The Origins of The Hope Valley
Approximately 350 million years ago, Derbyshire was under water. The landmass that now forms Great Britain was close to the equator and this area was an ocean floor. Over time, limestone was formed from the fossilised remains of dead sea plants and animals. Peveril Castle, for example, stands on a fossilised barrier reef. Around 50 million years later, what is now the Scottish Highlands was the source of a river that flowed down through what is now Derbyshire. The rock we know as shale is actually the sediment of this river and the Hope Valley was formed by the erosion of this sediment.
Over many thousands of years the sediment and the limestone set down in layers. Mam Tor, overlooking the valley from the top of Castleton, was formed in this way. The softer shale moves between the harder gritstone, making Mam Tor quite unstable and giving it the nickname The Shivering Mountain.
Millstone Grit is formed from sand and pebbles, which became sandbanks and, over time, sandstone. Millstone Grit is what was used to make the millstones to grind grain, hence the name. It has not eroded in the same way as the softer limestone and can be seen today as many of the 'edges' in the Hope Valley.
Like much of the world millions of years ago, there was volcanic activity in the area. Two types of rock - basalt and dolerite - are found nearby.
At one point, movement underground raised the sea floor and it formed a dome. This placed great stress on the rock, especially the limestone, and cracks began to appear. Exposed rock began to erode. Part of this dome is what we now know as Stanage Edge, which lies above Hathersage.
Over millions of years, the rocks were worn away. Several Ice Ages came and went, and the land was frozen and warmed, frozen and warmed. Rocks were carried by glacial activity and deposited freely around the area. Each time the world warmed, fast flowing rivers deepened the valley, creating the scene as we see it today. The limestone cracked and the faults grew into caves.
Around 270 million years ago, possibly as a result of volcanic activity, hot liquid crystallised into minerals inside the limestone. One of these is the famous Blue John, found only in this area.
The History of The Hope Valley
The Hope Valley takes its name from the village of Hope, which sits approximately halfway along the valley, where the river Noe and the Peakshole meet, and was once the most important village in the area.
The village has remained Hope for over a thousand years, which is highly unusual. The earliest mention of the area was in 926ad, where it was recorded that a nearby battle was won by King Athelstan. In the Domesday Book, it is noted that Hope had a church and priest (a rarity in Derbyshire in those times), which gives an idea of its importance. This importance is possibly due to the fact that it lies in the Royal Forest Of The Peak, which was a royal hunting forest.
The ancient trading route The Portway, crosses nearby. The village probably developed at the point where The Portway intersected with an ancient east-west road. Later, in medieval times, that road would be used in the transportation of salt and other goods.
known in the Middle Ages as Castle Peak, Peveril Castle was built in the 11th Century and sits high above the picturesque village of Castleton. Its purpose was to allow for the watching over of what was then known as the Royal Forest of the Peak. It was named after William Peveril, who is widely thought to have been an illegitimate son of William the Conqueror. Henry II was a visitor to Peveril Castle, although he became wary of Peveril's 'independence' - presumably he felt him to be a threat - and confiscated the estate in 1155. It later fell to ruin and only the keep remained usable. No longer of strategic importance, it was turned into a prison and courthouse. Parts of it were also used to shelter cattle. Today it is owned by English Heritage and is open to any member of the public who is able or willing to tackle the extremely steep climb!
It has been said that this wooden pole, which stands on the Longshaw Estate, by White Edge, marks the site of the last public hanging in this area
The First Settlers... CLICK HERE to read more about the history of the Hope Valley, Derbyshire