Skip to content

Our work in the parkland and garden at Kedleston

Kedleston's white-clawed crayfish
Getting up close to Kedleston's white-clawed crayfish | © NTI/Darren Cresswell

Kedleston’s team of staff and volunteers have been doing important work to create and conserve valuable wildlife habitats. From reawakening the character and features of the 18th century garden to protecting native species in the parkland, learn how we’ve been breathing new life into Kedleston’s outdoor spaces.

Protection of native white-clawed crayfish in Kedleston lakes

The team at Kedleston, along with the help of a number of ecological organisations, are working hard to protect the native white-clawed crayfish found in Kedleston’s lakes. This significant conservation project will help safeguard the future of this critically endangered species.

White-clawed crayfish in Kedleston lakes

There is a large, well-established population of white-clawed crayfish in Kedleston lakes - one of a very limited number of surviving populations in Derbyshire.

White-clawed crayfish is our only native species of crayfish. Their numbers have declined significantly over the last ten years, with a loss of 80% across its range. A protected species, they are now classified as endangered and at risk of extinction.

Threats to the white-clawed crayfish at Kedleston

The decline of this native crayfish has primarily been caused by the invasion of a non-native species - the american signal crayfish. Signal crayfish outcompete the white-clawed crayfish for homes and food, they carry a disease (crayfish plague) which is harmless to themselves but lethal to white-clawed crayfish.

The National Trust commissioned a survey and report in 2017 by ECUS Ltd (environmental consultants) which confirmed the presence of signal crayfish in the lake in Markeaton Park - approximately 2.75km downstream. No white-clawed crayfish were found downstream suggesting that they had been outcompeted and replaced by signals.

Due to the distinct spatial separation of the two species, ECUS had suggested that it may be possible to safeguard the white-clawed crayfish population at Kedleston.

Conservation efforts so far

A regime of trapping the signal crayfish downstream has been delivered since 2018. The aim was to prevent the population of signal crayfish reaching capacity within Markeaton lake and migrating upstream to Kedleston but this is a holding position and cannot be sustained for ever.

"Kedleston Hall has been given a unique opportunity to conserve the endangered, white-clawed crayfish in our lakes. One of the core purposes of the National Trust is nature conservation. We are delighted to be able to play our part, working with multiple partners including Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to achieve this aim."

Stephen Wright, Lakes Project Officer and Ranger, Kedleston Hall, National Trust

What happened next?

Additional conservation measures were recommended which include the translocation of white clawed crayfish to ‘Ark’ sites – a safe waterbody where it is hoped they will breed.

  • Artificial refuges were placed at strategic locations through the lakes system at points where concentrated populations of white-clawed crayfish exist.
  • In autumn 2022 the crayfish was collected, individually checked and assessed for damage, disease, size, sex before being placed in oxygenated tanks.
  • The native crayfish was transported to an 'Ark' site in North Derbyshire.
  • Building on the 2022 success at Kedleston, in September 2023, a novel approach was taken to collecting the white-clawed crayfish using a ‘drawdown’ technique. Brooks at Kedleston were drained and redirected downstream for a short period to entice the white-clawed crayfish out of their burrows. Further collections are ongoing so that more crayfish can be moved to ark sites.

Our partners

Project partners include the Environment Agency, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Derby City Council, Nottingham Trent University, University of Derby and AECOM.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust put in an application to The Green Recovery Challenge Fund which was successful and included the white-clawed crayfish project here at Kedleston.

We have also kindly received a generous donation of a pallet of bricks from Ibstock Brick Company to help with the trapping and building of refuges. In addition to this we received free e-DNA sampling kits from Nature Metrics who then processed our water samples free of charge to check for crayfish plague and the presence of white-clawed crayfish and american signal crayfish.

White-clawed crayfish have also been found in lakes at the National Trust, Calke Abbey estate. Click here to find out more.

Setting up artificial refuges in Kedleston lakes
Artificial refuges were placed at strategic locations through the lakes system | © NTI/Darren Cresswell

Reawakening the garden at Kedleston

The garden space at Kedleston was once home to rose gardens, kitchen gardens, a swimming pool and pergolas. Over the years, the garden and its original features virtually all disappeared. In 2019, we began an exciting project to reawaken the character and distinctive features of the original 18th century garden at Kedleston. The garden team of staff and volunteers at Kedleston used old plans, plant lists and a range of experts to bring Kedleston’s garden back to life.

In previous years some of these flower beds were sown with a mix of wildflower seeds. This has since been replaced with a carefully selected mix of shrubs and other typical 18th century plants which offer year round interest. As these beds become more established it will help to provide colour and depth to the garden. Over the years it will change the view of the house depending on where you are in the garden (as intended in years gone by).

Meadow conservation at Kedleston

At Kedleston, we’ve been implementing careful meadow management to make more space for nature and combat the national decline in meadows. Our work in meadow conservation means that vital habitats for wildlife can be restored.

A national decline in meadows

Meadows are now one of the rarest habitats in the UK. Since 1900, almost 1.6 million hectares of wildflower meadows have been lost.

Hay produced from summer meadows, rich in a wide range of wildflowers, used to be one of the key sources of winter forage for farm animals. The widespread switch to silage making in the 1960s has meant a vast reduction in hay meadows nationally.

What is the impact of the reduction in meadows?

Wildflower meadows provide vital habitats for wildlife. The loss in meadow habitats has led to a devastating decline in wildlife populations, stripping bugs, butterflies, small birds and mammals of their natural homes.

Bringing meadows back to Kedleston parkland

Two experimental wildflower plots have been set up in the north park along the Wilderness Walk (just beyond Hay Wood).

Wildflowers bloom at Kedleston

One side of the first plot was spread with green hay from a local wildflower meadow, while the further side had a commercial wildflower seed mix applied. Both areas have developed a good range of wildflowers, including birdsfoot trefoil, shorter grasses, and oxeye daisies. Wild carrot is also in the mix and there are several spikes of the blue viper’s bugloss.

Butterfly on wildflower at Kedleston Hall
Butterfly on wildflower at Kedleston Hall | © National Trust Images/Steve Franklin

The second plot (further towards North Lodge and by the long side of Bracken Wood) was sown with a different commercial mix of mostly annual cornfield plants such as cornflower, corncockle and scentless mayweed.

Kedleston rangers have erected electric fences to protect the area and stop Dexter cows eating the flowers.

Tree felling in Hay Wood

In tandem with this project, the team carried out some felling of trees in Hay Wood. Tree felling prevents tree crowding, creates space for the veteran trees and reverts scrubby woodland to wood pasture, another habitat in decline.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

Wildflowers in June at Godolphin, Cornwall


Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

You might also be interested in

Portrait of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, Lady Curzon and toddler Nathaniel Curzon, with deceased John Curzon as an angel in top left

History of Kedleston Hall 

Discover more about Kedleston’s vibrant story and how it’s entangled with global histories, from Rome to India.

Bluebells in Kedleston parkland

Exploring the park at Kedleston 

Pull on your walking boots and enjoy an adventure in Kedleston's beautiful surroundings, whether it’s a short stroll around Robert Adam’s pleasure ground, or a heartier walk for the more adventurous.

Looking up at the state bed at Kedleston, where a member of the conservation team stands on a ladder to add the finished touches to the state bed display

Our work at Kedleston Hall 

Find out how the team at Kedleston Hall have been working to protect and conserve Kedleston Hall’s objects and collections, from books to the 18th-century floor.

An aerial view of Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, showing the entire hall and surrounding grounds

History of the park and garden at Kedleston 

The parkland at Kedleston was created to complement the magnificence of the hall. Learn how the vision of a landscaped park and pleasure grounds came to life.

Kedleston volunteer room guide

Volunteering at Kedleston Hall 

Volunteers play a huge role at Kedleston Hall, from nature conservation to catering. Discover volunteer opportunities at Kedleston and learn how to get involved.

A group of hikers climb a path through woodland towards the camera

For everyone, for ever: our strategy to 2025 

Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.

Ranger in National Trust fleece inspecting white blossom on tree in orchard

Our cause 

We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.