Front cover - 13k The Peak District: The Official National Park Guide
by Roly Smith
pub. Pevensey Guides, 2000
Paperback, 112 pages, 8.99
ISBN 1 898630 10 0

For some reason the 'Peak District' doesn't readily spring to mind as a place to visit - the Lake District, Cornwall and The Highlands rather seem to capture the limelight. Yet the Peak District National Park attracts a staggering 22 million visits a year, and has half the population of England living within 60 miles. These are just some of the statistics featured in Roly Smith's 'The Peak District: The Official National Park Guide', one of a series of National Park guides published by Pevensey.

It's a good book for providing you with an overview of the Peak area - social, historical, geographical and industrial - but lacks what many walkers and ramblers might regard as essential 'details' on how to get to a place, or providing basic OS references. However, the photographs of many of the intriguing places and landscapes beckon you to visit the National Park which was the first of it's kind in Britain, and created in 1949.

Guide content is broken down into six areas - rocks (geology and scenery), climate (vegetation and wildlife), man's influence, landscape (culture and customs), recreation, and exploring the Peak. There's also an extremely useful Information section at the end which gives details of local tourist boards, attractions, and books for further reading.

Roly Smith, chairman of the Outdoor Writers' Guild, provides his readers with a solid overview of the Peak District environment. We learn that in the 10th century AD the Pecsaetan ('people of the Peak') populated the area - pecs not meaning 'summit', but a hill or knoll. Smith tells us how the Romans extracted lead from the area, and that the local industry eventually employed ten thousand lead miners. The protected monument of Magpie Mine is a reminder of the Peak District's industrial past, although there are still many active stone quarries.

Smith's text is reinforced by some impressive photographs which emphasise how man has shaped this landscape since Neolithic times, later marking out strip fields in Medieval times with drystone walls - some of these strip fields still remaining to this day at Chelmorton. There are views of Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and other places worthy of visiting, notes on the Peak's literary connections, quaint local customs such as 'Well Dressing', and on the local flora and fauna.

If this 'Guide' has a shortcoming it is that it provides only a general overview of the Peak District which may be fine as a starting point. However, if your interest is specific - nature, historical or rambling - you really need to find a dedicated book. That said, Roly Smith's book will provide most visitors to the area with more than adequate information on what treasures the Peak holds. And it certainly does.

For Your Information: Pevensey Guides have several other publications in their National Park Guides series: Dartmoor, The Lake District, and Snowdonia.

Copyright © 2000