Calke Park wildlife walk
Ticknall, Derbyshire DE73 7LERoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
As well as a grand Baroque mansion with a large natural history collection, Calke has secret walled gardens and a parkland, much of which is a National Nature Reserve. The park is a rich and varied landscape of grassland, ponds and wood pasture – one of the rarest habitats in Europe. You’ll also find majestic veteran trees and some great ‘bug’-watching sites. There are no public roads at Calke so it's perfect for a peaceful walk.
- Bus stop
Start: Main overflow car park, grid ref: SK367226
Begin at the northern edge of the main car park with your back to the Ticket Office. Use the gravel path then down the steps to the pond. Look for dragonflies in the summer. Turn right and follow the deer fencing to the top of the hill, until it meets the old park boundary wall.
Red deer inhabit the estate. See males locking horns, calling females and scent-marking during the autumn rut.
Turn left away from the deer fence and follow the path near the wall through the parkland and then along through the Serpentine Wood. This is a good place to see bluebells in spring. Also look for signs of badgers (paths, tracks and diggings).
Spot yellow archangel and bluebells in the woodlands, and self-heal and sheep's sorrel in the grasslands. Birds of prey such as hobby, buzzard and the occasional red kite may be seen, as well as woodland birds such as woodpeckers, tree creepers, nuthatch, starling and tits. Over half of the UK's 16 bat species have been recorded here, and the rough grassland is home to voles, shrews, wood mice, weasels and stoats. Badgers make their homes in the woods along with over 350 types of beetles which thrive on the dead wood. Watch out for the wasp beetle that mimics a wasp in order to avoid being preyed upon.
Go through the kissing gate at the end of the wall and follow the woodland path, which bears round to the left.
Come out of the wood into the Fisherman's car park. To see the oldest tree in the park, The Old Man of Calke, walk a short way beyond the car park through a wooden kissing gate on the left. The tree stands 50 metres on the left and is protected by railings. Return to the car park.
Veteran trees sometimes have hollow trunks which can be seen when the main truck has broken and/or opened. Trees become hollow through a natural process of decay, not because they're dying, but to increase their stability. Also, notice the piles of dead wood around the estate that provide an important habitat for insects. The area around the trees is grazed and this benefits wildlife including many grassland flowers and fungi. The ancient trees support a huge diversity of insects and rare fungi such as the oak polypore.
Follow the narrow stoned then stepped path down from the car park to Betty's Pond. Bear left and go between the two ponds. Next ascend the steps after a gate. A number of Calke's ancient trees (some over 800 years old) can be seen on the left.
This azure damselfly is one of many that can be seen around the ponds at Calke. Others include the common blue and blue-tailed damselfly, and brown hawker dragonfly.
Keep to the upper path to return to the car park.
End: Main overflow car park, grid ref: SK367226
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 1.6 miles (2.5km)
- Time: 40 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 128
Circular walk with stepped and stoned paths, kissing gates and a stile.
- How to get here:
By bike: National Cycle Network traffic-free route, 5 miles (8km) away
By bus: Number 69/A, Derby to Swadlincote (passing close to Derby), alight Ticknall then 1.5 mile (2.5km) walk through park to house
By train: Derby, 9.5 miles (15.2km); Burton-on-Trent, 10 miles (16km)
By car: 10 miles (16km) south of Derby on A514 at Ticknall. M42/A42 exit 13 and A50 Derby South
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