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Fly Agaric, Elliott NeepFly Agaric, Elliott Neep

Crunchy leaves and fabulous fungi - get your coats on and get outdoors! Here are the top Derbyshire wildlife experiences for autumn...


AUTUMN – September

Ramble through a purple haze

Our heaths and moors are at their most colourful.

Found in parts of Devon and Cornwall, northern England and the uplands of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the ‘blasted moors’ are often thought of as windswept, bleak and foreboding, an iconic moorland landscape full of drama and intrigue, home to the hound of the Baskervilles, Heathcliff and Cathy and Hogwarts.

Dramatic and intriguing they certainly are, but as the heather bursts into flower at the end of the summer, the moors become a blazing carpet of purple for as far as the eye can see, a-buzz with bees and the chuckling of red grouse and haunting cries of curlew. There is surely no better time to head for the hills and experience this great purple-tinged spectacle.

Our moorlands are of international importance. Around 70% of the world’s moors and upland heaths are in the UK, and we have a special responsibility to conserve and protect these habitats.


Head up: moorland is only found in the uplands.

Most moorland is open access land, so you are free to wander, but it’s best to stick to well used paths, as the weather up here can change quickly and in such big landscapes it’s easy to get lost.

And keep your dog on a lead. It can be tempting to let her run free, but the moors are home to ground nesting birds and grazing animals, neither of which take well to the attentions of an over-excited pooch.

If you can’t get to the special places listed below…

It’s not only the uplands that become awash with purple in the autumn. The lowland heaths of southern England and south Wales are also at their brightest right now, with the purple of the heather showing off at is best alongside the golden yellow of gorse and ling.


Ladybower Wood, Derbyshire 
Brockholes Wood, Derbyshire



AUTUMN – September/October

Gaze in awe at reds’ rut

The autumn is mating season for our largest land mammal, the red deer.
The main event of the red deer year is the annual rut. Having spent the rest of the year quietly going about their business in single sex herds, autumn sees the dominant males rounding up his harem of females. Younger males, and indeed many of the females, have other ideas, and the result is one of the most dramatic events in the wildlife calendar.

Stags let out great moaning, belching roars as the dominant male does his best to defend his hinds from the young pretenders, strutting back and forth tossing his antlers in an act of showmanship. For those who aren’t intimidated by his bellowing and bravado, a battle ensues. Stags clash by linking antlers and shoving each other. It may look dramatic, but this is mostly for show, a ritualised fight with the aim of settling the dispute and sorting out who’s boss, rather than causing any actual damage. The roaring and bellowing of our largest land mammal leaves a lasting impression.


Early morning is a great time to try to see males performing, as the low, golden light and cold, dewy air creates the perfect autumnal atmosphere, particularly for photographers.

If you can’t get to the special places listed below…

There is a great clip of the red deer rut on the BBC Autumnwatch website Londoners are enormously lucky to have red deer roaming Richmond Park – coming across a well-camourflaged herd amid the bracken on a misty morning while the rest of the capital is stuck in rush-hour is a heart-warming sight. But beware - keep your distance!


Hillbridge and Park Wood, Derbyshire



AUTUMN – October

Wander the wild wood

Enjoy the autumn colours of our wonderful woods.

October has arrived, Keats’ ‘season of mist and mellow fruitfulness’, and after a summer of lush green and velvety shade, our woods are taking on the warm, glowing colours of autumn. As the days get colder, so the leaves turn and the countryside becomes a riot of golden yellows, blazing oranges and deep sunset reds.

Amongst the autumn leaves, the reds and purples of berries and brown acorns and nuts appear, ready to temp the thrushes and squirrels. Autumn is a time of hunting for conkers, of kicking through great drifts of fallen leaves, a time of roasting chestnuts, of fireworks and bonfires.

In the woods the red deer are bellowing in their annual rut; jays are screeching back and forth, hoarding acorns for the winter to come; busy flocks of tits tumble through the canopy, always hungry, always moving; the ivy flowers are a-buzz with hoverflies and wasp, honey bees and the last red admiral of the season. Winter is around the corner, so everyone is making the most of the last warm days, and what better place to do that than in one of our wonderful woods?


Autumn woods are wonderful places: just be prepared for an adventure.
If you can’t get to the special places listed below…
There are woods close at hand for everyone. Get out there and enjoy them!


Lea Wood, Derbyshire 


Heather at Ladybower Wood © Guy Badham, Red deer © Jon Hawkins Surrey Hill Photography, Lea Wood © Jim Lambeth.