A walk back in time to discover Peak’s treasures

Have your say

A DERBYSHIRE author has penned a literary companion to Britain’s first National Park.

‘A Peak District Anthology’ brings together some of the finest writing about the Peak District through the ages, illustrated by period art works, engravings, vignettes and photographs.

Compiled and introduced by Peak District expert Roly Smith, it revives many forgotten descriptions of one of the finest, most varied and best-loved landscapes in the whole of Britain.

From William Camden to Daniel Defoe, Sir Gawain to Lord Byron, literary visitors have long been astonished by the sublime wonders of the Peak.

The coming of railways proved another great impetus for writers and tourists. Ruskin extolled the beauties of the Peak, while novelists Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot used closely observed Peakland settings for some of their most vivid narratives. Topographical writers including Edward Bradbury, Thomas Tudor and James Croston enthusiastically described the delights of the Derbyshire scenery to the ever-increasing stream of Victorian visitors.

The flowering of guidebook and topographical writing in the 20th century added to the Peak’s outdoor literature, which still rates as among the finest in the country. Many books were produced covertly encouraging what was known as ‘the gentle art of trespass’. They included works by GHB Ward, the ‘King’ of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers; Derby’s pioneering rock climber, Ernest Baker; and Patrick Monkhouse, deputy editor of the Manchester Guardian.

Later writers have continued this tradition of fine outdoor writing and are represented here by Hannah Mitchell, Sally Goldsmith, folk singer Ewan Maccoll, Manchester Evening News editor and broadcaster Brian Redhead, and long-standing Guardian Country Diarist Roger Redfern, among others.

Roly Smith is a freelance writer, editor and consultant and the author of over 60 books on walking and the countryside. He was recently dubbed ‘Mr Peak District’ by his local newspaper.

Based in Bakewell, Roly was formerly Head of Information Services to the Peak District National Park - Britain’s busiest - before concentrating on his freelance career.

Previous to that, he enjoyed a 20-year award-winning career in journalism. He was chairman of the Outdoor Writers’ and Photographers’ Guild from 1990 to 2002 and was made an honorary life member in 2005. His other titles for Frances Lincoln are Swaledale, A Camera in the Hills and The Pennine Way.

A Peak District Anthology, published in hardback by Frances Lincoln, is out now, priced £16.99.