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History of conservation in Derbyshire

A short history of conservation in Derbyshire (mostly taken from Elkington, T Ed (1986) The Nature of Derbyshire, Barracuda Books Limited) Derbyshire, in particular the Peak District, has long been known as an area of landscape beauty and natural wonders. In the seventeenth century Thomas Hobbes published a poem entitled 'The Wonders of the Peak'. One of the wonders was Chatsworth House, the other 6 were natural wonders. In 1676 Charles Cotton, writing together with Izaak Walton in 'The Compleat (sic) Angler' described the beauties of the Dove, Wye and Lathkill among several Derbyshire rivers.

Much of the land lay within large estates, including those of the Dukes of Rutland and Devonshire and estates associated with Melbourne Hall, Calke Abbey, Renishaw Hall and Welbeck Hall. The estates and their landowners had a considerable influence on the landscape and its wildlife. Much of the ancient wild wood had disappeared by the Medieval times. There were also the creation of many Medieval deer parks giving rises to small copses and holly hedges such as those found within the area of the Duffield Frith (Hulland Ward, Belper, Shottle and Postern etc).

The landscaping fashion of the eighteenth century led to the planting of large areas so woodland. From 1770 onwards Sir Richard Arkwright planted 50,000 trees. A year along the Derwent Valley near his mills and home at Cromford. Nearby and a little later on the Gells of Hopton undertook planting along the Via Gellia. The Chatsworth Estate undertook a number of tree-planting programmes under the direction of such names as Capability Brown and Joseph Paxton.

The interest in local natural history in Derbyshire was, as in many English counties, firmly established in the Victorian period. The formation of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1878 was followed over the years by a succession of local societies, several of which exist today. The same era also saw the development of as number of publications on the natural history of Derbyshire including the 'Birds of Derbyshire' by F.B Whitlock published in 1893 and the 'Flora of Derbyshire' by W.R. Linton published in 1903 are series. Accounts of these and many other groups also appear in the 'Victoria History of Derby' published in 1905. The turn of the century also brought an increasing interest in the new science of ecology. One result was the publication in 1913 'The vegetation of the Peak District' by C.E.Moss.

The Sheffield and Peak District branch of the CPRE was formed in 1925 and one of its first acts was financing, by voluntary efforts, the purchase of 250 acres of the Longshaw estate near Hathersage for the National Trust. This led to similarly financed large purchases for the national trust including parts of Edale, Mam Tor and the Winnats Pass. Also as early as 1938, a map with proposed boundaries was drawn up for a National Park for the Peak District and in 1944 the CPRE issued an influential report 'The Peak District - a National Park'.

As the Second World War drew to a close the emphasis turned towards reconstruction. At a national level this included a report on National Parks published in 1945. This was followed by a detailed report in 1947 which lead directly to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The Peak District was designated as the first National Park in 1950. The 1949 Act also allowed for the provision of designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The first list of SSSI was drawn up in 1954 but the Lathkill Dale and Monk's Dale the first SSSIs were not declared until 1972.

In 1960 the Central Electricity Generating Board, with a new power station at Willington applied for planning permission to tip fly ash into the nearby Ticknall Limeyards. This site was the only known outcrop of limestone in southern Derbyshire and since quarrying had ceased at the end of the nineteenth century had developed  a rich flora and fauna. Many local people as well as national organisations opposed the plans. The application was refused and at the subsequent public Inquiry a number of the individuals who spoke in favour of the refusal decided to form the Derbyshire Naturalists Trust.

The Derbyshire Naturalists' Trust  (now the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust) was formally inaugurated in early 1962. The subscription was then 10 shillings and the membership was stated at 110. The first reserve the Trust acquired was Ticknall Limeyards through a management agreement with the owner. The first reserve acquired by purchase was the 15ha of upland pasture at Overdale which was a gift from the Portland Cement manufacturers in 1970 to mark European Conservation Year. Today the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has more than 35 Reserves and more than 10,000 members.

Work began on a revised County Flora in 1949 and was eventually published in 1969 edited by Professor Clapham. This is the current flora of the county, although extensive field work has been carried out by the Derbyshire Flora group and a new flora is expected to be published in the next couple of years.

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