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Exploring the estate at Calke Abbey

Close up branch of white hawthorne blossom
Hawthorn blossom at Calke Abbey | © National Trust/Dennis Richardson

A visit to Calke Abbey is a rare opportunity to explore acres of historic parkland, home to bats, birds, butterflies, and ancient trees that predate the house itself. Reconnect with the natural world on a walk in the park, or explore the estate on two wheels to take in this vast and ancient landscape.

Spring in the parkland

Discover new life across the parkland. From primroses and violets in the woodland and limeyards to cowslips in the Pleasure Grounds, take notice of what’s growing around you this spring.

Spring walks

With acres of historic parkland to explore, including National Nature Reserves, ancient woodland and open countryside, a spring walk around Calke is the perfect place to blow away the winter cobwebs.

Download our property map and follow the waymarked walks or step off the beaten track for a quiet moment of reflection amongst nature.

Venture into the wider estate on a walk to Tollgate Brewery's Milking Parlour. Walk along the Tramway Trail and then turn to follow the public footpath highlighted on our property map.


A highlight for spring is lambing time, where Calke’s rare-breed Portland lambs can be seen finding their feet in the Walled Kitchen Garden from mid-April. With unique brown fluffy coats, you won’t want to miss them in action, as they bound around in the long grass.

Image shows a Portland ewe and lamb in the grass in the walled Kitchen Garden at Calke
Portlands in the Walled Kitchen Garden at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire | © National Trust Images/Gillian Day


From March to May, blossom covers the estate in swathes of pink and white. As you stroll through the sunshine, keep an eye out for hawthorn, blackthorn and wild cherry blossom around ponds and hedgerows.

The accessible Tramway Trail is a great place for blossom watching or head to Serpentine Woods to spot cherry blossom.


From April, discover a sea of blue in Serpentine Wood. Follow the blue waymarked route to find an ancient display carpeting round the trees.

More of these vibrant spring flowers can be spotted in the woods along the Tramway Trail – a multi-use accessible route, which is just a short walk from the Calke Explore car park.

Look after bluebells

Bluebells can take between five to seven years to establish and further years to recover from damage. Help us care for these native flowers by sticking to footpaths and keeping dogs on a short lead.

Park guided walks

Park guided walks are available from 1 March 2024 until 2 November 2024.

Whether you're a seasoned walker at Calke or it's your first visit, a guided walk in the park is a great way to explore, and we guarantee you'll discover something you never knew about the estate.

Guided walks take place every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 11am and 2pm, starting outside the Ticket Office. They're free and flexible, typically lasting around 90 minutes (although walks can be tailored to suit your needs).

Why not stop for a chat and see where we're heading off to on the next guided walk?

Cycling at Calke

Get wonderful views from your saddle as you explore the ancient parkland at Calke Abbey on a leisurely bike ride. The Tramway Trail, a circular, multi-use trail, is perfect for family bike rides – it's relatively flat and there are minimal road crossings.

The best place to park for a bike ride is at Calke Explore, where you can jump straight on the Tramway Trail. You'll find a map of the route here, and outside the Ticket Office.

Cycle hire at Calke Explore

From Saturday 2 March – Sunday 3 November, cycle hire will be available at Calke Explore every weekend, bank holiday and school holiday, from 10am to 4.30pm (last hire 2.30pm).

Prices: £10 per adult bike, £7 per child bike (under 18s), and £7 per trailer (including dog trailers) for 2 hours hire. Balance bikes are free of charge.

All bikes and trailers are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Family cycling in parkland at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire in autumn.
Family cycling in parkland at Calke Abbey | © ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Wildlife to spot on the estate

With over 600 acres of countryside, Calke Abbey is home to lots of wildlife that you can see all year round. Here are some highlights to look out for, many of which you’ll see in all seasons.

Lambing and livestock

Calke Abbey is home to a flock of rare-breed Portland sheep, as well as lots of livestock that you can see roaming around the estate in spring and summer.

In spring, visit the Walled Kitchen Garden to see the Portland lambs bouncing around in the long grass. This rare breed has lived on the estate since 1770, and if it weren’t for Calke’s flock, they might have become extinct. You can identify them by their tan-coloured faces.

In the rest of the estate, you’ll find more sheep owned and cared for by local farmers, and the long-horn cattle who roam the estate through the spring and summer.

Sadly, we’ve seen an increase in dogs worrying the sheep, which has resulted in livestock injuries and fatalities. Even the friendliest dogs can be unpredictable, so please keep them on leads at all times around livestock. Thank you.

Visit the Deer Park

A National Nature Reserve in itself, Calke’s 67-acre Deer Park is home to a herd of red and fallow deer. Red deer have distinctive red coats, while fallows are often speckled with white spots.

During May and June, the fallow fawns and red calves are born. You might spot them hiding among the bracken until they’re brave enough to explore.

Autumn sees the rise of rutting season, a time to witness spectacular behaviour among the stags, who can be seen sizing up their opponents and wallowing in mud baths. Listen out for bellowing roars and grunts, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot clashing antlers as the stags fight for dominance.

Bird, butterflies and bees

With acres of woodlands, wetlands and open countryside, Calke is the perfect spot for a bit of birdwatching. There are two bird hides where you can watch birds at the feeders – you’ll find one at Calke Explore, and another in the main car park (next to the Deer Park).

Summer is the perfect time to look out for other winged creatures, such as bees, butterflies and beetles. The wildflower meadows and Pleasure Grounds are a great place to spot them, as well at the waterside at Calke Explore. You’ll also find a giant bug hotel there too.

Ancient trees and woodland

A third of the historic Calke Abbey Estate is recognised as a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. This ancient wood pasture and its historic avenues are home to over 650 veteran trees, more than half of which are considered ancient.

The ‘Old Man of Calke’ is perhaps the most well-known ancient veteran tree. At an estimated 1,200 years old, he certainly earns his title. Follow the pink waymarked walk from the main car park to visit the Old Man.

Many of the trees in the park are thought to be over 400 years old, which means they'd have been over 100 years old during Shakespeare's time. These ancient trees are a mix of species, such as limes, field maples, ash, beech and chestnuts, as well as oak.

Deadwood is good wood

While exploring the parkland, you might notice branches that have fallen and been left on the ground, as well as entire fallen trees. This deadwood provides a valuable habitat and Calke’s parkland is one of Britain's best sites for deadwood invertebrates. Calke is home to over 200 types of beetle that rely on deadwood – such as the wasp beetle, which mimics wasps to avoid predation.

These trees are made for walking

Have you ever heard of a walking tree? There are several trees walking their way across the landscape at Calke Abbey.

You can spot walking trees where their branches have bowed low to the ground and taken root, forming a new tree from the old. As the old tree dies, the new trees continue to grow, slowly (very slowly) moving their way across the land.

A view of the west side of the house and  a glimpse of the Pleasure Grounds through trees on a sunny day at Calke Abbey

Discover more at Calke Abbey

Find out when Calke Abbey is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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