Cressbrook Dale IPA

Location: In West Derbyshire, Cressbrook Dale is situated 11.3 km north of Bakewell, between the villages of Wardlow and Litton.

Grid Reference: SK 172 748

The White Peak of Derbyshire and Staffordshire is one of the most important masses of carboniferous limestone in Britain.

The limestone is cut by valleys, the 'dales', which contain a range of woodlands, scrub, grassland and streams. Cressbrook Dale is one of the five valleys that make up the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve. It is a steep-sided dale running in a north-south direction and contains some spectacular limestone cliffs.

Cressbrook Dale IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • One of the UK’s most important populations of Thamnobryum angustifolia
  • Plants you could see

    Cressbrook Dale contains some of the finest limestone grasslands in the White Peak area. Wardlow Hay Cop above the dale is one of the best. It is covered with meadow oat and carnation sedge and areas of acidic grassland dominated by mat grass. Stemless thistle Cirsium acaulen occurs here at one of its most northerly sites in Britain, and, in the dale, heath false-brome Brachypodium pinnatum, another species near its northern limit, may be found. The very poor soils below the crags are home to the rare bird’s-foot sedge Carex ornithopoda and fingered sedge C. Digitata. In many parts of the dale the grasslands have remarkably rich limestone plant communities. There are a number of mine spoil heaps where spring sandwort Minuartia verna is common and rock hutchinsia Hornungia petraea abundant. Both species are particularly associated with such sites but scarce elsewhere in the country. Cressbrook Dale is one of the most important sites in the region for lichens growing on limestone and in the moister parts of the dale there is a rich bryophyte flora. It supports the world’s only population of the Derbyshire feathermoss Thamnobryum angustifolium, one of a small group of essentially aquatic Thamnobryum species which have very restricted distributions. The tree canopy is of ash Fraxinus sp with a little wych elm Ulmus glabra and a dense shrub layer of bird-cherry Prunus padus, field maple Acer campestre, guelder rose Viburnum opulus, hazel Corylus avellana and dogwood Cornus sanguinea. Below them, the field layer is dominated by dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis with patches of ramsons Allium ursinum and lily-of-the-valley Convallaria majalis. In a few localities mezereon Daphne mezereum and spurge laurel D. laureola occur. There are some extensive areas of scrub and, on west facing slopes, areas of 'retrogressive scrub', rich in species such as dark red helleborine Epipactis atrorubens, broad-leaved helleborine Epipactis helleborine and bloody cranesbill Geranium sanguineum.