Places to see birds

Carr Vale Flash and Peter Fidler Nature Reserve

Water rail feeding at waters edge
Water rail Photo: RSPB

These two adjacent nature reserves are good for birdwatching all year round. Carr Vale is managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust whilst Peter Fidler Reserve is run by the County Council. Like many wildlife sites in our area, both are the product of coal mining. Peter Fidler Reserve is situated on the former Bolsover South Tip and the wet flashes at Carr Vale are the result of mining subsidence.

Peter Fidler Reserve contains a number of valuable habitats, including willow carr, reedbed and neutral grassland. Sensitive reclamation works have protected these and created new ponds, woodland and meadows. The area is dedicated to Peter Fidler. Born in 1769 at nearby Mill Farm, he became a famous North American explorer and Chief Surveyor for the Hudson Bay Company. The commemorative stone cairn on the reserve is similar to his memorial at Dauphin in Canada.

Carr Vale's mix of open water, marsh, shingle banks, reedbeds, grassland, scrub and trees attracts a rich variety of birds throughout the year. Along the Doe Lea river which runs through the site, endangered water vole and even an occasional kingfisher may be seen.

In winter, large numbers of wildfowl including wigeon and teal feed in the wetlands and grasslands. The reserve also attracts lapwing, golden plover and gulls, along with flocks of finches and buntings which feed along field boundaries. A more secretive winter visitor is the water rail, which skulks in the marshlands.

In early summer, the marsh and scrub are home to breeding birds including reed bunting, reed and sedge warblers, whitethroat, yellowhammer and gadwall. The grassland provides nesting habitat for the nationally declining skylark and there is an artificial nesting bank for sand martins.

Spring and autumn are important times on the reserve, as many birds are on migration and Carr Vale is an ideal place for them to feed and roost. It lies on a flyway for many species including great skeins of geese which can be seen flying over during the winter months. In September, up to 2,000 swallows roost in the marsh and this often attracts hobbies, birds of prey which are skilled hunters on the wing.

A network of paths runs across and between the two reserves, including the Stockley Trail - an old railway line. This and paths on Carr Vale Flash have full disabled access as do the reserve's three viewing screens. Continuing along a riverside footpath takes you to a smaller pond and what is known locally as the 'Southern Marsh'. The grasslands here provide grazing for sheep, leaving short grass that's great for breeding lapwing and wintering wigeon.

Parking is available at the Stockley Trail car park. From Chesterfield or junction 29A of the M1, head towards Bolsover on the A632. At a roundabout just before the road starts to climb into Bolsover, take the third exit onto Riverside Way and the car park is at the end. For those using public transport, bus numbers 82 or 83 from Chesterfield town centre both run once per hour.