It’s a downward view towards your feet which is needed to appreciate the significance of why the Meadows are of nature conservation importance, so much so that in 2013 it was designated as part of Crich Chase Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). With this designation, the site was afforded legal protection, and is subject to certain management restrictions and expectations overseen by Natural England.
For over a decade, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) have worked with the site owner National Grid, undertaking regular monitoring of wildlife: notably bees, butterflies, wildflowers, and fungi; and carrying out necessary interventions to maintain biodiversity at the site. During 2020, DWT acquired the meadows and other nearby associated sites with the intention of managing them for the benefit of wildlife and public access, with continued support from National Grid.
Unlike the majority of grassland in the county, Crich Chase Meadows has never had artificial fertiliser applied or been intensively managed. This results in wildflower and fungi rich grasslands that nestle amidst ancient woodland, scrub and bramble and support a host of invertebrates, birds and other animals.
In spring the ancient woodland of Smith’s Rough is a riot of bluebells, wood anemones and wild garlic, nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers can be heard and male longhorn moths dance in the dappled sunlight.
Returning migrant warblers breed amongst the scrub and the thin fragile acid soils on the nose of the hill flush red with leafy patches of sheep sorrel and the yellow flowers of bird’s-foot trefoil and hawk-bits.
Later in summer, amongst patches of wood sage, the blue flowers of devil’s bit scabious wave in the hillside breeze. By the autumn the pastures are magically dotted with parrot, snowy and ballerina waxcaps, pinkgills, meadow coral and earth-tongue fungi.
The rich invertebrate diversity includes an impressive 25 species of butterflies, including the white letter hairstreak, dingy skipper and wall. The abundance of meadow brown, gatekeeper, ringlet butterflies in summer is a rare sight these days and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a purple hairstreak as it flits across the tops of oak trees in July.
Annual surveys are conducted by a team of volunteers trained by DWT, and for several years the site has been a venue for bee identification courses – over 40 species of bee have been found.
Also recorded are 150 beetles, 100s of moths, over 100 flies, 90 bugs and many others. In total over 500 species of invertebrate have been recorded from the site and many more await discovery.
Grazing the nature reserve helps to maintain these open areas, limiting the development of bramble and scrubby growth which reduces the opportunities for the fungal, floral and insect diversity.
As part of DWT’s involvement, volunteer teams have regularly stepped in to further limit the loss of grassland when livestock choose to shy away from the more challenging terrain and pricklier plants.
The action of cattle also create patches of bare soil where seeds can germinate and specialist invertebrates can dig burrows and nest. With a new nature reserve management plan being constructed, considering access issues as part of scrub management could go some way to alleviate the persistent path condition problems, and our objective is to maintain this rich mix of habitat stages: open space grasslands, bramble and hawthorn scrub, and woodland.
The interaction between these three makes the reserve greater than the sum of its parts. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is a small charity with big ideas! We've been supporting, monitoring and developing campaigns and policy for wildlife for over 55 years.
Working across six Living Landscapes with over 170 projects for wildlife, people and wild spaces, we're pretty busy.
We've also got education centres, shops and our own summer festival - so, take some time to get to know us a little better. After all, we're your local charity.