Save Cressbrook Dale



The Campaign to Save Cressbrook Dale

-Protecting a unique, fragile landscape from harmful change

- Preserving the right of public access

The integrity and tranquility of our much-loved Derbyshire valley is being threatened by the activities of new land owners. They seek to alter the landscape here in a manner that is completely at odds with its nature, against the protections already in place and in an unsustainable manner. Development here will destroy an irreplaceable and unique landscape that has taken hundreds of years to establish itself. In wrecking the land they also threaten the well-being of the communities that surround and enjoy this incredible landscape as well as those who visit and hold this Dale close to their hearts.

We are not against people wanting to live sustainably and grow their own food. What has confused, concerned and dismayed us is that this group think that Cressbrook Dale - a highly protected, steep sided valley largely covered in Ancient Woodland - is a suitable place in which to do it. In blindly pushing ahead with their plans the group will do irreparable damage to a precious and fragile landscape. And this is at a time when our areas of wilderness are in retreat. We can't stand by and let this happen.

The group have published several prospectuses in order to attract new 'investors'. Each version sees the 'deal' vary slightly but the key points stay the same, not applying for planning permission, farming and camping on the land. Although potential 'investors' are told the land is special they aren't told that is so special that it is highly protected so that it can stay special. This fragile and increasingly rare ecosystem would be destroyed if it were used for camping and producing food.  Also no mention is made of how they will deal with ash dieback- a very real threat to the Dale at the moment not to mention a huge liability (see our page on Ash dieback). These potential 'investors' are probably also unaware that because of the legal protections on the land they will be liable to pay large fines should any more illegal development occur. Nor are they told that they don't need to 'invest' to enjoy this landscape as it is in the heart of the Peak District National Park (see our page on National Parks ) and as such EVERYONE is at liberty to walk its footpaths, see the flora and fauna and enjoy the peace and serenity of this glorious Dale. The fear is that if nothing is done to stop them NO ONE will be able to do that as what makes it special will have been destroyed.

We have been working hard to save Cressbrook Dale because we #LoveCressbrookDale


Save Cressbrook Dale

Second Anniversary Review

June 2024

Hard to believe, but it’s now two years since the residents of the small historic mill village of Cressbrook, in the Derbyshire Dales and the Peak District National Park, learned about the new owners of the west side of the adjacent Cressbrook Dale, and their plan to establish an “eco-community” there.  Alarm bells sounded when we read their million pound prospectus, explaining the crowd-funding method of paying, over three instalments, the price of £640,000 for the seventy acres. In return for their minimum £20,000 investment, the members and their families would have the right to settle and cultivate the land. Equally worryingly, these investors were instructed not to discuss the plan with local residents.

Almost immediately we realised we would need to take action to oppose this development. The problem was not that the Dale needed protection. It was already recognised as a nationally important site for its rare and fragile biodiversity, and accorded the highest level of conservation status by the Peak District National Park Authority. The new owners, a group calling themselves Phoenix Rose, could not legally develop the land in the way they intended but, bizarrely, the core promoters of the scheme seemed unaware of, or simply contemptuous of, the restrictions on the land they had just acquired. And the hapless investor/co-owners would quickly find out that the project was fatally flawed and the benefits promised to them would not be forthcoming.

A Campaign Group was quickly established and received immediate massive (and continuing) support. Meetings were held, ecologists consulted, a website established, posters and banners deployed, local and national press coverage secured. Visitors to the Dale, the National Park Authority and politicians were lobbied. It became evident that people care a great deal about this important landscape. All were appalled by the actions and intentions of the new owners.

The National Park Authority officers visited the site and offered the new owners advice on appropriate management of the land. Nonetheless, Phoenix Rose proceeded to ignore the advice and commenced engineering works to change the land and develop it, without planning permission. They built a car park, levelled a site and installed a teepee, built a long flight of steps and a new pathway. For a while a dilapidated caravan appeared and was occupied by a “security guy”. All illegal, and just the tip of the iceberg that they had intended, according to their prospectus. Here was a so-called “eco-community” showing no understanding or care for the ecology of their land. As a result, the National Park Authority issued a comprehensive Tree

Preservation Order and Stop Notice, followed by an Enforcement Notice and eventually, in December 2023, due to the owners non compliance, took exceptional enforcement action, removed the car park and tepee, reinstated the land and charged the owners just over £5,000.

Unsurprisingly, the Phoenix Rose spokesperson reported fault lines developing amongst their twenty-two members. They had been seduced by the instigator’s wildly exaggerated prospectus claims of potential development of the land, creating a “heaven on earth”. As a result of the combined effect of our campaign, the response of the National Park Authority and the widespread negative press coverage of the project, they were also facing a shortfall of new investors needed to cover the second and third payment instalments for the land itself. There was a dawning realisation that the plot was not fit for their purpose, and a move by investors to wrap the whole thing up, sell the land and recoup some of their losses. However, the offer was subsequently called off - presumably as a result of disagreement over the details of the sale.

At the time of writing, June 2024, it is evident that the scheme is now in terminal decline. The situation on the ground is crystal clear. The “community” of owners has disappeared entirely. For many months only the original instigator and one investor have been seen in the Dale. All other investors and founding members have, understandably, simply vanished. Furthermore, over the two years there has been a gradual retreat from the early bold stated ambition of establishing a self sufficient farm and community, that would feed the locals too (an insane and ignorant ambition given the impoverished soils and topography of the Dale). This is all now reduced to mere claims of the Dale being a natural temple and a libertarian “Common Law” sanctuary. The

irony is lost on them that their enjoyment of the tranquility and wildness of the Dale is a direct result of the National Park Authority’s many years of protecting the land from development. A visit to the Dale (which we strongly encourage - it’s important we use the public footpaths and the open access land) reveals a similar sense of abandonment. The scars of the engineering works are slowly fading, no-one is living there, none of the promised temporary structures or private plots ever materialised. Only a very few relics of the Phoenix Rose occupation remain - perhaps the most poignant being the small artificial pond they created in their so-called “Sacred Grove”, now silted up and littered with abandoned plastic plant pots, discarded after misguided and failed attempts to establish (non-native) plants in this precious environment.

However, unsurprisingly, that’s not the impression you would get from a visit to the instigator’s website ( and other online pronouncements. This presents a fantasy story of a vibrant community thriving, despite some local opposition, recruiting new members and planning new developments on the land. Foremost of these is to be the construction of a multi-faith chapel of peace - despite the obvious problem that any such building would require planning consent, which would never be forthcoming in such a well protected environment. These owners seem incapable of accepting that they bought the wrong piece of land, at a time when other land more suited to their purpose was available.

So, what of the future of Cressbrook Dale and our campaign? Whilst we are relieved the disastrous planned development of the Dale has been halted in its tracks, the remaining few Phoenix Rose activists continue undeterred. Given this stark disconnect, we do not feel we can rest until the land is in safe hands. We suspect most of the investors are still keen to sell and thus avoid the otherwise total loss of their capital. In fact, despite its environmental importance, the Dale has practically no commercial value and now, of course, considerable notoriety. Furthermore, given the Ash Dieback problem and the number of mature trees adjacent to the road and footpaths, it comes with some heavy liability. (Any doubt about this was dispelled recently when some of the land that reverted to the original owners when Phoenix Rose were unable to make the

second due payment to them, came up for auction. It twice failed to reach its reserve price, even when this was reduced for the second sale.)

Our aim now is for the land to be owned, or at least managed, by an appropriate public body. The latest government initiative in this arena, the Local Nature Recovery Strategy, administered here by Derbyshire County Council, provides a very helpful lead. They have conducted a Natural Capital Survey, which categorises the most important natural resources worthy of conservation in the county. The whole of Cressbrook Dale, because of its vanishingly rare biodiversity, is now awarded the highest accolade of “Irreplaceable Habitat”. Apart from other considerations, this confirms that the ecosystem of the Dale is of national importance. We were right to campaign to save it.

Looking at the maps provided in the survey, you can see both the east and west sides of the dale are awarded the Irreplaceable Habitat designation. The eastern side is already included in the Cressbrook National Nature Reserve and managed by Natural England. In addition, Natural England have recently acquired the SSSI woodland and Ravensdale Meadow on the western side, after these also reverted from Phoenix Rose to the original owners. It is self evident to us that the rest of the western side, currently still owned by Phoenix Rose but of equal conservation status, should also be encompassed by the Nature Reserve. It is also clear that the biggest threat to the ecology of the western side is posed by the current owners. 

So we are resolved to persevere in our campaign to prevent any further degradation of the land and to secure this precious environment for the well being and enjoyment of future generations. All of Cressbrook Dale should be included in the National Nature Reserve and managed by Natural England, who do have the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise to conserve it.

John Butler

Chair, Save Cressbrook Dale Campaign

Previous Updates...

21st February 2024

A New Year and a New Goal

It’s 18 months since we felt compelled to launch the Save Cressbrook Dale Campaign in the face of the ill judged aims of the crowd-funded group Phoenix Rose, the new owners of the Dale. The Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) were equally appalled at the group’s nonsensical published intention to establish an illegal self-sufficient “eco” settlement in this rare wild and highly protected landscape. The group started development by creating a car park, installing a teepee and other engineering works. PDNPA immediately issued a Stop Notice and Tree Preservation Orders to prevent any further habitat destruction. This effectively put a halt to any more development, so the threatened semi-permanent habitable structures, greenhouses, wind and solar installations, tool stores and meeting building never materialised.

The Stop Notice was quickly followed by an Enforcement Notice, requiring the owners to remove what they had installed and to reinstate the land. This they failed to do. Instead they announced plans to build a chapel there despite it being obvious that this would require planning permission which, given the planning restrictions on this location, would never be given. As a result of this defiant noncompliance Peak Park took the extraordinary step in December 2023 of removing the main offending items in accordance with the Enforcement Notice, reinstating the land involved, and presenting the owners with a bill for £5,400.

The Save Cressbrook Dale campaign was launched to ensure that the protections on this treasured Peak District Dale were respected and that it remained accessible to anyone who wished to visit and enjoy its beauty. We were thus greatly relieved by the PDNPA action, which sends an unambiguous message to the owners that, because of its rare and special designation as part of the Natural Zone, their aspirations cannot be achieved on this site. Furthermore, if the owners had bothered to do the most rudimentary research before they purchased the land, they would have realised that their ideas of growing crops here were foolish and it would have become abundantly clear that their other ambitions flouted National Park protections. Which makes the instigators of the project look at least incompetent, if not guilty of misrepresentation.

So where does this leave us now? Ironically, since no development is permitted here, the owners are effectively restricted to using the land in the same way as that enjoyed by ordinary members of the public. The holding is crisscrossed by public footpaths, and the open meadow is designated as Access Land, all of which can be freely used by anyone. The owners cannot settle on the land or grow crops on it and, while they can access the surrounding vertiginous woodland, they cannot harvest the timber. So what is the point of them owning it now that they know, beyond all doubt, that it is not fit for their purpose?

The east and northern sides of the Dale are already designated as the Cressbrook Dale National Nature Reserve and managed by Natural England. We have always felt that the Nature Reserve should also have covered the whole of the west side, including the Phoenix Rose land. The entire Dale would then be managed by experts with the appropriate knowledge and skills. We were therefore delighted to hear that Natural England have recently acquired land on the west side - the meadow next to Ravensdale Cottages and the adjacent SSSI woodland. (These two plots were owned by Phoenix Rose for a while, but reverted to the previous owner, Stanton Estate, when Phoenix Rose were unable to make their second staged payment in July 2023).

We also now know that Natural England expressed interest in taking on the remaining Phoenix Rose plot last year. We are hopeful that the Phoenix Rose group take up this offer thus strengthening their eco credentials and can then move on to look for land elsewhere that is more suited to their purpose.The whole of Cressbrook Dale would then be protected and managed as an integral part of the National Nature Reserve. Achieving this has become the focus of our campaign.

The Save Cressbrook Dale Campaign has been massively popular both locally and nationally. We would really appreciate your continued support in this last push to secure the Dale for the nation for posterity. You can help us by writing to the Peak District National Park Authority (, to Natural England ( or to our MP, Sarah Dines (, encouraging each of them to work towards this aim.

15th Dec 2023


Campaigners have welcomed action by the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) to remove unauthorised works at Cressbrook Dale.


The action has been taken following failure by the landowners to acknowledge or engage with Planning Contravention and Enforcement Notices issued over the course of the past 18 months.


The Save Cressbrook Dale (SCD) campaign, which has received overwhelming public support, launched soon after 70 acres of land were purchased in May 2022 by a group called Phoenix Rose, who set up the Cressbrook Dale Estate Private Members Association. The land, which surrounds the villages of Cressbrook and Ravensdale includes ancient woodland and ecologically sensitive areas including a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI). A significant area of the land is Access Land with public right of way. In August this year, the landowners agreed to reduce the area purchased from Stanton Estate to 50 acres,


“We’re delighted at the news that the Peak District National Park Authority has removed the teepee and the plastic matting along with several tons of stone chippings which were laid to create a parking area,” says John Butler spokesperson for the Save Cressbrook Dale campaign group. 


“As the PDNPA affirms in a recent notice about the action, the land on which the developments have taken place is considered to be among the most sensitive in the National Park. It is heavily protected and is part of the ‘natural zone’.


“Ever since we learned that the land had been purchased we’ve been perplexed about what the new owners plan to do with it. This is one of the vanishingly rare pieces of wilderness in the region and is unsuitable for cultivation or habitation. Any attempt to 'farm' or develop this area of land is prohibited and would be catastrophic for its biodiversity.


While SCD campaigners have welcomed the enforcement action, they remain concerned about the owners’ intentions since, undeterred by the enforcement notices, they have recently announced their intention to clear an area of land to build a ‘chapel’. They have also said that they will install security gates on the public right of way leading to the Access Land. 


“All we ask is that they respect the protections on this special part of the Peak District and adhere to the law,” says John. “These protections were fought for by ordinary people and because those people fought for them we now have National Parks which are for everyone. It is in everyone's interest to ensure the laws protecting it are upheld – and we'll continue to monitor and campaign to Save Cressbrook Dale as long as those protections are under threat.”

22nd November 2023

Today the compliance period for the Enforcement Notice issued on the 6th April 2023 expired.

To recap, Phoenix Rose were instructed to undo all of the engineering works undertaken on the Access Land area in the dale. This meant;

Suffice to say that none of the above has happened. Indeed, further engineering works have been commenced with the group excavating an area of the site in the mistaken belief that they are uncovering the foundations of a building that used to stand on the site and with the intention of rebuilding . This activity is explicitly illegal in the light of the Enforcement Notice, which only permits the remedying of the features already created.

13th August 2023

The caravan and horsebox which were occupying the land immediately inside the gate that opens into the top meadow have been removed and the person who was occupying the caravan has departed. The site was a complete mess but some tidying up has now taken place. We advise against investigating the area below the track on the Access Land, opposite the cleared area which was the camp as somewhere in here there is four months worth or human waste.

The Enforcement Order issued against the structures on the Access land - the car park, the teepee and the new steps and paths - is still in place as are all of the Planning Contravention Notices. The date by which the structures in the Enforcement Order should have been removed has now past and all of the structures are still in place. The legal department at the Peak Park are now consulting on the next step

Stanton Estates have confirmed that they have enforced the charges on approximately a third of the land bought by Phoenix Rose meaning that Phoenix Rose no longer own that part of the land. That land has returned to Stanton Estates' ownership. This includes three out of four of the open spaces. Stanton Estates have also removed the charge that Phoenix Rose owed on some of the woodland, which means Phoenix Rose own and are now responsible for more acres of heavily protected woodland riddled with ash die back and growing on steep slopes, some of it adjacent to public highways and footpaths.

Images of the mess left on the site after the departure of the caravan and horsebox, including a blister pack of a controlled substance, with some tablets still in it. (This has now been cleared but was the result of ONE person living on site for four months therefore you will understand our concern that  other people are being actively encouraged to live on the site).

Images of what the illegally occupied site in Cressbrook Dale looked like before being vacated on 11th August 2023. This encampment was immediately adjacent to the public footpath, from which these images were taken.

We are working to ensure that this is not repeated.

We are very grateful for the overwhelming public support we have received and we maintain our resolve to protect the land and see it restored to its unspoiled state. It is crossed by Public Footpaths and the vast majority of the land not covered by Ancient woodland is designated as Access Land, where you may roam freely (please refer to the Maps page). Please continue to use, respect and enjoy the dale - don't be put off, it's your privilege and your right.

What we would like you to do

Thank them their actions to-date. Ask them to issue a further enforcement notice for the toilet tents and the pond.  Assure them that they have your gratitude and support. You could also send them your own photographs of the conditions that you find in the dale and an account of your experience.

The case number is 45793

The postal address for this is..

Peak District National Park Authority

Aldern House

Baslow Road


Derbyshire DE45 1AE

They can also be contacted by email at

If you are local;

...And keep visiting and walking in the dale

Visit the dale, walk its footpaths and enjoy its beauty. It's your right and nobody can take that away from you.

If at any point while you are in the dale you are faced with abusive or aggressive behaviour from anyone else on the land you should report this directly to the police. You can either call them on 101 or you can use the on-line reporting tool, which is here. We recommend using the anti-social behaviour option. 

Where you see this sign it means you are entering an area of Access Land. You can walk wherever you like on Access Land


Cressbrook Dale is a beautiful, steeply sided, limestone valley in one of the most beautiful parts of England. It lies between Bakewell and Buxton, in the Peak District National Park. It has an extraordinary Natural History and is dear to the people who live here. It is also a favourite of walkers and holidaymakers. The dale is – or was – an unspoiled area of natural woodland and a refuge for many species of plant and animal, some extremely rare indeed. It is crossed by a number of Public Footpaths, it incorporates an area of Access Land (CROW Act)  and all of the woodland is protected by a Group Tree Preservation Order. It borders both Cressbrook Dale National Nature Reserve and Cressbrook Dale Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI). The meadow that Phoenix Rose propose to develop also enjoys 'Natural Zone' designation, the most highly protected status within the National Park. Development in the Natural Zone, other than in exceptional circumstances, is not permitted. No exceptional circumstances apply in this case. 

To the residents the Dale is a place of calm and beauty in an often troubling world. For many it’s why they chose to live here. For others it’s always been home. 

The village of Cressbrook, population ~175 people, lies immediately adjacent to the dale. In June 2022 the villagers woke up to find that a vast swath of the dale had been sold to a group of people led by a one-time TV personality. The group were deliberately opaque about their aims but it’s since become clear that they believe in some kind of food apocalypse, a social breakdown, a “great reset” as it’s been called and a conspiracy by the World Economic Forum. One of their plans is to live and grow food in the woods. 

The villagers of Cressbrook and adjacent communities are very worried about the impact that the scheme may have – and is already having – both on this delicate and valuable part of the area’s natural ecology and on our own peace and well-being. Already the group have used an earth-mover on site, a car-park has been built, turf dug up to create a path and make flat areas for structures, water-courses have been altered. There are plans to hold festivals and for camping on the site. One plan included selling off plots of land measuring 8 metres squared at a cost of £8000 making the value of the land approximately half a million pounds an acre. For this the 'investors' were told they would have exclusive rights to the plot and would be able to stay on it whenever they want to. It is important to note that these 'offers' to 'investors' keep changing. 

For more information please refer to our FAQ page.

What we are doing about it

We have set up a village-wide group and our mission statement is....

To prevent or minimise any changes which may adversely affect Cressbrook Dale and the village of Cressbrook as a result of a change in land ownership. We will pay special attention to:

We are achieving this by:

Our methods are entirely peaceful and our objective is to halt this development legally. There is enough protective legislation in place to halt and reverse what is happening. It is held and implemented by the Peak District National Park Authority and Natural England, who are the major stakeholders in the future of the dale. We act as the eyes and ears on the ground to record and report what is happening so that the appropriate enforcement actions can be enacted by those that hold the power to do so. It is in everyone's interest for us to do this- National Parks are for everyone and highly protected areas like Cressbrook Dale are rare and precious.

This process takes time and it has been very hard for us to watch what is happening in the Dale and to learn what is planned for it by the new owners. As a result we are communicating with the surrounding communities and the wider public to help everyone understand what is happening and to reassure everyone that events are being challenged and that action is being taken. We are also encouraging everyone to join us in our campaign. We have already received a huge amount of support from many of you; our friends and neighbours in Litton, Litton Mill, Great Longstone, Tideswell, Wardlow and beyond as well as those of you who used to live here and those of you visiting or simply passing through, showing that our feelings about the situation in the dale are shared. We are also proactively educating people about what makes the dale so special and recording peoples' emotional responses to the recent events, (see our Testimonies Page).


Why are we doing this?

Everyone now understands how important nature is for our health and well being. Well, the reverse is also true, when you destroy nature you catastrophically affect mental health and well being. We're doing it because we've been so emotionally traumatised by what has happened. It is very hard to watch as lorry loads of gravel are delivered, as a digger scrapes away wildflowers destroying habitats and as you discover that your new and very close neighbours have no regard for your feelings or opinions, health and well being or for the preciousness of the land and for the institutions set up to protect what is so important to all of us.

Witnessing what is taking place in the Dale compels us to act. We are acting because the integrity of the dale supercedes everything. It was there before us, it has been there for us while we have lived here and we feel that it is imperative that it be there for the people who come after us, and for all of the people who access this beautiful and special part of the Peak District National Park.

The organisations we have been liaising with

Once it became clear that destructive activities were starting to happen in the dale, we began reporting these activities to both Natural England and the Peak District National Park Authority. We have also engaged with a wide range of other bodies who would have in interest in what is happening including;

Although some of these organisations are only indirectly interested in what is happening in Cressbrook Dale, to all of them it is imperative to avoid a very dangerous precedent being set - The laws that protect such sensitive places like Cressbrook Dale must be seen to work.

We are doing everything we can to help the organisations that implement the law to succeed in their work.

Both the Peak District National Park Authority and Natural England have consulted with the owners to advise them on what they can and can't do in such a sensitive location, what laws they need to observe and what permissions they need to seek before embarking on their activities. 

Subsequent to these meetings the owners ignored all of the advice given to them and pushed ahead with groundworks on the site. 

The three Phoenix Rose trustees named in the Enforcement Notice, which is a public domain document, are;

Rachel Elnaugh


Cunningham Place


Derbyshire DE45 1DD

Angela Spink

Flat 2

4, St Johns Square

Wakefield WF1 2QX

Keith Parker


216 Seabridge Lane

Newcastle ST5 3LS

The full text of the Enforcement Notice can be read on the Legal Notices page

Although both TPO and TSN were published, issued to the land's trustees and put up on the land at multiple points on the perimeter the owners took them down and have repeatedly taken them down despite them being renewed by the Authority. This is of no matter in a legal sense because the Orders have been issued and apply regardless but it does reinforce the idea that the new owners have no regard for the protections put in place to safeguard the land they now own. To the best of our knowledge the group have not responded to any requests for compliance by the National Park Authority, believing that co-operation lends legitimacy to a process that they don't recognise and reject outright. 

National Parks are oases for our flora and fauna and incorporate areas of wilderness for everyone to experience in a way that doesn't threaten their very special qualities. They were fought for by ordinary people for ordinary people to enjoy. The Peak Park, sitting as it does like a green island in the centre of the country, is important for the health and well being of millions of people. If we can't protect Cressbrook Dale, what is the future for our precious and fast diminishing wild spaces? Despite all of the legal notices issued against them, Phoenix Rose continue to ask for money from people, offering them in return opportunities to live, camp in and grow food in the dale.

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