The Peak District was the first region in the UK to be designated as a National Park, in order to protect the beauty of the region. Read a little more about the White Peak flowers and wildlife on this page.

The White Peak is underlain by the limestone so the flora comprises that which prefers alkaline soils. The lead mines with their toxic spoil heaps attract many specialist plants that can deal with heavy metals (see Derbyshire mining section).

The native flora and fauna of the White Peak is best seen in the limestone dales, especially those designated as nature reserves such as Lathkill Dale, which is home to the rare Jacob’s Ladder. Just upstream from Lathkill Head is one of the largest stands of this plant in the country. Look around at the old, semi-natural woodlands and you will find numerous species that are typical of this (calcareous) habitat - lily of the valley, primrose, cowslip and dog’s mercury. There is also a huge variety of shrubs in these reserves, rock whitebeam, guelder rose and mezereon which is a rarity in the UK.

Spring Orchids abound, the Wardlow end of Cressbrook Dale is particularly splendid on a fresh, sunny spring day. The rivers of the limestone plateau of Derbyshire are among the purest in the UK. The purity of the Lathkill was famously commented upon by Charles Cotton - Piscator in Izaac Walton’s ‘Compleat Angler’. One of the key indicators of water purity is the ‘crawkie’ or freshwater crayfish, which can be found in a few locations. You will be unlucky indeed if you miss the delightful sight of the dipper, a tubby little bird with a characteristic white ‘bib’ perching on rocks or flitting up and down stream, or the grey wagtail with its distinctive yellow breast and tail feathers. In the spring, you will find it hard to escape from the explosive song of the wren and the robin or the more subtle call of the willow (and other) warblers and chiff-chaff. Quite often you will be treated to a top view of a kestrel, before it swoops onto a hapless mouse or other small rodent. The otter, as part of its national comeback, has also been sighted in the Peak District.

One of the reasons that the Derbyshire Dales are so rich in bird life is the number of hoverflies, mayflies, dragonflies and other insects that rely on the clear waters of the rivers Lathkill, Dove, Wye et.al. The Derbyshire limestone rivers such as the Hamps, Manifold and Lathkill tend to disappear underground from time to time. The Manifold usually disappears north of Thor’s Cave, an impressive natural cave high on the hillside close to Wetton, to reappear near Ilam Hall. The Lathkill, which is the only one to be on limestone for the whole of its course, has its source in a cave in the side of the dale. The source comes and goes depending on the rainfall. It is worth a trip to see the water flowing from the cave in the winter, after a wet period. The river's flow is more constant further downstream and is always present by the time it is passing Over Haddon. I am not aware of any time that it has dried up completely. Many of the rivers of the region are unpolluted and low enough in sediment levels to provide a home for the native white clawed crayfish, a species that is threatened in this country.

When looking at the flora and fauna, please remember that you may be venturing on to private land or a nature reserve. Please show the appropriate sensitivity in all cases. If you are new to wildlife watching it is possible to organise a wildlife walk with a guide such as with Skylark Holidays - click here for information.


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