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.
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.
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.