Exploring the Peak District's Eastern Moors

Margi Bryant, Teaching Associate, discusses the recent field class she led in the Eastern Moors area of the Peak District.

Where did you go and why?

The Eastern Moors, as the name suggests, cover the eastern fringes of the Peak District National Park. This is a stunning, varied landscape of moorland, woodland, gritstone edges, farms and scattered villages. Like all the National Park, it’s an economically productive area as well as a protected landscape, but unusually, this land is directly owned by the National Park Authority and looked after by a partnership of the UK’s two biggest conservation charities: The National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The Eastern Moors Partnership was created in 2011, and its role is to balance the needs of conservation, local communities and visitors.

Studnets on the Eastern Moors Field Class

What sort of activities did students be take part in?

We spent the afternoon learning about the landscape, wildlife, history and current management of the area with Partnership Warden John Mead. Climbing up to White Edge, we watched majestic red deer stags, in full mating mode at this time of year, jealousy guarding their females, but also discussed the necessity of controlling their numbers (and how we feel about venison!). We saw an area devastated by arson last year and learned about the importance of peat moorland as a carbon sink, but also issues around public access and its risks and rewards. We aired thoughts about rewilding and perceptions of “the wild”, before returning along Curbar Edge.

"The interaction of people and their environment throws up common issues wherever you are in the world."

margi bryant

What were the learning outcomes for students?

The trip aimed to enthuse students about this landscape as a rich learning resource, to introduce some of the issues that shape this part of the Peak District, and to encourage critical thinking about people and the environment. The Eastern Moors Partnership is already collaborating with a Geography PhD project on rewilding, and would also be happy to offer research opportunities for undergraduate dissertations.

How does this field class relate to your teaching?

I teach mainly on the International Development Masters programme, but also on the Year 1 Peak District field class. I’ve done research in Kenya’s coastal forests but also in the Peak District’s Derwent Valley. I firmly believe that the interaction of people and their environment throws up common issues wherever you are in the world. My additional link with the Eastern Moors is that in my spare time, I’m one of their regular volunteers.

The Peak District’s Eastern Moors are our “local” patch of countryside, less than 30 minutes from Sheffield. But they’re also a test bed for issues like climate change, landscape protection, wildlife conservation and sustainable rural communities. So they offer a rich learning resource on our doorstep and a chance to explore and understand some of today’s key challenges.