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Flowers of the Limestone Dales of the Derbyshire Peak District

The Peak District covers much of Derbyshire and parts of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. There are many interesting features, such as wild flowers, well dressing, lead mining etc

Flowers of the Limestone Dales

There are so many plants and flowers which flourish in the alkaline soil of the limestone dales and woodlands that it is hardly possible to list them all and a brief summary will have to suffice. The best places to see these plants are in the dales and woodland of Lathkill Dale, Ravensdale, Millers Dale, Monks Dale and both Deepdales. Lathkill Dale, Ravensdale, Biggin Dale and Monks Dale are all in the care of English Nature. There are other nature reserves also - Derbyshire Wildlife Trust at Priestcliffe and Millers Dale, for instance, and Staffordshire Wildlife Trust at Castern Wood in the Manifold Valley.

Wood Anemones
Wood Anemones
In spring the first flowers to break forth after the rigours of winter are usually the Wood Anemone, which will often form a carpet of white flowers in the woods during late March or early April. Along the riverbanks this usually flowers about the same time as Butterbur, which produces spikes covered in red flowers. However, Butterbur will later disfigure the riverbanks with its huge rhubarb-like leaves.

In May the sides of many limestone dales will show yellow patches of Cowslips, which occur across the area. These are usually the prelude to a burst of colour in the dales, with a many plants flowering in late May or early June. These include the Early Purple Orchids, which can form a carpet of purple flowers across the sides of dales like Lathkill Dale. Campion starts to appear in the dales about the same time and this plant will flower right through to early September.

Water Aven
Water Aven
At this time the woods often have a carpet of bluebells interspersed with clumps of Ramson or wild garlic, distinctive with its spiky white flowers on a tall stem, and its pungent smell. Plants which like wet places, such as Water Aven, may also be found, usually around the fringes of wooded areas. Rarer plants such as Lords and Ladies are sometimes to be found in woods or under shaded cliffs.

In the meadows the flowers of meadow saxifrage, ladies smock and stitchwort start to appear, while on the old lead waste tips spring sandwort (know locally as leadwort) can provide a carpet of tiny white flowers. This plant is unusual in that it can tolerate the high levels of lead in the former tips.

Common Spotted Orchid
Common Spotted Orchid
A little later, usually early July, Common Spotted Orchids are to be found in many of the dales, and other rarer orchids such as the Frog Orchid and Burnt Orchid appear in the grassland. Rare plants such as Jacobs Ladder come out into flower.

In July and August the grassy sides of the dales and the roadside verges burst into flower. Cranesbill (both the blue 'Meadow Cranesbill' species and the red, or 'Bloody Cranesbill' species), Harebells and Scabious appear in profusion, making the verges a mass of blue. Marjoram and numerous varieties of Thistle also thrive. However, not everything is colourful and pleasant - one plant which thrives on these soils is the common nettle, and this is prolific in all the limestone areas.

By early September the season is effectively over, with just the Harebells, Scabious and Cranesbill surviving a little longer before the autumn sets in and the cycle starts all over again.

More information about the National Nature Reserves and conservation in the Peak can be obtained from English Nature. The address is:

The Site Manager, English Nature, Over Haddon, Bakewell, DE45 1JE.

Telephone: 01629 815095.

Campion flowers
0 - Campion flowers
1 - Cowslips
Common spotted orchid
2 - Common spotted orchid
Early purple orchid
3 - Early purple orchid
Early purple orchids
4 - Early purple orchids
5 - Harebells.jpg
6 - Leadwort
Lords and Ladies
7 - Lords and Ladies
Lords and Ladies fruit
8 - Lords and Ladies fruit
Marjoram flowers
9 - Marjoram flowers
Meadow Saxifrage
10 - Meadow Saxifrage
Ramson (wild garlic)
11 - Ramson (wild garlic)
Pyramid orchid
12 - Pyramid orchid
Red (bloody) Cranesbill
13 - Red (bloody) Cranesbill
Blue (Meadow) Cranesbill
14 - Blue (Meadow) Cranesbill
Scabious flowers
15 - Scabious flowers
Stitchwort flowers
16 - Stitchwort flowers
Water Aven flower
17 - Water Aven flower
Wild pansies (Viola)
18 - Wild pansies (Viola)
Wood Anemones
19 - Wood Anemones
Litton - Tansley Dale flowers
20 - Litton - Tansley Dale flowers