Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s three perfect places to visit in July

Willington Photo: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Willington Photo: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust - Credit: Archant

The best Derbyshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves to visit this month

Brown Argus, Miller's Dale Quarry Photo: Charles Palmer

Brown Argus, Miller's Dale Quarry Photo: Charles Palmer - Credit: Archant

July is the middle of the summer season, and a great time for watching wildlife, especially insects which are at their most abundant right now. Wild flowers attract clouds of butterflies, and rivers and wetlands are abuzz with iridescent dragonflies. Here are three of the best Derbyshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves to visit this month.

Miller’s Dale

Wye Valley, Buxton

Early Purple Orchid Photo: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Early Purple Orchid Photo: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust - Credit: Archant

Map reference: SK140731

Until 1930 Miller’s Dale was a bustling limestone quarry, with smoke billowing from the kilns. Things have certainly changed since those days. With the departure of the quarrymen, nature has taken hold and the quarry is now inhabited by many unusual plants and animals.

The quarry floor is a special place, and the best time to enjoy it is on a hot July day when the scent of fragrant orchids fills the air. Walk carefully here to avoid treading on these delicate plants. Many other wildflowers flourish on the poor soil, where they do not have to compete with other plants and grasses. At this time of year the reserve puts on a colourful show, with early purple orchids and wild strawberries among the flowers that grow here.

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With such a variety of plants around the reserve, it is a haven for insects. On a sunny summer’s day you’ll see common blue butterflies, as well as the day-flying six-spot burnet moth. The quarry face contains crevices which provide safe nest sites for jackdaws and sometimes a pair of kestrels. Watch the sky above for swifts feeding on insects.

Hoe Grange Quarry

Nr Haven Hoe Farm, Longcliffe, Brassington DE4 4HX

Map reference: SK22425626

This site near Brassington has not been worked since the 1970s, so nature has had plenty of time to move in. Just short of five hectares it packs in a good mix of habitats, including patches of bare ground which provide an ideal place for insects to sunbathe. Surrounding these is beautiful flower-rich, short, limestone grassland whilst at the fringes of the quarry there is taller grass and woodland.

The quarry is particularly of interest because of the diversity of butterflies which occur here; a total of 23 different species of butterfly have been recorded so far, including the Peak District race of the brown argus, the dingy skipper and the small heath. The Trust will be working closely with Butterfly Conservation to ensure that the site is managed in the best way as a future haven for butterflies.

Willington Gravel Pits

Down Meadow Lane, off the Repton road just before the bridge over the River Trent

Map reference SK 285 274

This former sand and gravel quarry provides a haven for wildlife in the Trent Valley. The flooded gravel pits form an important wetland habitat attracting many rare birds in addition to a variety of more common species. The reserve is rich in bird life all year round.

Among the birds that breed at Willington are sand martins, lapwings and common tern. Birds of prey also visit the reserve – these include peregrine, kestrel, hobby and sparrowhawk, as well as the very occasional marsh harrier. Willington’s wetlands attract several species of butterflies including meadow brown and ringlet species. It’s a haven for dragonfly and damselfly too, with regular sightings including Emperor dragonfly and brown hawkers. There are also reports of otters visiting the reserve!