Book review: The Peak District: Landscape and Geology, by Tony Waltham

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Jon Trevelyan (UK)

The Crowood Press are really developing a nice little series of books on the landscape and geology of select regions of the British Isles, and Tony Waltham’s addition to the series about the Peak District is well worth a read. In fact, I read Tony’s The Yorkshire Dales: Landscape and Geology and Dorset and East Devon: Landscape and Geology by Malcolm Hart a while ago, and this new one follows the same format – beautiful, full colour photos and diagrams, a fascinating chapter on each of the important geological and geomorphological aspects of the area (including buildings and industry), and an author who knows his stuff and can write it down with an easy and authoritative style.

In this way, you can either read from cover to cover in the comfort of your own armchair in the Home Counties, or with your walking boots and kagool ready and waiting for you to get out and experience the glorious scenery yourself.

It is not surprising that there are many good books on the geology of the Peak District – it is such a lovely place to visit and was the first ever National Park in England. It is certainly one of my favourite places and I have spent many days happily looking for fossils there or going around one of the many show caves, all of which are covered in the book.

It is written with the general reader – the walker and the lover of the countryside – in mind, and sets out a fascinating story of ancient oceans, deltas, mineralisation and tundra landscapes. Over millions of years, these formed the rocks that now make up the spectacular areas of the White and Dark Peak, which were all laid down on the floors of tropical seas and rivers, and deformed by plate tectonics before being shaped by streams, rivers and (to a lesser extent) glaciers. For example, the white limestone has its own distinctive landscape above hidden cave systems; then generations of miners and farmers have modified and contributed to the landscapes we see today. Using photographs that are largely the author’s, geologist Tony Waltham tells this remarkable story of the Peak District, explaining just how the landscapes of limestone plateau, grit moors and river valleys came to look as they do today. He also includes suggestions for walks and places to visit to appreciate the best of this National Park’s landforms.

Tony Waltham is a geologist who graduated from Imperial College, London and studied in the mines of Norway for his PhD. He was then a university lecturer for many years in Nottingham, where he taught mining and civil engineers, and conducted research into ground stability and geohazards (see Geomodels in Engineering Geology: An Introduction, co-written with Peter Fookes and, Geoff Pettifer). He has travelled the world with his camera and this has resulted in a substantial collection of photographs, many of which reflect his own interests in geology and are now available to buy in his book World of Geology: Travels to Rocky Places, as well as appearing in this Peak District guide. He also helped complete Derbyshire Blue John (2nd edition) after promising to prepare the new edition of this guide as a result of the death of his friend and its author, Trevor Ford.

The Peak District: Landscape and Geology, by Tony Waltham, The Crowood Press Ltd, Marlborough, Wiltshire (2021), 160 pages (Paperback), ISBN : 978-1785008740.

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