Places to see birds

Upper Burbage Valley

Male snipe singing in the rain
Snipe Photo: RSPB

After emerging from boggy White Path Moss, the Burbage Brook drops sharply into the Upper Burbage Valley. This is enclosed on the west by the two peaks of Higger Tor and Carl Wark - the latter crowned with the impressive remains of an Iron Age hillfort. Along its east side runs the long gritstone exposure of Burbage Edge - littered with abandoned millstones and now popular with climbers.

The valley used to be part of the hunting estate of the Duke of Rutland centred on nearby Longshaw Lodge. During the Second World War, it was used as a practice area by Canadian troops and the Home Guard and some rocks still have scars caused by mortar shells dating from this time.

Burbage now belongs to Sheffield City Council but is managed on their behalf by the Eastern Moors Partnership - a joint venture between the National Trust and the RSPB.
Until a few years ago the centre of the valley was occupied by the 83 acre Burbage Plantation. Most of this has now been removed in order to improve the landscape for local people and wildlife. Following removal of the conifers, some of the area will be restored to moorland, whilst the rest will be replanted with oak and birch woodland. A few patches of conifers have been kept and these and their adjacent open areas are now home to nightjar. Late on summer evenings, as well as the peculiar churring of this enigmatic species, the honk-squeak of the woodcock and the drumming display flight of snipe can also be heard. Other species that may be encountered here include siskin, stonechat, reed bunting and willow warbler. 

In common with Stanage immediately to the north, Burbage is renowned for its ring ouzels - also known as the 'Mountain Blackbird. These summer visitors arrive in their breeding grounds in late March; heading back to southern Spain and Morocco in the early autumn. Clumps of heather, bilberry and bracken underneath the rocky crags offer an ideal nesting habitat for this increasingly rare bird. Raising young and preparing for their migration requires good feeding grounds too, especially plenty of invertebrates, and berry bearing shrubs and trees. Careful collaboration with climbers ensures that disturbance to these red-listed birds is minimized.
Research in the area has even shown that these ouzels have their own dialect - with a distinct timbre and pitch distinguishing them from their counterparts in North Yorkshire and the Cairngorms!

The Green Drive, which runs north-south from one end of the area to the other, is wide and relatively smooth. Another major path runs off this down to the old packhorse bridge in the centre of the area - close to the remaining areas of conifers. Take great care if entering the former forest area as not only could this disturb wildlife but it is also very easy to trip over the remains of the trees.

Burbage Valley can be accessed from either end. In the north, on the minor road from Ringinglow to Hathersage are two parking areas on either side of Upper Burbage Bridge. There is also a parking area at the southern end of Green Drive - just off the A6187 Sheffield to Hathersage Road which is also served by the 271/272 buses from Sheffield. This however is small so better parking can be found at the main Longshaw car park. The nearest toilets and refreshments are at Longshaw Visitor centre cafe and Fox House Inn.

Other nearby sites also covered in this section are Longshaw, Padley Gorge and the Eastern Moors.