About Cressbrook Dale

About Cressbrook Dale

The Natural Zone

'Natural Zone' is a designation available to all National Park Authorities. It is used to extend the land protections offered by Natural England (National Nature Reserves, AONBs and SSSIs for example) to include areas that are known locally to be ecologically important. While nearly all of Cressbrook Dale is already included in the National Nature Reserve scheme there is some of it that is not and the land bought by Phoenix Rose comes into this category. The Peak District National Park Authority recognises that the land in Cressbrook Dale outwith the NNR is ecologically important and use their powers to categorise this as 'Natural Zone', giving it vital added protection.

The following description of what the characteristics of Natural Zone landscapes are comes from the Peak District National Park Authorities own Development Management Plan ...

The following map is also taken from the Development Management Plan and it shows how the land around the village is classified for Development Planning purposes. You will note the Natural Zone land extending north into Cressbrook Dale. This zone carries on beyond the boundary of this Inset Map and covers all of the land owned by Phoenix Rose;

The details of the complex and highly restrictive protections used when assessing applications for change to Natural Zone landscapes in the Peak District are covered from page 23 onwards in the  Development Management Plan, which can be read in full by clicking this link. Applications for change in the Natural Zone are rarely considered. Protection of the landscape takes priority in nearly every case.

Cressbrook Dale Site of Specific Scientific Interest ( SSSI )

Toward the southern end of Cressbrook Dale NNR, on the opposite side of the valley to the village itself, is a SSSI. This area, which enjoys the highest level of protection and is not open to the public was created to preserve the area in which some exceptionally rare plants grow. The part of the SSSI on the east side of the valley is owned and managed by Natural England . The part on the east side of the valley is on private land immediately adjacent to the roads that pass through here and therefore potentially vulnerable to interference.

The detailed specification written in 1986 and which led to the creation of the SSSI can be read here

Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve (NNR)

The north and east of Cressbrook Dale (and immediately adjacent to that part purchased by Phoenix Rose) is in one of the five limestone dales that comprise the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve (NNR). Together these dales represent '..some of the best examples of limestone geology, landscape and wildlife in the whole of England..' (Q. Natural England).

The impressive list of habitats include limestone grassland, scrub, valley woodlands, hay meadows, streams and dew ponds, scree, acid grassland and small areas of limestone heath.

The reserve’s grasslands are amongst the most flower-rich places in Britain. A single square metre can feature as many as 40 different species including Jacobs ladder, bloody cranesbill, globe flower and a variety of orchids. Areas associated with old lead workings like those in Cressbrook dale support lead-tolerant species such as spring sandwort and mossy saxifrage whilst wooded parts of the reserve support attractive spring flowers including Lily-of-the-Valley.

This diverse flora supports many butterflies and moths as well as being home to a wide range of other invertebrates. Dippers, Kingfishers and Grey Wagtails can be found along the watercourses with other breeding birds including Peregrine Falcon, Buzzards, Ravens, Wheatears and Redstarts.

Lead Mining in Cressbrook Dale

The open area of sloping grassland just north of Cressbrook village and now owned by phoenix Rose (GR SK170738), a significant portion of which is Access Land, is the legacy of the leadmining that occurred here. The cliff face in the western side of the dale above the meadow contains the remains of a number of slit mines from which lead ore was extracted. The ore was brought to the meadow and washed with water taken from the reservoir located half-way down the meadow, which in turn was filled with water from the spring in the hillside immediately above. This spring no longer runs. Mining took place here as recently as the 1960s and in the woods to the south of the meadow, it is just possible to make out a few scattered remains of what may have been buildings associated with it. The level track that extends from the hairpin bend north of Cressbrook and about a half a mile into the dale carried a small mineral railway that was used to transport the ore from the mines.

It is highly likely that the history of lead mining has played a key role in determining the nature of the grassland in the meadow here. As you enter the meadow on the public footpath, the land to the left, which is the only part of the open land which is not Access Land, contains lead mining spoil heaps.

Ancient Woodland

Cressbrook Dale is host to extensive areas of woodland that is classified as Ancient Woodland. While the tree cover at the north end of the dale is sparse the area around the village of Cressbrook is mostly wooded and this area is almost entirely classified as ancient.

Public Rights of Way

The good news for the public is that Cressbrook Dale contains a number of rights of way. Some of these are within Litton Parish and some of these are within Wardlow Parish. There is also an area of Access Land to the immediate north of Cressbrook itself. These footpaths are maintained by both the National Park Authority and by Derbyshire County Council Highways Department Public Rights Of Way team.


The dale aligns north south. Most of the open land purchased by Phoenix Rose slopes and a substantial part of that land faces due north. From the contours on the map you can see that it is steep sided along its entire length and in many places precipitous. The crags at Ravensdale are world famous for their climbing routes.