National Trust rangers, volunteers, contractors and students from Hope Valley Pathways have started important work to create a haven for nature at Dalehead, near Edale.

Nestled in the shadow of iconic Peak District landmarks of Kinder Scout and Mam Tor, teams have been planting trees and making other changes to create the conditions needed to start the process.

The 123-hectare site, which is around the size of 150 international football pitches, will demonstrate different techniques for caring for the landscape which benefit wildlife, whilst also supporting adaptation to a changing climate.

This conservation work will also create more homes for birds like barn owls and tawny owls, cuckoo, woodcock, redstart and tree pipit, as well as small mammals such as voles and hedgehogs and insects like bees, butterflies and moths.

It will create a mosaic of different habitats from woodland to grassland where wildflowers, fungi, scrub, like holly and gorse, and native trees will grow.

The work will also help to improve the health of the soil encouraging a variety of plants to grow, creating a better diet for grazing animals. This will help to capture carbon, whilst making the land more resilient to flooding and drought.

So far, the teams have planted native trees and shrubs such as oak, alder, birch, hawthorn, and rowan. Many of these trees have been planted in specially built ‘exclosures’ designed to protect young trees from grazing animals without the need for plastic tree guards.

Great British Life: Dalehead in the Peak District Dalehead in the Peak District (Image: National Trust/Kev Dunnington)

This will eventually create wood pasture which will benefit grazing animals in several ways, including by providing shade and shelter.

‘It’s fantastic to see these trees go into the ground at Dalehead’, says Chris Lockyer, area ranger at the National Trust.

‘The planting is essential to give nature a helping hand and to put back what would have once grown here. We’ll be closely monitoring how well the trees grow without plastic guards and what effect the planting has on the health of the soil using this method. We’re hoping to learn from everything we do here and share this knowledge with others.’

Ellie Sale and Lewis Middleton, students at Hope Valley Pathways, a post-16 provision preparing students with special educational needs and/or disabilities for life and work, recently planted some of the oak trees which will help to extend the woodland on the site.

This is just one of the conservation tasks they’ve been working on as part of work experience and supported internship programmes they’ve been doing with the National Trust ranger team over the last year.

‘It’s amazing to think that this tiny oak tree I’m putting in the ground today might live longer than me and grow into something huge that other people will see years from now’, says Ellie.

Great British Life: Contractors planting trees in exclosures Contractors planting trees in exclosures (Image: National Trust)

It’s not just people who’ve been hard at work; a small herd of cows have played their part too. They wouldn’t know it, but as they eat and move around, they’re helping to break up the ground and add natural fertiliser, creating the right conditions for trees, flowers and grasses to grow.

The next stage of the work will see wetland areas being established, which will help to attract birds like willow warblers, along with a variety of aquatic insects like dragonflies. The team will also be increasing the number of routes people can walk in the area and reopening a nature trail.

As the project develops, the National Trust are expecting to learn and share the knowledge they gain to help tenant farmers and other landowners explore different ways to manage the land for nature and quality food production.

The work at Dalehead has been funded by HSBC UK, Severn Trent Water, The National Trust’s Plant a Tree campaign, the Peak District National Park’s Grow Back Greener programme, and supported by The Woodland Trust.

The National Trust looks after nearly 13% of the Peak District National Park; from the vast panoramas of Mam Tor and Kinder Scout in the High Peak, to the limestone gorges of Dovedale and Ilam Park in the White Peak and the well-known heather clad moors and woodlands around Longshaw, Burbage and the Eastern Moors.

Great British Life: Rangers and volunteers delivering exclosure materials to site at Dalehead Rangers and volunteers delivering exclosure materials to site at Dalehead (Image: National Trust)

The National Trust is an independent conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people: Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, who saw the importance of the nation's heritage and open spaces and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy.

The land the charity looks after contains spectacular upland landscapes, including dramatic scenery, relative wilderness and wildlife habitats.

It contains about a third of all the Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the National Park and 48 Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Kinder and Dovedale are also both National Nature Reserves.

Find out more about the project at