Walk to the top of the hill to see our unique circular seat & enjoy the spectacular views across the surrounding landscape.
To see the site’s unique flora at its best visit during the summer – although if you want to catch one of the county’s finest displays of mountain pansies you’ll need to drop by in late spring too!
Hares are frequently seen around the reserve - if you walk quietly around the trail you may disturb one lying in the grass. Look out for the characteristic black tips on the ears.
If you’re interested in history and industrial archaeology then the various ‘lumps-and-hollows’ at Thorswood provide evidence of how man has influenced this landscape.
Something for everyone
Whether you’re interested in wildflowers or landscape history, looking for a picnic spot, or just want to enjoy a quiet walk, then Thorswood is the ideal place. Amongst the 150 acres of Thorswood nature reserve you will find rare plants, flower rich meadows, heathland, iron age barrows, evidence of historic mining activity and spectacular landscapes.
Flowers, flowers everywhere!
It’s the lush hay meadows and flower-rich limestone grassland that are some of the most precious habitats to be found at Thorswood. The meadows are found on the deeper soils of the low lying ground. These fields can be identified by their tall grasses and flowering plants such as knapweed, devil’s-bit scabious, ox-eye daisy and betony. Being located on flatter ground makes these parts of the reserve more easily accessible with farm machinery, which means the meadows can be mown for hay in late summer.
The higher ground provides spectacular views over the surrounding area. The thin soil and underlying limestone rocks mean that you will find a very different range of plants in this part of the reserve. The vegetation is densely packed with low-growing flowering plants such as wild thyme, salad burnett, cowslips and early purple orchids. The patches of grassy land dotted amongst these flowers indicate the rock is acidic sandstone. Unusual plants such as mountain pansy and moonwort thrive in these areas.
The real site managers?
Unimproved, flower rich grasslands like the ones at Thorswood have declined dramatically over the past 60 years. Many grasslands have become less diverse due to intensive farming practices – fields have been ploughed up and reseeded with single species of grass, sprayed with chemicals or simply overgrazed by too many cattle and sheep.
Ironically, farming is also crucial in helping us to protect the special interests at Thorswood - but a different kind of farming. No chemicals, no reseeding, no overstocking – just light grazing and traditional farming techniques. With the help of local farmers, grazing animals are being used to benefit the wildflowers. Some fields are used to make hay which allows wildflowers to set seed before mowing in late summer. The hay also benefits the farmers by providing winter fodder for the animals when there is no new grass growth. Without grazing or mowing the more vigorous grasses would become rank and overgrown and smother the more delicate flowering plants.
Take a break
Why not walk to the highest part of the reserve and take a well-deserved rest on the unique circular stone seat. The seat was designed and built with the help of local school children and volunteers. On your way back please don’t forget to let us know your thoughts about Thorswood by filling in our visitors book.
Be Aware - There has been extensive mining activity at Thorswood. In the interests of public safety we therefore ask visitors to observe any access restrictions and keep to the way-marked routes where indicated.
How to get there
Take the A523 east towards Ashbourne. Approximately 2 miles out of the village of Waterhouses the A523 becomes the A52 – turn right here (signed towards Stanton). After approx ¾ mile turn left, heading towards Stanton village. Thorswood is approximately ¼ mile along this road on the right hand side.
Parking & Access
Visitors and school groups are welcome at Thorswood and there is a small parking area at the entrance to the reserve. This also provides adequate turning space for minibuses and coaches.
A trail marked trail around the reserve lets visitors tour the site whilst keeping you away from the hazardous mineshafts. Please pick up a trail leaflet and keep to the marked route during your visits.
The terrain at Thorswood varies considerably. The hilltop location of some of the fields means that it can be an arduous walk to get to some areas. To do a full circuit of the reserve you will need to cross a small stream which can become muddy at any time of the year. We do however aim to provide a surfaced track from the car park to proposed information barn.
You are also welcome to visit Blakelow and Brown Edge, however please be aware that there are limited access facilities on these parts of the reserve.
Want to know more about nature reserve designations? Just click the icon below
150 acres / 60 hectares
Other Reserves Nearby
Whilst you're in the area, why not explore a few more of our nature reserves?
Do’s & Dont’s
Be aware that there has been extensive historic mining activities at Thorswood. In the interests of public safety we therefore ask visitors to observe any restrictions and keep t the way-marked route where indicated