Blakelow nature trail

Get close up and personal with Blakelow’s wildlife nature trail

This beautiful area of The Peak District known as the “White Peak” is extremely special to us and we are determined to treasure and protect our wonderful natural heritage.  We constantly try to improve the many and varied wildlife habitats.

A butterfly

A butterfly

We cut our hedges late in the season, when the young birds have left the nest. We retain the height, but allow light to reach all sides of the plants. Gaps have been filled with new hedging plants. A mix of hedge-types is preferred by wildlife. Some birds, such as the yellowhammer, prefer shorter, dense hedging, but a redstart had chosen to nest in a hole in the Leylandii… The most common type of hedge plant around the farm is hawthorn and beech, but a variety of plants can be found in these hedges: blackthorn, honeysuckle, crab-apple, different types of mountain ash, willow, dog rose and bramble.

In early spring you can see clumps of white blossom on bare spiky branches of blackthorn. Later, the tall old hawthorn are covered in drifts of white May blossom. They are quite spectacular!

The fields here are very old permanent pasture, which means that they have never been used or disturbed except to graze animals. As a result of this there is a wonderful collection of native grasses and plants: violets, primroses and common spotted orchids all grow in profusion.

We have mown a path through our meadows to protect rare species and the ground nesting birds such as curlews and skylarks.

The bottom of the field has some wet areas, where marsh marigolds, meadow sweet, flag iris and water avens can be found. These wet areas are great habitats for frogs and toads.

One problem that we have to deal with is the extensive growth of nettles and thistles. Years ago farm hands controlled these weeds by scything them down before they had time to spread. In today’s hectic 21st century world, time is too precious to use this method and manpower expensive. Agriculturists can use modern chemical sprays to control nettles and thistles, however, as these need to be very strong to kill tough weeds, certain wildflowers are destroyed as well.

So we put up with them and consol ourselves with the fact that they provide great habitat for caterpillars and other insects.

Our guests can enjoy the peace and the tranquility of the surrounding fields by using the footpath that runs through both fields, take a picnic or just lie on their backs listen to the skylarks and watch the clouds tumble by… it takes you right back to childhood summers!

We have bird boxes in the trees and bat holes built into the cottages during their renovation. Take a peek out at dusk and watch the bats darting about, they are fascinating to see.

There are bird feeders near all our cottages… please feel free to use them, especially in the winter months, the wild birds will be very grateful.

We have rotting log piles providing shelter for insects, frogs and hedgehogs.

Every year swallows return to Blakelow to nest in the stables raising at least 2 broods, you can often hear them chattering on the roofs and fences.

Blakelow has its own bees … but still no honey!

Beekeeping impinges on many aspects of our lives. It brings together those interested in improved agricultural production and the well-being of the countryside, gardening and education, food and cooking, and ancient craft skills as well as scientific work.

As a novice beekeeper I find it’s so absorbing. When you get into the hive you’re just looking at the bees, wondering what’s going on, searching for the queen. There’s always something to do, beginners wear gauntlets, I wear very thin gloves so I can feel the bees on my fingers. It’s a much more tender way of doing things.

It seems ironic to find peace in a hive buzzing with thousands of bees. (One hive can support between 10,000 and 50,000.) But this is the reason I keep bees. It’s not the honey, the promise of wax candles and mead or any of the other by-products that does it for me. It’s the bees and being at one with nature.

You can never get the bees to like you but you can get them to dislike you. Being rough, moving too fast and causing a disturbance is the way to get stung. If you want to keep bees you will get stung. That’s what they always tell you. And it’s true.

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