It was a royal preserve, and remains for the most part an uncultivated waste, but it is also a rich coalfield, and there are mines in every direction.
Only in the Urals, the Caucasus, the Timan Mountains, the region of the Donets coalfield, and the Kielce Hills is there any sign of the great folding from which nearly the whole of the rest of Europe has suffered at one time or another.
Five well-contrasted types of scenery in Derbyshire are clearly traceable to as many varieties of rock; the bleak dry uplands of the north and east, with deep-cut ravines and swift clear streams, are due to the great mass of Mountain Limestone; round the limestone boundary are the valleys with soft outlines in the Pendleside Shales; these are succeeded by the rugged moorlands, covered with heather and peat, which are due to the Millstone Grit series; eastward lies the Derbyshire Coalfield with its gently moulded grasscovered hills; southward is the more level tract of red Triassic rocks.
A small tract, part of the Leicestershire coalfield, lies in the south-east corner, and in the north-west corner a portion of the Lancashire coalfield appears about New Mills and Whaley Bridge.
Flanking the hills between Ashbourne and Quarndon are red beds of Bunter marl, sandstone and conglomerate; they also appear at Morley, east of the Derwent, and again round the small southern coalfield.