Calke Park wildlife walk

Ticknall, Derbyshire DE73 7LE

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Red Deer bellowing during the rut at Calke Abbey in the early autumn © National Trust / Peter Allman

Red Deer bellowing during the rut at Calke Abbey in the early autumn

A stunning carpert of bluebells at Calke Abbey © NT/ Peter Allman

A stunning carpert of bluebells at Calke Abbey

The 1200 year old 'Old Man of Calke' © National Trust

The 1200 year old 'Old Man of Calke'

Look out for flashes of blue as the damselflies flit around the ponds © Louise Smithson

Look out for flashes of blue as the damselflies flit around the ponds

Route overview

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.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Route of the Calke Abbey wildlife walk in Derbyshire
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Main overflow car park, grid ref: SK367226

  1. Begin at the main overflow car park and walk down the steps to the ponds. 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.

    Show/HideRed deer

    Red deer inhabit the estate. See males locking horns, calling females and scent-marking during the autumn rut.

    Red Deer bellowing during the rut at Calke Abbey in the early autumn © National Trust / Peter Allman
  2. 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).

    Show/HideWildlife

    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.

    A stunning carpert of bluebells at Calke Abbey © NT/ Peter Allman
  3. Go through the kissing gate and follow the woodland path, which bears round to the left.

  4. Come out of the wood into the Fisherman's car park. The oldest tree in the park, The Old Man of Calke, is a short way beyond the car park through the wooden gate.

    Show/HideAncient trees

    Calke's oldest tree, an oak known as the Old Man of Calke, is over 1,000 years old. 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. This is an island habitat for species that have survived since the last Ice Age.

    The 1200 year old 'Old Man of Calke' © National Trust
  5. Follow the stepped path down from the car park to Bettys Pond and go between the two ponds, then ascend the steps over the stile. A number of Calkes ancient trees (some over 400 years old) can be seen around Bettys Pond.

    Show/HideDamselflies

    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.

    Look out for flashes of blue as the damselflies flit around the ponds © Louise Smithson
  6. Follow the line of horse chestnuts all the way back to the starting car park.

End: Main overflow car park, grid ref: SK367226

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 1.5 miles (2.5km)
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • OS Map: Landranger 128
  • Terrain:

    Circular walk with stepped and stoned paths, kissing gates and a stile. Enquire at property for more accessible routes.

  • 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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