Dovedale National Nature Reserve
Dovedale, created an NNR in 2006, had long been appreciated for its stunning scenery and wildlife, and the names of the crags, such as Lion Head Rock, Ilam Rock and Tissington Spires, originated with Victorian tourists, as did the famous Stepping Stones. It’s one of the best examples of an active ravine in the country, carved out of the limestone by the River Dove after the last Ice Age. Large areas of flower-rich grassland including the rare Jacob’s ladder are among its floral highlights. The steep woodlands are dominated by ash, with less common species such as field maple, yew and rock whitebeam. Dovedale is of special ecological interest for its plant life, particularly those calcareous ash woods, which are considered among the best in England. Other unusual plants include Solomon’s seal, lily of the valley, herb Paris and small and large-leaved limes. Birds found here include kingfisher, grey heron and dipper. You can spot 350-million-year-old fossils at places like Lover’s Leap and explore the caves at Reynard’s Cave and Dole Holes.
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About The area
It was Staffordshire that bore the brunt of the largest non-nuclear explosion of World War II, when a munitions dump at RAF Fauld went up in 1944. It was also the county’s regiment that once boasted within its ranks the most decorated NCO of World War I, in the person of William Coltman (1891-1974). Going back a little further, George Handel penned his world-famous masterpiece The Messiah on Staffordshire soil. During another chapter of Staffordshire history, the county was home to the first canals and the first factory in Britain, and it had front-row seats for the drama surrounding one of the most notorious murder trials of the 19th century, that of Doctor William Palmer.
In outline, Staffordshire looks not unlike the profile of a man giving Leicestershire a big kiss. The man’s forehead is arguably the best region for hillwalking, as it comprises a significant chunk of the Peak District. This area is characterised by lofty moors, deep dales and tremendous views of both. Further south are the six sprawling towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent, which historically have had such an impact on Staffordshire’s fortunes, not to mention its culture and countryside. This is pottery country, formerly at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and the driving force behind a network of canals that still criss-cross the county.
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