Gardom's Edge: A peakland landscape

Gardom's Edge is part of the gritstone scarp which forms the eastern side of the Derwent Valley in the Derbyshire Peak District. Behind the edge is a broad shelf which contains many archaeological features. Like other parts of the Eastern Moors, the Gardom's Edge shelf is remarkable for the sheer density of field evidence for settlement and other forms of activity over the last 5,000 years.

The survival of field cairns, enclosures and other more ephemeral features is, in part at least, a product of later patterns of land use. Soil conditions and the elevated nature of the shelf has meant that production has not bitten so deep as it has on lower ground. Much of the land has seen no 'improvement'. The impact of clearance and the improvement of land for agricultural use in the last two centuries can be traced in the relative absence of visible prehistoric features within the walled fields that cut across the southern side of the study area (see maps).

Changes in the land

Walking across the moors today, it is easy to imagine that you are in a natural landscape; a place that has somehow escaped the impact of people. There is peat underfoot, gritstone outcrops, heather and rough grazing. The land seems to lie on the margins. Appearances can be deceptive. People have occupied this area in many ways over time, leaving their mark and changing the land in the process.

In the recent past, the Gardom's Edge shelf has been managed for grazing and as a grouse moor, for quarrying and for millstone production. Tracks and boundaries cut back and forth across the open ground, evidence that it has been used and owned in a variety of ways over the last few centuries.

Things change even more the further back in time that you go. There are about two thousand archaeological features between the two gritstone edges, many of them prehistoric in date. These range from a Neolithic enclosure to Bronze Age and perhaps Iron Age field cairns and house platforms. There are also more obvious monuments such as a standing stone, burial cairns, and examples of rock art. The vast majority of these features were created before the development of the peat that now covers much of the area.