The Dark Peak is a landscape of large-scale sweeping moorlands, in-bye pastures enclosed by drystone walls, and gritstone settlements, within the Pennine chain. It falls almost entirely within, and forms a large part of, the Peak District National Park. Approximately 46 per cent of the area has been designated as a Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation, both being the highest forms of environmental protection afforded by European Law. Some 46 per cent of the National Character Area (NCA) has also been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the range of different SSSI, from the Eastern Peak District Moors to Chatsworth Old Park and clough woodlands to geological formations, demonstrates the variation of important characteristics and landscapes within the NCA.
The area supports internationally important mosaics of habitats including blanket bog, upland heathland, upland oak woodland and hay meadows, and these in turn support a number of rare species including birds such as merlin, short-eared owl, twite and golden plover. It also includes nationally and internationally important historic landscapes and heritage assets. The predominantly peat soils also provide other significant benefits, when in good condition, by storing significant volumes of carbon and water. With its high rainfall and impervious rocks it is an important area for water supply, with many reservoirs supplying water to nearby conurbations. The Dark Peak, with a strong association with the right to roam and the access movement, is also important for recreation owing to the extensive open access areas and footpaths, and the sense of escapism that they offer, along with the ease of access from adjacent cities and large towns.
Future challenges for the area include the management of water and flooding, the restoration of blanket bog, the restoration and continued management of species-rich grassland, an increase in native woodland cover especially on steep valley sides, managing heritage assets, increased tourism and recreational demand while retaining the sense of tranquillity and remoteness, and the potential threats posed by climate change.
51 Dark Peak (NE378)