Woodlands in the White Peak

Oak leaves in September in the garden at Florence Court, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

You don't have to go far to see some fine examples of woodland habitat in the White Peak.

The White Peak is home to some of the finest ash woods in the country, with almost all the woodland managed by the National Trust here being part of a ‘Special Area of Conservation’ – which means these woods are important for conservation on a European scale.

They are often called ‘ravine woodlands’ because they are found on the steep dalesides, often even clinging to crags and spires of limestone. Ravine woodland holds some rare and beautiful tree species, such as large and small leaved lime, rock whitebeam, and yew, as well as a diverse understorey of shrubs like hazel and guelder rose. They contain a rich selection of woodland wildflowers in spring, including some species that are only found in the White Peak, as well as unusual birds like pied flycatchers and redstarts.

Three of the best woodlands in the White Peak

Tissington Spires in Dovedale. Half a mile north of Lover’s Leap on the main Dovedale path, Tissington Spires is a series of towering crags that are blanketed in woodland that somehow clings to the steep faces; it’s one of the best and most accessible examples of truly wild ravine woodland.

Hinkley Wood in Ilam Park. Hinkley Wood was probably managed over the past couple of hundred years to purposefully create the spectacular backdrop to Ilam Hall. It contains more rare lime trees than any other wood in the White Peak and there is a breath-taking wall of wild garlic as soon as you cross the bridge.

Woodlands of the Hamps Valley. Take a walk along the Manifold track through the Hamps valley and you’ll be surrounded by a history of working woods – woodsmen of the past coppiced hazel here to make baskets for transporting pots from the potteries of the midlands.

A plan for the future

A fungal disease called ash dieback has now arrived in the UK and it is likely to affect the White Peak woodlands dramatically, because they contain a lot of ash. We don’t have accurate predictions but there’s a possibility most of the ash could be affected over the next few decades. The ranger team plan to pro-actively manage the woods to ensure that they continue to function as great habitats and will remain a vital part of the beauty of the White Peak landscape. This management will include creating open areas to allow trees other than ash to reproduce, and may mean involve growing and planting some trees from seed collected in our woods.

The National Trust work in partnership with Natural England, the Foresty Commission and other organisations to monitor and share information about the health of the woodland habitats and species thriving or declining in the area.

Want to learn more about the small leaved lime tree? Our colleagues in the Lake District have made a short film about them.