The Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve consists of parts of five separate limestone valleys in the Peak District National Park - Lathkill, Cressbrook, Monk's, Long and Hay Dale.
Lathkill Dale, the closest to Wheeldon Trees (about 4 miles away), is recommended for casual visitors; the other dales are for more seasoned walkers !
It’s a superb example of all the major wildlife habitats of the White Peak Natural Area, including :

  • Flower-rich grasslands
  • Abundant limestone plants such as common rock rose and salad burnet, up to 45 different species have been found in a square meter !
  • Rarities include Jacob's ladder, spring cinquefoil and Nottingham catchfly; visit in spring to see the thousands of early purple orchids and cowslips
  • Insects are equally diverse, and south-facing and west-facing slopes are home to rarities such as the northern brown argus butterfly and cistus forester moth.
  • Internationally important woodlands, dominated by ash, with a rich shrub layer and ground flora including bird cherry, mezereon and alpine currant.
  • The River Lathkill itself has among the purest waters in the country – look out for dippers, wagtails and even kingfishers on the banks …
  • Other unusual habitats such as species-rich scrub, limestone heaths, lead spoils, flushes, dewponds, screes, rock exposures and caves.
The other locations...

Cressbrook Dale has steeper paths, leading you from ash woods to a turf landscape dotted with rockrose and alive with butterflies and moths, broken by rocky outcrops and screes.

Monk's Dale is a wilder prospect, needing more effort to reach its inner sanctum, but well worth that exertion.

Hay Dale and Long Dale are both small and make a great trip for naturalists looking for limestone flowers and insects.