Derbyshire - Philip Precey

Derbyshire Dales – wild flowers and walking in the Peak Fringe

A relaxing short break, in search of the wild flowers, industrial heritage and interesting limestone landscapes of the southern fringe of the Peak District National Park.
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Wildlife Travel leaflet Derbyshire 2023


26 – 30 June 2023


Philip Precey



Single Room Supplement – £220


Four nights accommodation, full board.

Not included

Travel to Cromford. Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs. Optional guided tour of Arkwright’s Mill (c£14).

Group size

Minimum 5, maximum 12.

Our base will be the village of Cromford, home to Arkwright’s Mill and now part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will stay in a recently renovated hotel, originally built by the Arkwright family in the mid 19th century.

The landscape of the area is strongly influenced by industrial history: from lead mining, dating back to the 12th century and beyond, to the construction of the mills and canals of the industrial revolution, and modern limestone quarrying. We will explore some of the rich wildlife habitats that have been left after these industries have moved on.

Ancient spoil heaps left over from the lead mining are now home to interesting calamarian grasslands, with mounds cloaked in colourful wild flowers including Mountain Pansy and Spring Sandwort. Nearby, abandoned canals and railways, former bustling industrial thoroughfares, are home to Water Vole and Little Grebe, Pyrenean Scurvygrass and Fairy Foxglove, with modern quarries a nesting site for Raven and Peregrine.

We will also visit the species-rich unimproved grasslands of Rose End Meadows and take a walk through the picturesque valleys of Dovedale National Nature Reserve, where Dippers bob in the river, Redstarts call from the dale-side scrub, butterflies feed on the thyme and rare plants hang on amongst the scree and rocks.

Day 1 Our holiday starts in the village of Cromford, in the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we will meet at our hotel in time for an introduction to the holiday and our first dinner together.

Day 2 This morning we travel a little way ‘up hill’ onto the Carboniferous limestone to visit two Derbyshire Wildlife Trust reserves. We start our day at Gang Mine: part of an ancient lead mining area, the name comes from the old word ’gangue’, meaning the worthless rock in which valuable metals occur, which was dumped as spoil heaps around the old mine shafts. The grassland which has since developed on this lead spoil is home to nationally rare species such as Spring Sandwort and Alpine Pennycross, both (rather confusingly) known locally as Leadwort, alongside Kidney Vetch, Dyer’s Greenweed and the lovely Mountain Pansy

From here, we will walk down to the nearby Rose End Meadows, an area of unimproved grassland that gives a glimpse of what Derbyshire’s farmland would once have been like, full of flowering knapweeds, Betony, Great Burnet and various orchids.

Day 3 Today we take the local train service a short distance south, and then walk back to Cromford along the Cromford Canal. Last used as a working waterway in 1944, the canal has since developed a rich flora, and is now both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Local Nature Reserve. Along with various interesting wetland plants, our walk should give us the chance to see various dragonflies and butterflies, and we will look out for Little Grebe, Grass Snake and Water Vole.

Depending on how long it takes us, there should be some spare time this afternoon to explore Cromford village, including the lovely Scarthin Books, which frequently features in national ‘best bookshop’ lists.

Day 4 No visit to Derbyshire would be complete without a trip to the Peak District’s limestone dales: today we head to the village of Hartington, from where we will walk a six mile circuit through part of Dovedale National Nature Reserve.

Starting on the rolling farmland of the limestone plateau, we will drop down into Biggin Dale, where Common Redstart flick amongst the bushes and where we will look for two local rarities: Red Hemp-nettle and Nottingham Catchfly both grow here amongst the scree and rocky slopes, where they can escape the attentions of the grazing sheep.

We then join the River Dove, where we hope to spot Dipper and Grey Wagtail, before we head up Wolfscote Dale. We should arrive back in Hartington in time to sample the local farm-shop’s cakes, before we return to Cromford and a well-earned dinner.

Day 5 One final breakfast, and then it is time to bid farewell to Cromford and to head home.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

Our accommodation will be at Oakhill, a Georgian-style hotel in a beautiful Grade 2 Listed building, built by the Arkwright family in the mid 19th century as a private family dwelling, which has been restored and refurbished during 2021. The hotel is set in landscaped gardens, within the historic village of Cromford. All rooms are en-suite.

Evening meals will be taken at the hotel. Requests for special diets can be accommodated. We will take picnic lunches out with us each day.

Our transport for this trip will be by a small coach/minibus.

Travel to Cromford

The holiday starts and finishes at our accommodation in Cromford.

You can reach Cromford by train, from there it is a 1km walk to the hotel.

Cromford lies south of Matlock, just off the A6.

The English weather is of course anything but predictable. While we should expect pleasantly warm conditions, hot, cold or wet weather are all always possible. We will try not to walk for long in hot or adverse weather conditions. Evenings and early mornings may feel chillier.

We will be walking for much of the day, each day, albeit at a gentle pace. We will be covering between three and six miles each day, including some areas of rougher ground and some slopes. None of the walks are strenuous, but (light) walking boots are essential. In most locations ‘facilities’ are scarce/non-existent, and shade may be limited. Rooms at the hotel are likely to be upstairs, without a lift.