CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

Why you should visit Priestcliffe Lees Nature Reserve

PUBLISHED: 00:00 23 October 2018

Willow Warbler Photo: Amy Lewis

Willow Warbler Photo: Amy Lewis

amy lewis

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s vision is of landscapes rich in wildlife, valued by everyone. They will achieve this 
by pursuing their mission of creating Living Landscapes. Here Julia Gow, the White Peak Reserve Officer at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust tells us about the reserve above the River Wye

Brown Hare Photo: Jamie HallBrown Hare Photo: Jamie Hall

Priestcliffe Lees Nature Reserve lies on a steep limestone hillside above the River Wye and the Monsal Trail. It is best known for its wild flowers and you can see most of these from two public footpaths that climb up through the reserve. If you can’t manage the stiff climb, you can still enjoy the breathtaking views over the Wye Valley by approaching the top of the reserve from the village of Priestcliffe.

On the reserve, bumpy lead spoil heaps are a reminder of the area’s lead mining past. They are also renowned for the special flowers they support and are distinctive to Derbyshire. In summer these top areas are alive with yellow mountain pansy and the tiny white flowers of leadwort. Breathe in the fresh hilltop air and you will be rewarded with the fragrant scent of thyme.

Other limestone flowers are more suited to the sheltered conditions lower down the slopes. Among these are several varieties of orchid, including early purple, common spotted and fragrant. The flowers here attract various butterflies, including dark green fritillary. Many birds enjoy the cover of the trees lower down.

The ash woodland contains wych elm, bird cherry and purging buckthorn. Some birds, such as redstarts, blackcaps and willow warblers, visit for the summer. Among the year-round residents are treecreepers, green woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Where the woodland merges into the grassland on the slopes of Priestcliffe Lees there is a belt of hazel. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has started managing this as a coppice, which means it is cut back every ten or so years. A dark woodland floor suddenly becomes bathed in sunlight, resulting in a flush of spring growth and you will often find some very interesting plants here. You might also see a brown hare running through the fields. Unlike rabbits they are solitary creatures and do not use burrows but shelter on the woodland edge. In the spring they make a form in the grass where they give birth to well-developed young leverets which they only return to feed once a day.

After a fall of snow Priestcliffe Lees is a great place to look for mammal tracks. Some tracks are much easier to identify than others, for instance the badger has particularly long back feet which distinguishes its tracks from those left by other large animals.

The presence of small mammals such as bank vole are also far more evident in the autumn. Bank voles store berries and nuts in preparation for winter and you might find one of their larders if you look very carefully. u

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust believes that people are part of nature; everything we value ultimately comes from it and everything we do impacts upon it. If you would like to know more about Derbyshire Wildlife Trust please call the Trust on 01773 881188 or visit their website www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.

More from Out & About

Andrew Griffiths meets Jim Dixon, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Peak District National Park.

Read more

This walk offers a dance with the Dove and a meander by the Manifold, whilst along the way passing a church, castle remains, country houses and a hollow way

Read more

With winter on the horizon, trees glow with colour, migratory birds arrive and house spiders set off in search of a mate

Read more

Ann Hodgkin investigates a case of the sincerest form of flattery… or industrial espionage!

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s vision is of landscapes rich in wildlife, valued by everyone. They will achieve this 
by pursuing their mission of creating Living Landscapes. Here Julia Gow, the White Peak Reserve Officer at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust tells us about the reserve above the River Wye

Read more

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest


Local Business Directory


Property Search