Posted 12th Dec 2017
The rocks that make up Scotland started out on the continent of Gondwana, down near the Antarctic Circle, while England and Wales were submerged beneath a shallow sea studded with volcanic islands
Between them and now, the land beneath us has travelled halfway around the world, through periods of busy volcanic activity which piled up great depths of ash and lava, sunk beneath warm and tropical seas which are rich in coral reefs, before being colonised by swamps and rain forests and drifting further north to be swamped by river sediments and mud flats.
Glaciers have come and gone, returning and then retreating, covering the land in one kilometre thick ice before carving out much of the landscape we recognise today.
Throughout our countryside, you can see the evidence of our dramatic history, in rocky cliffs, boulder-strewn hillsides, caverns and gorges and a whole gamut of quarries. One consequence of quarrying is the chance to peek into the Earth's ancient history, with exposure of rocks million years old can reveal fossilised species like brachipods, gastropods and ammonites as well as fossilised shark teeth, shells and wood.
Left to regenerate naturally, nature is steadily reclaiming these places from their industrial pasts.
Many Wildlife Trusts have taken on management of disused quarries as a way of caring for special and unusual places and their wildlife.
How to do it
You'll be able to find all manner of things in our disused wild quarries and rocky places - this includes creative sculpture trails, fossils, colonies of bats that roost in shadowy caves, reptiles, wildflowers, insects and birds. Buried amongst the rocks, you will be able to look for traces of bygone industry, with the remains of a quarrymen's hut, 'dressed' stone and old tramways once used for transporting hundreds of tonnes of rocks. Winter is a good time - you'll see more geology with less vegetation.
If you're unable to visit any of the special places listed below, simply explore the wild places around you.
Avon: Brown's Folly is a fascinating reserve, combining natural beauty with the remains of Bath stone quarries. The reserve's huge amount of exposed rock, quarries and mines all echo the 300 years of mining activity that once flourished. This includes the stone that was used for the facade of Buckingham Palace.
The disused quarries offer excellent conditions for roosting bats, such as the greater horseshoe. There are many species of wildflower which include the pyramidal orchid, harebell and wild thyme, which also benefit from exposed rock, giving home to many invertebrates such as the green hairstreak butterfly. Rare breeds of sheep help to preserve the the reserves geological features here by grazing on encroaching vegetation and shrub.
Anglesey, Cors Goch
Avon, Goblin Combe
Birmingham, Moorcroft Wood
Birmingham, Portway Hill
Buckinghamshire, College Lake
Cornwall, St Erth Pits
Cumbria, Clint’s Quarry
Derbyshire, Miller’s Dale Quarry
Devon, Meeth Quarry
Dorset, King Barrow Quarries
Dorset, Tout Quarries
Durham, Bishop Middleham Quarry
Durham, Blackhall Rocks
Durham, Trimdon Grange Quarry
Essex, The Naze
Gloucestershire, Cutsdean Quarry
Gloucestershire, Spion Kop Quarry
Gloucestershire, Stenders Quarry
Hertfordshire, Ashwell Quarry and Quarry Springs
Lancashire, Cross Hill Quarry
Leicestershire, Browns Hill Quarry
Leicestershire, Tilton Railway Quarry
Northumberland, Hadrian’s Wall and Whin Sill Corridor
Northumberland, East Crindledykes Quarry
Oxfordshire, Dry Sandford Pit
Powys, Llanymynech Rocks
Somerset, Ubley Warren
Surrey, Brockham Limeworks
Worcestershire, Crews Hill Wood
Wrexham, Marford Quarry
Yorkshire, Wharram Quarry
Image courtesy of © Avon Wildlife Trust - text and information courtesy of the Wildlife Trusts