Ancient Estates of the Peak

Last Saturday was a really special day when we led a walk for The Peacock Hotel in Rowsley through the two ancient estates of Chatsworth and Haddon.

In addition to enjoying stunning scenery throughout the guided walk, customers learned about the fascinating history of these two estates.

What made the walk really special was that Lord Edward Manners had very kindly granted us permission to walk through the private part of the Haddon Estate that isn’t normally open to the public.  He had also arranged for us to have a private guided tour of Haddon Hall after a delicious lunch at the Haddon Restaurant.  The staff of the Haddon Estate looked after us really well on the day!

The private part of the Haddon Estate includes the old orchard, and the medieval deer park.  This is a beautiful, very natural looking area of parkland that has largely been left undisturbed for centuries.  Through here, we saw lots of beautiful mature trees, many of which had been planted by different generations of the Manners family.  We saw fascinating lumps in the ground that were massive ant hills (a sign that the land has been left undisturbed for a long period of time), and we were able to look into the abandoned tunnel that the old London to Manchester railway line once passed through.  The estate is managed for conservation and we saw evidence of many initiatives to encourage wildlife, birds and a diverse range of plants and trees.

The photo gallery below shows some of the highlights of the day.


Walking through the private part of the Haddon Estate


View over amazing countryside from the medieval deer park in the private part of the Haddon Estate


Exploring the entrance to the Haddon Tunnel in the private part of the Haddon Estate.  The London to Manchester railway line once passed through here. 


Beautiful trees in the Haddon Estate


Haddon Hall


The gardens at Haddon Hall


Walking along the track-bed of the old railway line in the private part of the Haddon Estate.


Looking down an air shaft into the old railway tunnel in the private part of the Haddon Estate.


The footpath through Manners Wood.


The River Derwent in Chatsworth Park


Footpath through Chatsworth Park

Red Grouse on Kinder Scout

Red Grouse on the moors

There are estimated to be over 5,000 breading pairs of Red Grouse on the heather covered moorlands of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District, so it is not unusual to see them on our guided walks.   The males can be instantly recognised by their distinctive red ‘eyebrows’.  Great places to see them include popular walking areas such as Kinder Scout, Bleaklow, Derwent Edge, and Stanage Edge.

Book onto any of our open group moorland guided walks for a good chance of seeing  them and hearing their unmistakable call.

Red Grouse on Kinder Scout


Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzels in The Dark Peak

On our walk yesterday on Derwent Edge we were lucky enough to see Ring Ouzels.  These rare birds spend the winter in the Mediterranean and North Africa, then migrate to the UK in the spring where they nest among craggy outcrops of rocks and among heather between April and July.  The gritstone crags of the Dark Peak are ideal nesting habitats.  Their numbers have rapidly declined over the last 50 years and it is believed that now only around 6,000 – 7,000 breeding pairs come to the UK.

They look similar to blackbirds but are slightly smaller and have a white ring around their necks.

Ring Ouzel


Red Deer

Deer in Chatsworth Park

On a brief stroll though the northern end of Chatsworth Park this morning I was treated to a wonderful view of the deer.  A lone Fallow Deer caught my attention first, wandering amongst the sheep.  Then not far away I spotted a large herd of Red Deer.

Fun with environmental learning in the Peak District

I have recently got back from the Mountain Training Association national conference which this year was in the Peak District. During the weekend there were a range of workshops to choose from and I was drawn towards the ‘Environmental Learning Made Easy’ session which was delivered by Jim Langley of Nature’s Work. This proved to be an excellent choice – which is why I want to share my experiences with you in my Countryside Blog.

The workshop was aimed at introducing Learning Cards to help children to learn through outdoor activities. The fact that all of us who completed the workshop had so much fun, indicates that they could easily be adapted for adults!

The day started with learning some surveying techniques and first of all doing a short survey of wildlife in a small grassy area to the rear of the buildings. At first glance it appeared there was absolutely nothing there except grass, however closer inspection revealed all kinds of insects, spiders, snails, and a couple of holes that could have been made by a shrew. It is amazing how absorbed you can become in the ground whilst crawling on your hands and knees through damp grass!

Our second survey was of the graveyard in the village of Castleton studying the gravestones, their age, condition, type of stone and looking for trends or categories. Again, absolutely fascinating and it actually raised more questions than it answered.

We then moved up the hillside into Cave Dale to look at some of the wonderful plants that thrive in the rocky and sometimes shady limestone soils. I was amazed at how many varieties of lichen and moss there were thriving in just in a small area, not to mention all of the ferns and other plants. Jim’s explanation of their evolution and reproduction methods was so interesting.

At lunch time Jim sprung a pleasant surprise on us by producing numerous jars and bottles out of the back of his van filled with all sorts of goodies home-made made from wild plants and fruit. My favourite was the Hawthorn Ketchup followed closely by the Rowan Jelly.

During the afternoon, we learned how to measure the height of a tree using a pencil, how to light a fire without matches and using a type of fungus called Kind Alfred’s Cakes that we had collected earlier as firelighters. Having lit the fire, we then made some charcoal sticks with Willow twiggs and Jim taught us how to insert them into a short piece of Elder to create a charcoal pencil. The popcorn that Jim cooked for us over the fire had to be the highlight of the afternoon!

Altogether a fabulous day spent learning about the countryside and nature.

Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar on the trail

Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar

Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar

This wonderful caterpillar, measuring about 7 – 8 cm in length was spotted by Adam on our ‘White Peak Dales and Trails’ walk yesterday.  It was on the Tissington Trail and had probably been gorging on the Rosebay Willow-herb along the side of the trail before venturing out onto the path.

It is an Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar.  Notice the ‘eye’ spots towards its front end.  When these caterpillars feel threatened, they rear up at the front and due to the ‘eyes’ are sometimes mistaken for small snakes.  It is believed that birds that feed on caterpillars are wary of them when they rear up, and tend to leave them alone.

The caterpillar will hibernate through the winter as a crysalis, and the moth that eventually emerges will have a wing span of 6 – 7 cm and will be pink and olive green in colour.

Undertakers of the beetle world!

Sexton Beetle

Sexton Beetle

This beautifully coloured beetle was spotted by Neal on our walk today on the lower slopes of Kinder Scout.

It is a Sexton Beetle.  They are also known as Burying Beetles and get their name from their practice of digging a hole beneath small dead animals and birds then pulling the body down into the hole.  They then use the carcass as a source of food for their larvae.