Serpentine wildflower area 1 in June 2020

The Serpentine

Location (GR): SK0752733

Designation: None

Habitat types: Deciduous Woodland, Parkland

Priority Habitat

Important species: Kingfisher, Brown Trout

Habitat description:

A mix of parkland trees and semi natural woodland, herbaceous planting and amenity grassland, with small wildflower areas and boggy zones that have been more naturally managed.

The Serpentine (also known as the Serpentine Walks) is a good example of a what is broadly speaking a parkland habitat that has good potential for improved biodiversity, if it is managed to this end. It is  owned by High Peak Borough Council and is situated in the Buxton Central Conservation Area, covering an area of 2.25ha. The Serpentine and Pavilion Gardens are together listed as Grade II* on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, which describes how ‘The area alongside the River Wye was improved and embellished by Joseph Paxton (1803-65) for the sixth Duke, probably in the 1830s’.

Photographs from the 19th Century show a more heavily wooded parkland with a much less ‘managed’ appearance than today. There was tree cover down to the river, with trees naturally rooted into the riverbank.

As recently as 2019 there was a greater emphasis on more natural management schemes with an extensive wildflower area. This was originally established about 15 years ago and planted with a variety of meadow flowers which were attractive but ultimately unsuited to the soil conditions. These species have gradually and naturally been largely replaced by species more suited to this environment.

Areas near the river that were once wooded are now waterlogged for much of the year, and are currently mainly managed as amenity grassland.

The Serpentine has evolved to become a mix of parkland trees and semi natural woodland, herbaceous planting and amenity grassland, with small wildflower areas and boggy zones that have been more naturally managed. More than half of the area has mature tree cover comprising mainly beech, sycamore, yew and non-native conifers, and alder, birch and sallow.

The park therefore has a structure that is very different to Paxton’s designs of the 1830s. The areas of grassland in proximity to the river are a natural floodplain, with additional seepage from springs and natural drainage. Despite being waterlogged for much of the year, large parts of these areas are managed as amenity grassland with intensive mowing regimes. This leads to unattractive exposed wet soil along much of the river corridor. If left to naturally recolonise, the dominant vegetation type would be tall herb fen, and several species of this plant community are present in the floodplain zone.

These are areas where the current management exacerbates the waterlogged conditions for much of the year. New management schemes that focus on plant communities suited to the conditions, would enable creation of biodiversity rich and attractive wildflower areas.

Managing the Serpentine for greater biodiversity

High Peak Borough Council have pledged to ‘work to mitigate the biodiversity crisis in its actions across the borough’ (Motion to HPBC 15.10.19) and, in accordance with this, are developing a strategy to manage their parks to be more biodiverse.

Buxton Field Club has worked with Buxton Civic Association Biodiversity Group to develop and present to HPBC a draft management plan for The Serpentine that focuses on increasing biodiversity through habitat improvement, and protecting existing areas of high biodiversity value. Careful consideration has been given to the potential conflict between a more natural management regime and desire to maintain a formal park structure, and suggested management schemes are both wildlife friendly and designed to be visually appealing. This plan will assist the Council in achieving its stated aim.

Serpentine Walks Biodiversity Plan 2022-2027

This is a plan prepared jointly by Buxton Field Club and Buxton Biodiversity Group, which has been adopted by HPBC. A copy of the plan can be found here.

There is an active programme of volunteering carrying out this plan, which you will be welcome to join in.

Wildlife records on iNaturalist for the Serpentine

Click on each of the buttons to open a new page in iNaturalist showing the up-to-date observation records (including all casual records) for the Serpentine area, as defined in the searchable map.

For these buttons to work properly you will need to be registered and logged into iNaturalist. This is a free and extremely useful app. See our ‘How to record wildlife’ page for more information and tips on how to use it.

Wildlife and plantlife you can find there

Click on this button to go to our photo gallery of the mosses and liverworts we have found in The Serpentine

Floral species recorded in The Serpentine 2019-21

Common name

Scientific name

Meadow buttercup

Ranunculus acris

Creeping buttercup

Ranunculus repens

Lesser celandine

Ficaria verna

Marsh Marigold (Kingcups)

Caltha palustris

Opposite leaved golden saxifrage

Chrysosplenium oppositifolium

Meadow saxifrage

Saxifraga granulata

Common birdsfoot trefoil

Lotus corniculatus

Greater birdsfoot trefoil

Lotus pedunculatus

Tufted vetch

Vicia cracca

Bush vetch

Vicia sepium

Meadow vetchling

Lathyrus pratensis

Red clover 

Trifolium pratense

Meadowsweet

Filipendula ulmaria

Water avens

Geum rivale

Wood avens

Geum urbanum

Common nettle

Urtica dioica

Great willowherb

Epilobium hirsutum

Rosebay willowherb

Chamaenerion angustifolium

Enchanter’s nightshade

Circaea lutetiana

Common bistort

Bistorta officinalis

Sorrel

Rumex acetosa

Broad-leaved dock

Rumex obtusifolius

Ragged robin

Lychnis flos-cuculi

Red campion

Silene dioica

Cowslip

Primula veris

Cleavers

Galium aparine

Woodruff

Galium odoratum

Field forget-me-not

Myosotis arvensis

Germander speedwell

Veronica chamaedrys

Brooklime

Veronica beccabunga

Ribwort plantain 

Plantago lanceolata

Water figwort

Scrophularia umbrosa

Hedge woundwort

Stachys sylvatica

Selfheal

Prunella vulgaris

Watermint

Mentha aquatica

Mimulus

Mimulus spp. 

Yellow rattle

Rhinanthus minor

Creeping thistle

Cirsium arvense

Marsh thistle

Cirsium pratense

Common knapweed

Centaurea nigra

Perennial sowthistle

Sonchus arvensis

Daisy

Bellis perennis

Tansy

Tanacetum vulgare

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

Hemp agrimony

Eupatorium cannabinum

Oxeye daisy

Leucanthemum vulgare

Scentless mayweed

Tripleurospermum inodorum

Coltsfoot

Tussilago farfara

Common valerian

Valeriana officinalis

Hogweed

Heracleum sphondylium

Cuckoo-pint (Lords-and-ladies)

Arum maculatum 

Yellow iris

Iris pseudacorus

Snakeshead fritillary

Fritillaria meleagris

Ramsons

Allium ursinum

Bird species recorded in The Serpentine 2019-21

Woodland/Parkland Species

Status 

Blackbird

Breeding

Song thrush

Breeding

Mistle thrush

Breeding in proximity

Redwing

Winter visitor

Robin

Breeding 

Wren

Breeding 

Goldcrest

Breeding 

Dunnock

Breeding 

Blue tit

Breeding 

Great tit 

Breeding 

Coal tit

Breeding

Long-tailed tit

Breeding 

Nuthatch

Breeding 

Great spotted woodpecker

Breeding 

Treecreeper

Breeding 

Bullfinch

Breeding 

Chaffinch

Breeding 

Goldfinch

Breeding 

Greenfinch

Likely breeding

Siskin

Breeding in proximity

Lesser redpoll

Non-breeding

Chiffchaff

Breeding in proximity

Jackdaw

Breeding

Carrion crow

Breeding in proximity

Magpie

Breeding in proximity

Woodpigeon

Breeding

Collared dove

Likely breeding

Feral pigeon

Breeding in proximity

Tawny owl

Breeding in proximity

Waterbird Species 

Status 

Dipper

Breeding in proximity

Grey wagtail

Breeding in proximity

Kingfisher

Non-breeding, regular 

Mallard

Breeding

Mandarin

Occasionally breeding

Moorhen

Breeding in proximity

Canada goose

Breeding in proximity

Grey heron

Non-breeding, regular

Little egret

Occasional visitor

Common sandpiper

Occasional visitor

Typical habitats

Summary and links

Information and guidance

Websites and other links