Places to see birds

Chatsworth Park

Goosander on water
Goosander Photo: RSPB

Just 12 miles south-west of the centre of Sheffield, Chatsworth Park's 1000 acres are widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and historic man-made landscapes in Britain. A survey has found the area to support 250 species of fungi, 44 nationally scarce invertebrates, at least six species of bat and more than 605 veteran trees.

Made up of a combination of formal gardens, open parkland, woodland and moorland, as well as a river and lakes, such a large area inevitably has some parts better for wildlife than others. The five-mile walk described here takes in most of the best habitats and can be done in either direction - although starting by heading north along the river from Calton Lees provides a chance to explore the busier sections before they become too crowded.

From Calton Lees car park, cross the road to head upstream along the River Derwent, on which birds can include grey heron, kingfisher, dipper, common sandpiper, grey wagtail, mandarin duck and goosander. As you go, keep an eye out for woodpeckers in the old trees on both sides of the river, as well as for the resident herd of fallow deer.

Crossing the bridge, head past the House to enter Stand Wood near the farmyard and adventure playground. You can ascend through this either along the road or by taking the steep path up uneven steps to the Hunting Tower. Whichever way you go, you should encounter a good range of woodland birds including wren, goldcrest, nuthatch, and blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits.

Having got your breath back while enjoying the view from the top of the hill, head past the Hunting Tower and turn right onto the track to Emperor Lake and Swiss Lake. In winter months, goosanders may be in residence on these, with other species including grey heron, little grebe and grey wagtail. Past the second lake, continue along the track though belts of woodland and neighbouring pasture, a combination of habitats which looks promising for woodland edge birds in the spring and early summer. Eventually, this track emerges onto a corner of the Eastern Peak District Moors Site of Special Scientific Interest. Almost immediately, take a path downhill to the right and through a gate into a deer exclosure now colonised by bracken and developing woodland, mainly of birch but also with oak and hazel which should be good for warblers in the spring and summer.

Passing through another gate, cross a field to turn right onto a track at Beeley Hilltop Farm, below which it becomes a road. Just after a plantation on the right, there are good views across Chatsworth Old Park with its veteran pollarded oaks set in rough pasture. Providing a link with the wood-pasture once common across much of Britain, this is all that remains of a much larger mediaeval walled deer park. Although scheduled as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its deadwood invertebrate fauna (including nationally rare beetles and both a nationally scarce solitary wasp and a nationally scarce moth) and lichens, it looks promising for birds - not least woodpeckers of which all three native UK species may be found at Chatsworth.

Chatsworth is well signposted and easily found by following the B6017 south from the A619 at Baslow. There are car parks (charge) near the garden centre at Calton Lees, at the House, and another in Baslow village. The 218 bus from Sheffield directly serves Chatsworth - although some of these buses go to Bakewell first.

Although Chatsworth House and its gardens have an entrance charge and are not always open, much of the Park is freely accessible throughout the year during daylight hours. As well as numerous public and permissive rights-of-way, much of the land is dedicated Access Land.