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 :
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
Insects are equally diverse, and south-facing and west-facing slopes are
home to rarities such as the northern brown argus butterfly and cistus
Internationally important woodlands, dominated by ash, with a rich shrub
layer and ground flora including bird cherry, mezereon and alpine
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...
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.