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Cotton Dell

A pretty reserve with ancient woodlands and flower rich grassland, located within a secluded river valley

Highlights

  • Take a walk around the reserve on a sunny autumn day and enjoy the sights and sounds of a woodland and its wildlife preparing for winter
  • Visit in spring to be rewarded with a rich chorus of bird song throughout the woodland
  • The grasslands are at their best in summer, when butterflies and other insects are busy feeding amongst the flower rich pastures

If you go down to the Dell today

Take the path following the course of the Cotton Brook, which flows through the heart of the reserve, and you will find a wonderful diverse range of habitats from steep sided woodland valleys to flower rich grasslands.  Ponds, scrub and boggy areas along with the stream itself all add to the wildlife value of the reserve.

The woodland at Cotton Dell is located on an ancient woodland site.  This means that the area has been continuously wooded for over 400 years.  Despite this, previous management of the woodland has resulted in most of the oldest trees being removed.

In some places individual trees were felled and the resulting spaces were allowed to naturally regenerate.  In other areas, entire blocks of woodland were cleared and replanted with conifers.  As you follow the track around the reserve, look for the contrasting habitats and their effects on the ground flora and shrub layer of the woodland.  In the broadleaf woodland, you'll see young trees growing amongst the shrubs, whilst in spring carpets of wild flowers appear including bluebells, wood anemones and wood sorrel.

By contrast, in the conifer woodlands you'll see a far less diverse range of species.  Although conifer woodland has some benefits for wildlife, they tend to support less wildlife than the adjoining broadleaf woodland.

 

Back to the future

Woodland management involves taking a long term view.  Part of the future management of the reserve is to return it to its former glory; a rich broadleaf woodland with a range of tree species such as oak, hazel, alder and birch along with holly, field maple and hazel amongst the shrubby species.

Trees are amongst the longest living things on earth, but nothing lasts forever, so in order to provide a wildlife rich and sustainable woodland for future generations, a woodland needs to include a number of elements:

There need to be gaps in the canopy so that acorns and other seeds can germinate and develop into saplings to become the mature trees of the future

Woodlands are better for wildlife if they have a rich understorey layer of shrubs, such as field maple, hazel and bird cherry, all of which can already be found in the reserve

As mature trees start to age and gradually die, they provide either fallen or standing dead wood.  This dead wood is crucial for wildlife rich woodlands as it provides homes and food for a variety of species including woodpeckers and fungi.

We have to start thinking now about any management to ensure that there will be future mature and veteran trees.  To achieve this we will be gradually felling some of the trees to open up gaps to encourage natural regeneration or newly planted trees to develop into the woodland of the future

 

Butterflies, bees, boggy bits and bare ground

One of the main reasons Cotton Dell is so good for wildlife is due to the wide range of habitats found on the reserve.  Look carefully and you'll see that different plants have colonised the different areas of the reserve.  These areas also support different insects.

Small boggy pools, even temporary ones, can provide homes to opportunistic insects, but one of the most easily identifiable is the Green Tiger Beetle which can be seen on the bare sandy patches in the cattle grazed pastures

 

A Living Landscape

This nature reserve is part of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape

'Living Landscapes' is The Wildlife Trusts innovative approach to nature conservation and involves focusing our efforts on improving the wider landscape to make it better for wildlife.  Find out more here

 

Species and habitats

Habitats
Grassland, Woodland
Species
Dipper, Wood Warbler, Bluebell, Beech, Green Tiger Beetle

Nearby nature reserves

Side Farm Meadows
1 miles - Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
Harston Wood
2 miles - Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
Ipstones Edge
3 miles - Staffordshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Location
Near Oakamoor
Oakamoor
Staffordshire
ST10 3AG (Nearest Postcode)
Map reference
SK 055 450
Great for...
birdwatching
getting away from it all
stunning views
wildflowers
Best time to visit
Mar - Jun
Sep - Oct
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
Facilities
Picnic facilities
Size
86.40 hectares
Walking information
Terrain is mostly firm but can be wet and muddy in some areas, especially in winter. A surfaced track through part of the woodland, from which paths can become muddy, uneven and steep in places. Please respect private land. Given the valley location the circular trail paths are on steep hillsides in places. Contact the Trust for disabled access information.
Parking
Parking area in Oakamoor owned by Staffordshire County Council, 1/4 mile walk to the entrance of the reserve
Dogs
Dogs allowed
Grazing animals
yes
Reserve manager
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01889 880100
info@staffs-wildlife.org.uk