Posted by: lensweb | April 15, 2014

LENS Summer Walks Woodside

Apr 14 Woodside Farm Nature Reserve, Shipley. Part of this new reserve is run as a farm with cows and sheep. See it at lambing time. Can be very wet, so please wear strong boots/wellies. NO DOGS PLEASE.

Park at Pit Lane entrance (turn left off A6007, Ilkeston to Heanor Rd just over a mile after hospital). Grid ref SK 449 445           Postcode DE75 7JL

Leader Matt Johnson

A bleary eyed Matt Johnson, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Farming Officer introduced us to Woodside. The 182-acre site, which once formed part of the American Adventure theme park, is now the county’s biggest nature reserve outside the Peak District.

After saying hello to the white hare, symbol of the reserve we walked past open gravel in the upper car park – dingy skipper butterfly habitat, along the new footpaths, some bounded by stock fences. We heard of the problems caused as some of the meandering common footpaths loved by local people, had been cut off to protect grazing animals. In the distance we could see the newly established wildflower meadow, grazed by sheep.  A majestic metal rodeo bull crowned the upper path.

Descending muddy steps led to a ‘meeting of the many ways’ signpost. Cattle grazing is used on the large boulder field to improve the grassland flora and southern marsh orchids have already established. Long haired black and also ginger highland cattle gazed balefully as Matt lovingly recited their names.

The large new observation tower gave clear views across Woodside to St Mary’s Church at Ilkeston and we could even see the Dale Abbey Windmill on the skyline. A raucous pheasant cackled behind us in the trees.Image

Norwegian maple and field maple flowering at leafburst were in young woodland which has been thinned, with every 5th tree left as standing deadwood. Some piles of brash next to a ride cleared under the electricity lines will attract insects for wrens and small mammals to feed on.

The new barn has a kestrel box outside and an owl box inside and that is where we saw the lambs. Ahh! They were so black and white and so beautiful! How the twin lambs shove and love their mother’s milk. With a flock of 75 ewes, lambing continues day and night for 4 week’s, poor Matt was exhausted. An established flock of Jacob sheep has been cross bred with a gritstone breed. Suffolk bloodstock will also be introduced in future years to increase the value of fat lambs.


Matt has a group of volunteers including ex-miners, who have helped develop an education area around the new barn, with a pond, log pile and all-ability access ramps and paths. Matt’s pride in his helpers was immense, as we stood on their new built bridge over the deep gorge of a rushing stream behind the barn.  As the full moon glowed on us from behind the trees we were serenaded by song thrush, blackbird and grasshopper warbler.

Woodside Nature Reserve – named after a former colliery – was opened December 2011. It is an exciting site because it is so near to a lot of people.It is a hub for wildlife across the Erewash Valley linking existing open sites like Shipley Country Park together. To enquire about volunteering at the reserve, call 01773 881188.

Marion Bryce


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