you look, I bring up Leicester, cause it really is Leicester; they leave out at least three letters, just Lester and it always tickles me. But that's that's a indicator of how much time you spend in Britain is if you can look at a place name and pronounce it somewhat correctly.

Arnold:

Like the natives do.

Jack:

The natives do and a tip, the endings drop off and the shires are sure. There's some hard and fast rules, but then other times Leicester you just have to know it's Leicester, but then other ones like Oxford and Cambridge are the same. So it makes it fun and interesting.

Arnold:

So what's this mineral used for?

Jack:

I don't know if it's used for anything. I think it's just a very beautiful gemstone and it's rare. That's the thing is it's not found in any place in the world other than this area in England.

Arnold:

Wow. Jack, you talked about Chatsworth, but what are some other must sees if we go up there to that national park?

Jack:

It's a great question. So if we may, I'll pause real quick on Chatsworth because that needs a due diligence. So Chatsworth House is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire perhaps one of the greatest stately homes in all of England. So no small thing. It's renowned for its architectural beauty, it's invaluable treasures sculptures and it's historical and cultural significance. This is the place setting for the Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. This is where the fictional Pemberley House, we think that Jane Austin had this house in her mind when she was writing Pride and Prejudice and Chatsworth house itself is mentioned in the novel. So it's very significant. It's a grand estate, 83,000 acres. So 83,000 acres that makes up about 13% of the entire national park.

Arnold:

What?

Jack:

Oh yeah. 13% is made up by this one area, 83,000 acres Chatsworth House. So it could keep a curious mind occupied for days; has over 25- 30 rooms to explore, grand stately rooms, unbelievable art gallery sculptures, going back to ancient Greeks and Rome in a vast expanse of gardens and fountains. They have an orangery where they grow oranges and they have this gorgeous tiered fountain. Add into all that, this obviously great stately home and it's set in this rolling hills countryside. So the stately home itself is spectacular. The gardens are amazing. In fact, the gardens in England are probably the best in all of Europe. People don't always realize how magnificent the gardens are in the stately homes So there's just a lot to keep you busy at Chatsworth. It really epitomizes in my opinion, the best of the Peak District; the natural beauty, the historical significance, and then that cultural connection.

Arnold:

And which part of the park is that in?

Jack:

So that's the Southern part. So it's very near Bakewell. Literally a couple of miles from Bakewell. So they're so close to Derby and we would say Derby D E R B Y, but it's pronounced DARBY. So not far from Darby DARBY but very close to Bakewell, which is where a lot of people base themselves when they visit the Peak District. So some other ones are Lyme Park, which is another great stately home. That's in the West, Northwest part of the Peak District. It's majestic and brings to light the glory of Royal England. It was originally a hunting lodge created originally in the 1400s but transformed into a magnificent mansion that we see today. So just like Chatsworth, it's an amazing stately home with extensive gardens and a 1400 acre deer park. Some of these deers have been in that area for centuries and centuries, same deer. So same family of deer that have been roaming that area for years. And I believe Lime Park has the highest elevated garden of any stately home in Britain. So this is in that higher part, the dark peak, that we were talking about earlier this is in that part of the Peak District that's higher in elevation. So you get this great spectacular view from the top of Lyme Park as well. A couple of others worth mentioning Castleton and Peveril Castle. Castleton, it's a popular tourist village in the heart of the Peak District. Really renowned for its quintessentially, classic English character, wealth of local history being a part of the walking routes through the Peak District. Peveril Castle goes back to the days of Norman conquest. So the 11th century, after the Norman conquest, they built a castle overlooking Castleton. Quaint little village in the middle of the Peak District that, that I would recommend basing yourself. The downside is you don't have the amenities of Bakewell, or Sheffield or Chesterfield or Derby. If you want a slice of of rural England, stay in Castleton. Then of course, Blue John caverns that we mentioned, you can go in and view the caverns. They can take you down, there's a guided tour. You can do a little shopping for the gemstone, the semiprecious mineral afterwards. So it's, that's a cool scene. That's not far from Mam Tor. Mam Tor is one of the higher peaks in the Peak District that is spectacular. The hike up there is great. And then from the top of Mam Tor, you get sweeping views of the whole area, and that's not far from Blue John or Castleton. Bakewell again, worth mentioning. It's a cool little city near Chatsworth, great place to base yourself and also a famous specialty is called the Bakewell tart. It's very famous in Britain, especially England it's a shortcrust pastry case followed by strawberry jam hopped with almond sponge. It's like a gooey tart kinda. Okay. So good. It's tasty. The Heights of Abraham, this is a really cool thing. It's a 60 acre Woodland estate first opened in the public in 1787 as a "Savage Garden", which was just of like a wild garden. Cable cars were added in 1984 to bring visitors up to the Hilltop park. So it's this giant Hilltop park that you have to take a cable car to get to and it's got facilities that include like a photography gallery exhibition of fossils found in the area, Victorian prospect tower, which were built by the lead miners in the early 19th century. There's playgrounds and picnic areas, terrace cafe, restaurant bar. So it's great for families and even if you're not with your family, it's cool and worth checking out for the views. It's a different kind of thing. The reason I go to the Peak District, as far as the sightseeing, in addition to the natural beauty, it's the villages; Castleton, Ashford in the Water. Even the "cities", which are really just big towns, the quaintness of them, you, everyone has a little river and a little Stonebridge built over it, and hobbits running around. There really is a lot to see. But the few that I listed here qualifies as the must sees.

Arnold:

From what you've talked about with the age of some of these areas, with the multitude of cities, I can understand why the common folk would say, hey, let us have a chance at really enjoying this countryside. I was really surprised initially, when you said that it took England, what, 1957 to really recognize this as a national park.

Jack:

So 1951, but yeah, no, it took decades and that's common, when you get a power struggle between sort of the haves and the have nots, and that's what this was, it does take time to flush out and there definitely were a lot of sort of flare ups and issues. Again, quite sure people were thrown in jail. You have to understand too Britain was just coming out of being the most expansive and powerful empire the world had ever seen. So 1900 Britain, the UK, the United Kingdom was the largest empire the world has ever seen bigger than the Han Dynasty in China, bigger than the Roman Empire as far as just land and sea territory. So fast forward to 1940, 1945, they lost something like half of their empire, right? So they go from being the world's largest empire to just smaller and smaller than they lost Ireland in the twenties; officially, I guess it wasn't until the thirties or forties, but Ireland broke away. Northern Ireland broke away, I think in 1921. So you had this kind of breakdown, so Britain was keen to not give more away. Then you have these blue collar workers who just fought a World War; they wanted more rights, they wanted more land, but the aristocracy just wasn't quite ready to give it up. So yeah, it did take a couple of decades.

Arnold:

That's definitely a must see when we go to England.

Jack:

The Peak District National park. People will be impressed if you skip over the Lake district which is absolutely we're seeing. But if you go right to the Peak District and you spend a few days there and you meet some locals; they will be impressed.

Arnold:

Let's go see the Peak District! We are glad you decided to listen to this episode of Virtual Vacation with Guidester. We know that there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, and we are glad that you have chosen to listen to us. Virtual Vacation with Guidester is produced by Motif Media Group. For Jack Baumann and Virtual Vacation with Guidester, I'm Arnold Stricker.

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