As part of an ongoing feature profiling some of the world’s national parks, this week Frontier speaks to Jane Chapman, head of Environment and Economy at the Peak District National Park Authority in the UK.
Frontier: Hello Jane. Can you give us a brief description of your role at the park?
Jane: My role involves managing many amazing professional and technical staff. So I’m responsible for all of the archaeologists, ecologists, foresters, historic building specialists and also the advisors who go out to the many private land owners to try to persuade them to conserve the landscape. It’s a very motivating and rewarding job.
Frontier: Excellent. So what are the main conservation issues currently being addressed?
Jane: Well a lot of what is being done presently is related to climate change. This involves a lot of work on moorland stabilisation and restoration through our Moors for the Future partnership. Also, there is work being carried out on restoring peat bogs, which brings in issues related to carbon, hydrology and ecosystem services. These are aspects specifically linked to the moorlands. We’re also looking at instances of species decline within the park.
Frontier: So what about past issues?
Jane: One of the key priorities over the last few years has been getting sites of special scientific interest into a good condition. This is an area where we have achieved a lot.
Frontier: Looking to the future, is it a case of continuing with these current issues?
Jane: More or less, yes. In particular, we’ll be carrying out work leading on from the government paper on the natural environment. Also, we are the only national park, and one of only five areas in the UK, to have the European Diploma for Protected Landscapes. So preparing for the annual assessment to retain this status is also a priority.
Frontier: Which animals can be found in the park?
Jane: Well, we lack some of the more iconic species found in the UK. However, because we’ve got such a mosaic of different landscapes, the moorlands, the dales, the limestone, the gritstone for example, the Peak District is at a crossroads of habitats. So what that means is that we have northern species at their southern most range, and southern species at their northern most range. But in terms of specific species, we have dippers and various river animals such the water vole. Another species found in the moorlands area is the mountain hare. I know it’s not an animal, but we also have the only known example of Derbyshire feather-moss in the world, which is in a secret location to protect it.
Frontier: Interesting. Are any of the species endangered?
Jane: At the moment we have a real focus on upland waders like the lapwing and the curlew. We are looking at funding a project officer to look at how we can maintain populations because we’ve experienced declining numbers of these birds over the last ten to fifteen years. White-clawed crayfish are also a concern; we are looking to find arc sites into which we can potentially introduce them, away from the non-native signal crayfish which produce a damaging plague.
Frontier: How is the park funded?
Jane: We are funded by DEFRA (Department for environment, food and rural affairs), but as part of the public sector, we are facing significant cuts. So we are having to look at other options for the long term sustainability of the park, such as working with communities more closely by setting up local nature groups.
Frontier: Why should people visit your national park?
Jane: It’s one of the most easily accessible parks in the country, right at the heart of the nation. People should come because the park is a great place to gain free access to a really healthy environment. Apart from the huge variety of things to do and see, you’ll also be contributing to the local economy. We’ve also just opened up the wonderful old railway tunnels for walkers and cyclists, going from Buxton down to Bakewell. So things like that are making it really easy for people to come and use the park in a sustainable way.
Frontier: What’s your favourite part of the park? Is it the secret moss patch?
Jane: Well, I was brought up in the Dales, so that’s probably my favourite place. But I also just love being up on top of Kinder up on the moorlands. It’s that contrast of environments that I enjoy.
Frontier: Does the park have any claims to fame?
Jane: Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice were both filmed around the Peak District, including at Chatsworth House, which has always been a big attraction to the park. That classic shot of Keira Knightley on the cliff edge with her skirt billowing in the wind was filmed at Stanage Edge. That’s also a hugely popular place for rock climbers, which the park is internationally renowned for due to the variety of different rock types.
By Alex Prior