Monday 4 October 2010

Ilam Rock

Around 350 million years ago, the whole of this area was covered by a tropical sea. Just as in such seas today, there were lagoons and coral reefs. The sea creatures which lived in these seas are responsible for the limestone from which the landscape is now formed; their fossilised remains being compressed over millions of years to form this sedimentary rock. Fossils are not too difficult to find around the White Peak; especially crinoids, brachiopods and goniatites. In Derbyshire, broken crinoid stems go by the name of the Derbyshire Screw, because they look like wood screws embedded in the rock. They are an easy find. I remember taking a class to the Stone Centre near Wirksworth and the children finding dozens of them.

The deep sided valleys were gorged out by melt water after the two ice ages but some of the limestone formed very hard reefs which still rise as hills or pinacles, such as this one, named Ilam Rock after the nearby village. 

Impressive from the front, Ilam Rock becomes even more so as the thinness of the leaning edge is seen

Of course, it is popular with climbers, as are the other pinnacles and reefs in the area. There are around nine recognised routes up Ilam Rock with a range of outdoor grades. The fragmentary nature of limestone means that climbers need to take particular care though, both to protect the rock itself and also to ensure personal safety, especially when anchoring. 


  1. As I look out of my window I could do with that tropical sea today. Not sure which will come first : rapid global warming or my next holiday - one way or another I need tropical before my blood freezes.

  2. I'm so glad you explained that last bit. I was thinking as grand as these are, I wouldn't want to be climbing on limestone.

  3. It's interesting how the Derbyshire limestone area seems different from the Yorkshire one. Ours tends to be bare and bleak whilst Derbyshire looks very prettily wooded.