The Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve is managed by English Nature and consists of parts of five separate limestone valleys in the Peak District National Park - Lathkill, Cressbrook, Monk's, Long and Hay Dale.These represent superb examples of all of the major wildlife habitats of the White Peak Natural Area. In addition, the National Trust manage Biggin Dale as a National Nature Reserve.
Significant habitats and species
Flower-rich grasslands make up just over half the area of the Reserve. Limestone plants such as common rock rose and salad burnet are abundant, with up to 45 different species found in a square metre. Rarities include Jacob's ladder, spring cinquefoil and Nottingham catchfly. Visitors in spring can marvel at the thousands of early purple orchids and cowslips.
Insects are equally diverse, and south-facing and west-facing slopes are home to specialities such as the northern brown argus butterfly and cistus forester moth.
Like most of the Reserve's grasslands, its woodlands are recognised as being internationally important. Dominated by ash, they have a rich shrub layer and ground flora which includes bird cherry, mezereon and alpine currant.
Redstart, wood warbler and pied flycatcher breed in small numbers.
Other habitats represented on the Reserve are rivers and streams (the water of the River Lathkill being among the purest in the country), species-rich scrub, heath on limestone, lead spoil, flushes, dewponds, screes, rock exposures and caves.
Location and access
Lathkill Dale is situated 2 miles south west of Bakewell, between the villages of Over Haddon, Monyash and Youlgrave. There are car parks at Over Haddon, Moor Lane, Youlgrave and Conksbury bridge.
There is also a regular, although infrequent, bus service which runs to the Reserve.
There is a level track at the east end of the reserve, with a stile and all-ability access gate at the entrance. This concessionary route is closed on Wednesdays between October and February.
Cressbrook Dale is situated 7 miles north west of Bakewell, between the villages of Wardlow and Litton. There are car parks available at Upperdale in Monsal Dale, Monsal Head, Tideswell Dale, and Ravensdale.
There is also a regular bus service.
Access can be difficult as paths are narrow, and steep in places.
Monk's Dale is situated 9 miles north west of Bakewell in the Peak District National Park. The nearest car park is at Miller's Dale station, although there is a regular bus service from Bakewell to Tideswell.
Access to the site can be difficult as the paths are rocky and muddy in several places.
Long Dale is situated 6 miles south of Bakewell, near the village of Elton. There are car parks which serve the site at Minninglow, Friden and Elton.
There is a summer bus service which runs on a Sunday, and a year round service on a Monday, which runs from Bakewell.
There are no public footpaths through the Reserve although there are adjacent paths accessible by the public.
Hay Dale is situated 8 miles north west of Bakewell, between the villages of Wheston and Peak Forest. The nearest carpark to the site is at Miller's Dale station.
There is no public transport service running to the reserve.
There are stiles at either end of footpaths.
Biggin Dale is situated 12 miles south west of Bakewell, between the villages of Hartington and Biggin. There are carparks located in Friden, Hartington station and Ruby Wood.
There is also a Sunday bus service in summer, and a Monday bus service all year round.
There is no special provision for disabled access, although the paths are reasonably level. This dale is now managed by the National Trust, who also manage much of the surrounding area including Dove Dale to the south which is also part of the Dove Valley and Biggin Dale SSSI.
The best time to visit any of these Reserves is in either May or June, for wildflowers.
Derbyshire Sites of Special Scientific Interest
Derbyshire Local Nature Reserves
Please visit the English Nature website for more information on Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Local Nature Reserves and National Nature Reserves.