Gritstone tors on Kinder Scout
Gritstone is the characteristic rock of the ‘Dark Peak’ landscape, extending in an arc around the west, north and east of the Derbyshire Peak District. As its name implies, it’s a hard coarse-grained sandstone formed from grit laid down on the bed of a vast river delta around 300 million years ago (long before the dinosaurs, to put the timescale into context). Gritstone is hard, abrasive and very strong. Its sharp-edged crystals make it ideal for grinding grain, hence its alternative name of Millstone Grit, and its strength makes it a sturdy building stone.
In the landscape, gritstone forms high windswept moorlands of heather and blanket bog, vertical cliffs called Edges, and strangely sculptured rock outcrops called tors. The tors are among the most atmospheric features of the gritstone moorlands of the Dark Peak, carved by wind, rain and frost into weird shapes.
Part of Paths of Exile is set in the Dark Peak in the Upper Derwent Valley (see map link at the bottom of the post), where the gritstone tors on the high moorlands make for a distinctive landscape.
--Paths of Exile, chapter 11
All along the eastern horizon, an irregular row of boulders and tors marked the edge of a slightly higher plateau. The rock was dark grey in colour and curiously rounded, like stacked cushions or piled cakes of bread. At close quarters it was coarse-grained and abrasive, full of large rounded pebbles and occasional tiny flecks that caught the light and sparkled in the sun. […] A short distance away to the south, a gritstone tor reared its stepped profile against the bright sky.
“...like stacked cushions or piled cakes of bread”
If you look at the topographical map in the link below, you’ll see that one of the tors on Derwent Edge is called ‘The Cakes of Bread’.
“...reared its stepped profile against the sky”
“...coarse-grained and abrasive...”
Close-up of gritstone. You can see the pebbles embedded in the rock; presumably they were washed down the rivers that formed that long-ago delta and deposited along with the sand and grit. The pebbles vary between rocks in different locations. These are quite small, a centimetre (half an inch) or so across, but some of the tors elsewhere on the moors contain pebbles the size of a walnut, and where they have weathered out the tors are riddled with round cavities like a Swiss cheese.
Gritstone tors can weather into fantastic shapes, resembling a natural sculpture park – or, for a (fictional) group of exhausted fugitives familiar with tales of man-eating monsters who “walk nightlong / The misty moorland”, something altogether more intimidating:
Who says trolls are mythical?
Gritstone tors like this one were part of the inspiration for including beliefs in trolls in Paths of Exile. For a discussion on troll-like creatures in Old English myths, see my earlier post on Eotens.
Upper Derwent Valley. The reservoirs were not there in 605 AD!