Environmental studies – Peak District National Park

In September of this year, I had to travel back to the UK for family reasons. Since the majority of my family now live in the North of England it is logical that I travel via Manchester Airport, and this means I can often fit in a visit to the beautiful Peak District National Park. The majority of the National Park (the first founded in Great Britain in 1951) lies within the boundaries of Derbyshire, but some peripheral areas of the counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire and South Yorkshire are also included. The Park contains large areas of heather moorland and peat bog, and this ecosystem is of extreme significance. Indeed, the heather moorlands in Great Britain represent 75% of the world’s total. The Peak District National Park Authority has made significant strides in minimizing the erosion on the 1, 600 miles of public rights of way (footpaths, tracks, bridleways) which exist in the Park. Other entities, such as Moors For The Future Partnership and the National Trust are undertaking specialist restoration work, such as the re-introduction of several species of Sphagnum moss, which, like Sphagnum recurvum, act as a natural ‘sponge’ for water and nutrients and prevent damaging ‘run-off’.

Members of the public can learn more about the Peak District at Visitor Centres such as the one in Castleton, (which also contains Castleton Village Museum featuring prehistoric exhibits) and at the Moorland Centre, Edale. All this has given rise to an increase in the study and research associated with the Peak District environment. One of the ways this was achieved was by using the resources of Losehill Hall, the Learning and Environmental Conference Centre run by the Peak District National Park Authority, in the Hope Valley. In the photograph, you can see a group of students measuring and sampling the flora and fauna in and around one of the many streams flowing off the Kinder Plateau, and taking pH and turbidity measurements of the water. Members of the public can learn more about the Peak, as well as enabling environmental scientists to broaden their own knowledge base, by signing up for one of the many different courses held at Losehill Hall.

Now, the bad news! Due to the overall financial position of the UK Government, the Peak District National Park Authority has been told to save between £1.0M and £1.9M over the next four years. Closing Losehill Hall (which has an international reputation) will save up to £300,000 in running costs over the 4 year period and the building would be sold (raising more cash). Some educational services would be re-located (along with some staff), but, right now, the jobs of 41 full-time and part-time staff, as well as 45 casual staff are at risk.  The Park admits that, in the year 2009/2010, over 22,500 people had stayed at Losehill Hall, 17,500 of which were children.

Termination notices could be sent out to staff as early as January, 2011, if a solution cannot be found. To say that this has angered the local population, who already have a high rate of unemployment, is an understatement; it is estimated, by the University of Derby, that the closure of Losehill Hall will mean a loss of approximately £2 million per year to the local economy. I shall continue to hope that this marvellous resource can be saved.

Update, February, 2011

As of February, 2011, it has been announced by the Peak District National Park Authority that 26 ‘full time equivalent’ jobs will go at Losehill and associated sites. However, the excellent news is that the Peak District National Park will still have some educational staff based on site, when the new owner takes over. The Youth Hostel Association is going to re-furbish Losehill Hall to the tune of £2 million, and ensure that the work of educating the next generation of walkers, young scientists and environmentalists goes forward! Well done, the YHA!

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