|Erosion is a serious problem in the Peak, especially in the peat-covered gritstone plateau areas. The causes are complex and include acid rain from the towns and factories to the west of the Peak, overgrazing by sheep resulting in a degeneration of the heather and bilberry covering of the moorlands and the sheer number of visitors coming to the area. |
Over the years, pressure to graze ever-increasing numbers of sheep led to areas like Kinder Scout having three times the sustainable number of sheep grazing it. The result has been a denuding of the vegetation which has led to hugely increased erosion. This has led the National Trust to fence off large areas (to keep the sheep out!) - with the intention of leaving them in this state for up to 10 years in order to allow the vegetation to regenerate.
At the same time, as leisure time has increased, transport has improved and access has become easier, so the number of walkers on the hills and in the dales has increased. The sheer pressure of their feet (or tyres in the case of cyclists) are steadily wearing away the most popular sections of the hills and have caused the Peak National Park and the National Trust to divert footpaths away from the worst affected areas and pave many sections of the most popular paths.
Heather in bloom
The most obviously affected areas are the route of the Pennine Way, much of which has been paved across Bleaklow and Black Hill; Dovedale, where the National Trust has paved the main path down the valley; Shining Tor in the Goyt Valley; Mam Tor, where the summit area has been paved by the National Trust; Brown Knoll and Stanage, where the area at the base of the crag has been severely eroded. The most dramatic effects of erosion caused by a combination of overgrazing and walkers can be seen at Soldier's Lump on Black Hill, where erosion has removed an enormous volume of peat from the summit area during the last 20 years, and the summit trig point, which in the mid 1970s was level with the peat surface, now stands some 1.5 metres (5 feet) above the surface.
Paved section on Black Hill
As a National Long-Distance Footpath, the Pennine Way has received particular attention and the Countryside Commission funds the maintenance of this path at a cost of approximately 150,000 per annum. This work is carried out by a 5-person team working for the Peak National Park who have a 5-year rolling programme for maintaining the path. The paving work is done using stone flags from demolition sites - these are carried up onto the hillside by helicopter and then laid in place.
The National Trust is particularly concerned about some of the more remote areas of the Peak, especially the Upper Derwent, where paths have appeared where none existed ten years ago and erosion is now becoming well-established in an area which has a fragile ecology. It is ironic that this is caused by walkers who visit the area to enjoy its remoteness and solitude - it is now becoming increasingly busy!
Eroded peat grough
There is no simple solution to these problems. Sheep can be fenced out but it is hard to do the same with walkers and if the principle of access to the hills is accepted then the best that the Peak Park and the National Trust can do is to ask walkers to avoid eroded areas and pave the worst affected sections of paths. However, some specific activities may have to be restricted - for example, quite severe damage can be done by fell races (when hundreds of competitors may run over a section of moor), and cyclists, whose tyres cut deep incisions in wet peat. Cyclists have therefore been banned already from most routes across the peat bogs and fell race organisers are beginning to face restrictions upon the routes they can use.
Erosion Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
0 - Heather in flower
1 - Bilberry in autumn colours
2 - Bleaklow - eroded peat grough
3 - Black Hill - crossing to Dun Hill on the Pennine Way
4 - Black Hill - Soldiers Lump
5 - Black Hill - approaching Soldiers Lump in Winter
6 - Black Hill - Dun Hill section of Pennine Way
7 - Mam Tor summit with Kinder Scout behind