WITH its mining heritage, links to Florence Nightingale and stunning views of Hardwick Hall, Pleasley Pit Country Park already has plenty going for it.
Now the site’s natural wonders have been recognised after 90 hectares of the former pit was designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR).
The status gives the park an extra layer of protection from future development and will allow the volunteers who look after the site to press ahead with their aim of turning it into a top tourist attraction.
Pleasley Pit Trust director Ken Lomas said: “We are delighted it has become an LNR for the extra tier of protection it gives to the site.
“It is something we have worked for since 2000 and although it has been a long, hard struggle we have finally achieved it and that can only benefit wildlife and the local community.”
Since Pleasley Colliery closed in 1983, its spoil heaps have slowly returned to nature and become a haven for wildlife beneath the old headstocks.
There are six different species of orchid and 172 species of bird have been recorded at the park, including marsh harriers, red kites, Arctic skuas and most types of owl.
The park is also home to grass snakes, dragonflies, moths and butterflies, while the site’s Main Pond could soon become a safe location for the British white clawed crayfish, which is currently under threat across the country after the introduction of the American crayfish.
“It is amazing that a nature reserve has developed from all that dust and dirt from the spoil heap,” Derek Beech, from Pleasley Pit Nature Study Group, said.
The study group was set up in 2000 and has grown from 15 to around 160 members. Along with the Friends of Pleasley Pit, who are renovating equipment in the colliery headstocks and winding house, it forms the Pleasley Pit Trust.
After a decade-long campaign, volunteers discovered recently that the park had been designated an LNR by Derbyshire County Council.
And to celebrate the achievement they held a wildlife open day on Sunday, something which could become an annual event.
“It was an opportunity for members of the community to see what there is on offer at the park,” Ken said.
“The Pleasley Pit Trust’s long-term objective is to turn the site into a nationally important tourist attraction.”
For this to happen, the park will have to make the most of both its natural delights and its historic significance.
Along the western boundary of the park is Longhedge Lane, where Neolithic archeological finds have been discovered and which was widened by the Romans as a route from South Yorkshire to Nottingham.
The site also has connections with Lady of the Lamp Florence Nightingale, who became famous for her pioneering work as a nurse during the Crimean War.
Florence’s father was Lord of the Manor of Pleasley when the colliery was sunk in 1873 and her sister Frances took over after his death in an accident.
Pleasley Colliery was also the first pit in the country to have electricity at the bottom of the shaft when it was installed by Compton Electricals.
“All these things mean that the park should be and could be quite a major local tourist attraction,” Ken said.
“Becoming an LNR will help with this and a huge thanks should go to Derbyshire Countryside Services, who have assisted and supported us in our endeavours.”
The Pleasley Pit Nature Study Group meets every Saturday and holds indoor meetings once every two months.
For more information on joining the group or helping with a donation visit www.pleasleypitnaturestudygroup.co.uk.