Peak Forest from Eldon hole © Mike Cummins 2010
Peak Forest cottages © Mike Cummins 2010
Parish church of King Charles the Martyr © Mike Cummins 2010
Devonshire Arms in Peak Forest © Mike Cummins 2010
Sycamore trees in Peak Forest © Mike Cummins 2010

Peak Forest - Gretna Green of the Peak

...the Royal Forest

Once known because of a quirk of ecclesiastical law as “the Greta Green of the Peak,” Peak Forest is a windswept village high on the White Peak plateau on the A623 east of Whaley Bridge.


Once known because of a quirk of ecclesiastical law as “the Greta Green of the Peak,” Peak Forest is a windswept village high on the White Peak plateau on the A623 east of Whaley Bridge.
The village gets its name because it stood at the centre of the medieval Royal Forest of the Peak, which was not a wooded area in the modern sense of the word but a 40-square-mile (104 sq km) hunting preserve, used by the king and nobility.
About a mile north of the village on the slopes of Eldon Hill is Eldon Hole, one of the traditional “Seven Wonders of the Peak” and the biggest open pothole in the Peak District. Long thought to be bottomless and an entrance to Hell, it was descended for the first time by John Lloyd in 1770 and found to be only 245ft (75m) deep.
There are apocryphal tales of a goose being lowered into the awesome void in Tudor times, only to emerge three days later at Peak Cavern, Castleton, with its feathers singed by the fires of Hell! Today, the tree-fringed entrance to Eldon Hole is strictly the preserve of expert potholers and cavers.

On the A623 three miles (5 km) east of Whaley Bridge

The Royal Forest of the Peak, from which Peak Forest gets its name, was a strictly-protected habitat of deer, wild boar and wolves which were hunted by kings and princes staying at nearby Peveril Castle at Castleton. In the 16th century, the area surrounding the village was emparked, and managed by a ranger who lived at a house called the Chamber of the Peak, on the site of the present 18th century Chamber Farm.
The priest at Peak Forest’s Parish Church of  King Charles the Martyr (see below) was able to conduct marriages without question and at any time. The situation continued until early in the 19th century, earning successive incumbents considerable sums of money. Couples can still be married in the church without banns being read, providing that one of the couple has lived in the village for 15 days prior to the ceremony.
Mining and quarrying
There are considerable remains of lead mining, including hillocks and old shafts, especially around Oxlow and Eldon Hill. There are also numerous small quarries where limestone was extracted for building stone. The major limestone quarry which has bitten away half of Eldon Hill closed in the 1980s.

The Parish Church
The Parish Church of King Charles the Martyr is an imposing Victorian building, and has a fascinating history.
The Bugsworth Canal Basin on the Peak Forest Canal near Whaley Bridge is worth a visit to see the colourful narrow boats at the only surviving canal and tramway interchange in Britain. It linked the canal with the Peak Forest Tramsway, and was once one of the largest inland ports on the British canal netwrok.

The four-mile circular walk from Peak Forest to Eldon Hole and the summit of Eldon Hill, returning via the old lead mining rake of Oxlow Rake is recommended. Don’t be tempted to stray too close to the edge of the awesome Eldon Hole, but the short stride to the 1,542 ft/470m summit of Eldon Hill (known as Cook’s Cairn) is well worth the effort for the outstanding view. Eldon Hill quarry, now disused, is behind the fence down to the north west. Descend to the east to point 422 on the map, and then south down Oxlow Rake back into Peak Forest via Old Dam.

The Devonshire Arms (01298 23875) is the only pub in the village, serves good value pub food 7 days a week and offers accommodation too.

Good home-made hot and cold sandwiches, breakfasts and specials are served at Babka, in Old Road, Whaley Bridge (01663 734419). There’s a small deli counter which sells cold meats, cheeses and smoked meats.

Tourist Information Centres
Castleton Visitor Centre, Buxton Road, Castleton, Hope Valley S33 8WN, 01629 816558; Also includes the museum of the Castleton Historical Society.

Buxton Tourist Information Centre, The Crescent, Buxton SK17 6BQ; 01298 25106;; open daily

Roly Smith

Editor, Let's Stay Peak District

March 2010

© 2010 - Let's Stay Peak District 



Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015