Natural England - 52 White Peak

52 White Peak

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Summary

The White Peak National Character Area is a raised, undulating limestone plateau deeply incised with steep-sided limestone valleys. It has a strong sense of place arising from the effect of the underlying geology on landform and its influence on natural and manmade landscape features such as caves, crags, drystone walls and traditional buildings. The dales are of significant wildlife value, particularly because of their flower-rich limestone grassland and ash woodland, and many contain clean, clear rivers which support species such as white-clawed crayfish, bullhead, lamprey and dipper.

The plateau is rich in archaeology, from Neolithic burial mounds and stone circles, such as Minninglow and Arbor Low, to the remains of early lead workings. There are distinctive historical landscapes with well-preserved ridge and furrow and networks of field boundaries that fossilise medieval field systems around villages such as Chelmorton.

The settlement pattern is primarily of small nucleated villages and isolated farmsteads, along with the market towns of Buxton and Bakewell and the spa town of Matlock Bath. The majority of settlements are on the plateau, with a few small settlements centred on the 18th-century textile water mill buildings in the dales and the major towns in the valleys around the edge of the plateau. The area is particularly popular for recreation, with a good rightsof- way network and multi-user trails, such as the Monsal Trail and the Pennine Bridleway, and many opportunities for rock climbing, caving and fishing. It is easily accessible for a large population from surrounding urban areas and also receives visitors from all over the world.

In terms of ecosystem services, the area is particularly important for the provision of cultural services: sense of place/inspiration, sense of history, recreation, biodiversity and geodiversity. This is recognised by its inclusion in the Peak District National Park and the large number of European and national nature conservation, geological and heritage designations (Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, World Heritage Sites and Scheduled Monuments).

Future challenges for the area relate particularly to development, industry, tourism and the spread of tree diseases. There will be continued pressure to meet the need for affordable local housing without compromising landscape and historic character or changing the nucleated settlement pattern. It is likely that the economic pressures on farming will continue to drive intensification and increase in farm size. The challenge will be to facilitate a thriving farming industry while enhancing its efficiency and environmental impact.

The environmental pressures from active mining and quarrying industries may change according to commodity prices and site ownership but opportunities are presented through the restoration of decommissioned sites. Increased numbers of visitors are likely to put additional pressure on the infrastructure of the White Peak, with associated traffic issues and threats to tranquillity. The impact of tree diseases could be severe, particularly as the dale woodlands are so heavily dominated by ash. There is a pressing need for careful and comprehensive monitoring and for decisive and innovative action should certain tree diseases, particularly ash dieback, spread to the White Peak.

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