Places to see birds

Padley Gorge

Spotted flycatcher on perch
Spotted flycatcher Photo: RSPB

About eight miles south-west of Sheffield and between Fox House and Grindleford is Padley Gorge - the deep, narrow valley of a steeply plunging section of the Burbage Brook.

The gorge is part of the National Trust's Longshaw estate and part of the Yarncliff Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest, described in its citation as 'the best example of the remnant oak-birch woodland that once covered much of the edges of the gritstone uplands of the Peak District.' As well as sessile oak and birch, alder can be found along the stream and scattered through the wood are holly and rowan as well as patches of conifers. The thin soils and high humidity mean that the trees are generally stunted and twisted with a covering of moss and lichen.

Our spring walks here focus particularly on the summer visitors. The star woodland species are pied flycatcher and wood warbler - but willow warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap are also typical. Other summer visitors - wheatear, redstart, stonechat and tree pipit - are better looked for on the north-western edge of the woods where the trees are more widely spaced. Cuckoo can often be heard from here - especially from the birch woodlands below Owler Tor.

Although the gorge is undoubtedly at its best in the late spring and early summer, birds found all year round include green and great spotted woodpeckers, song and mistle thrushes, coal tit, nuthatch and treecreeper. Conifers are good places to look for goldcrest and siskin and birds of prey include sparrowhawk - with buzzard sometimes seen overhead.

Padley Gorge can be reached by following the A625 out of Sheffield. Keeping straight on, this becomes the A6187. Just after the Fox House, there is a sharp left turn onto the B6521 which runs alongside the gorge into Grindleford. Roadside parking can be found near the top of the gorge. Alternatively, continue down the B6521 and turn right into the access road to Grindleford railway station where there is further parking (charge). The 65/65A and 271/272 buses from Sheffield both go to Fox House with the first heading down to Grindleford whilst the other continues along the north side of the gorge towards Hathersage. Alternatively catch a train to Grindleford - although, if you do, read the timetable carefully as trains are relatively infrequent and not all stop here.

The main path down Padley Gorge is on the north-west side of the Burbage Brook. It is unsurfaced with lots of tree roots over which to take a tumble. There are also some steepish drops in places but this both adds to the sense of adventure and provides an opportunity to look horizontally into the treetops for birds. There are paths back up the other side of the gorge though these are somewhat harder to follow and you may easily find yourself back on the B6521 road.

The walk down Padley Gorge can be extended by continuing down to join the River Derwent where dipper, mandarin duck and grey wagtail can usually be found, often joined by goosander in winter months.

The nearest refreshments are to be found at Fox House Inn and Longshaw near the top of the gorge or at Grindleford Station Cafe at the bottom, all of which have customer toilets. Further refreshments can be found in Grindleford - either at the Community Shop in St Helen's Church or at the Sir William Hotel.