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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Carr Vale Nature Reserve

Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007

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Carr Vale Nature Reserve

`One of the top five Nature Reserves in the County'

The Carr Vale area lies five miles east of Chesterield, and with the demise of heavy industry, what was once a landscape of collieries and coalpit spoil-heaps has been transformed in recent years into one of the top five nature reserves in the county of Derbyshire!

Carr Vale Nature Reserve is owned and managed by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and is regarded as the `best wetlands site in the East Midlands for birdwatching.

The old railway line which once linked the collieries of Bolsover with Glapwell a quarter of a century ago is now a wildlife walk known as the Stockley Trail, providing access to the wetlands reserve – and the former Bolsover South Colliery Tip has been transformed by Derbyshire County Council’s Countryside Service into the picturesque Peter Fidler Nature Reserve - named after Bolsover’s famous son whose exploits in Canada are legend and who was born at nearby Sutton Farm.

`even the occasional Kingfisher can be see'

The River Doe Lea runs through the site; now cleaned up, it supports the increasingly rare water vole, water shrew, and even the occasional kingfisher can be seen.

The Carr Vale Nature Reserve was initially funded by a National Lottery Grant and is the product of a series of local initiatives, and lots of hard work by volunteers on the thirty acres in the Doe Lea Valley.

Altogether Derbyshire Wildlife Trust manages forty nature reserves throughout the county and Carr Vale Flash is described as:

“A mixture of open water, marsh, grassland and scrub that provides habitat for wintering wildfowl and raptors, migrating waders, breeding ducks and passerines such as reed bunting’.

Carr Vale lies on a flyway for many species and great skeins of geese can be seen flying over during the winter months following the ribbon of the M1 motorway which lies half a mile to the west of the site, whilst in spring and autumn the reserve provides an ideal place for vast quantities of migrating birds to feed and roost.

In early summer the marsh and scrub are home to a range of breeding birds, including reed and sedge warblers, whitethroat, yellowhammer, moorhen and gadwall, and the grassland provides nesting habitat for the nationally declining skylark.

Carr Vale Nature Reserve

A network of footpaths carefully designed to allow wheelchair access for the disabled makes the whole reserve accessible to the public, and a series of small reed fringed lakes or `flashes’ stretch out in the bottom of the valley, with the splendour of Bolsover Castle atop the hill to the east and the magnificently evocative ruins of stately Sutton Scarsdale Hall to the west.

The original pond here was formed as a result of mining subsidence about sixty years ago, and was formerly a fishing pond used by members of Bolsover Miners Welfare Angling Club. The eight acre site consisted of this shallow pond flanked on the west and southern edges by Typha with dense hawthorn scrub to the west, and this was acquired and declared a nature reserve by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in 1992.

An adjoining 22 acre barley field was acquired by the Trust in 1996 and developed into a wetland area in 1998, giving a total area of 30 acres. This area to the south of the original pond was transformed into the most important area of the reserve, shallow, reed-fringed and ideal for waders.

Running alongside the River Doe Lea there is another footpath leading to the developed southern area of the reserve which is accessed via the recently built Millennum Bridge. Here is a smaller pond, surrounded by Phragmites Australis which is known locally as the "Southern Marsh" - and the main areas of water are now viewable from a specially built observation mound, with the nearest stretch of water to the mound known as "Meadow Flash". The grassland surrounding these pools is managed using sheep to produce short grass sward that is beneficial to breeding Lapwings and wintering Wigeon.

A further award of almost £5,000 in May 2004 from the `Water for Wildlife Project’ run by Derbyshire Environmental Trust as part of their `Bringing Birds Into Focus’ campaign has enabled better public viewing facilities and has dramatically improved access.

With these new facilities people can now get up close and personal with the wildlife and there is no better place for birdwatching!

Birds Throughout the Year

Ospreys and Marsh Harriers are almost annual with a number of records for the spring months and other raptors noted have included Black Kite, Red Kite and Honey Buzzard.

April sees the arrival of most of the expected summer visitors with Yellow Wagtails a daily feature, and these are joined by migrant White Wagtails, Wheatears and Whinchats and the occasional Scandinavian Rock Pipit and Blue-headed Wagtail.

The reserve has a good population of breeding birds, particularly wildfowl with Mallard, Gadwall (up to eight pairs making the site the county stronghold for this species as a breeding species), Tufted Duck and Ruddy Duck (up to six broods) all breed annually.

A pair of Mute Swans and several pairs of Canada Geese add to the array of waterbirds to be expected during the breeding season; 27 species of wader have been recorded here & in 2005 Oystercatchers bred here for the first time in North-east Derbyshire.

August and September are good months for migrant Marsh Harriers and Ospreys, and Hobbies often put on a good display as they feed over the pools on dragonflies. Lapwing and Golden Plover start to appear and September usually produces reasonable numbers of Snipe, but by the end of the month the emphasis changes and the main activity at the site becomes visible migration.

The site is worth a visit at anytime of the year although March-May and July-early November are likely to enhance the visitor's chance of seeing something special, but whatever time of the year people choose to visit they should bear in mind that for most of the time they will be looking south or west and therefore to avoid glare from the sun and poor light a morning visit is recommended.

I saw herons and my first ever sighting of a black swan during my visit - and the following day 115 migrating Whooper Swans flew over Carr Vale, a record number for the county; this is what makes the place so special.

The biodiverse beauty of this wetland area and the excellent nature conservation work by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust are responsible for allowing free public access to the wonderful wildlife to be seen at Carr Vale Nature Reserve, which is open all year round, seven days a week, twenty four hours a day - and is regarded as the best wetlands site in the East Midlands for birdwatching!

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