Hayfield is a village nestling on the western edge of the Peak District National Park, with much of the parish lying within the Park. Hayfield parish thus includes some habitats considered internationally important, primarily the blanket bog on Kinder plateau. There are a number of Hamlets in the parish, Little Hayfield and Rowarth falling within the National Park, whilst Birch Vale and Hayfield Village itself fall outwith the park boundary.
Land cover is a mixture of open moorland on top, rough grazing on the slopes, woodland (mainly on steep slopes or lining watercourses), water features and, of course, built up areas.
The open moorland is predominantly a mixture of heathland and blanket bog, with scattered bog pools, flushes and rock outcrops.
Blanket bog is so called because it follows the hummocks and hollows of the landscape, as though a "blanket" of peat had been draped over the under-lying rock. Blanket bog tends to be found in upland areas with high rainfall, and is considered important for two main reasons.
- Blanket bogs formed in Britain at the end of the last ice age, some 9,000 years ago.
- The United Kingdom has an estimated 10% to 15% of the worldwide total.
Much of the heathland is managed as grouse moorland, as at Middle Moor. The mosaic pattern that results from this management can be very visually striking, especially in late summer/early autumn, when the heather is in flower.
Typical woodlands within the parish are at Kinder Bank and Elle Bank, both of which are classified as ancient woodlands. Both retain much of their natural character, which is basically that of oak and/or birch woodland, although there are planted elements. There are also a number of smaller woodlands scattered on the slopes and in the valleys, mainly beside streams and rivers.
The Rivers Kinder and the Sett drain off the moorland, resulting in a slightly acid, peaty water. Before the Kinder meets the Sett, it flows into Kinder Reservoir, where herons can sometimes be seen fishing. The Sett then winds its way through Hayfield Village and beside Birch Vale at the start of the Sett Valley Trail.