Monday, 11 April 2011

Clints Quarry - A Natural Playground.

We've been out exploring again today, and despite the fact we were less than 2 miles from home, we could have been in a different place completely. Clints Quarry is a genuine hidden gem, situated between two main commuter routes that 1000s of nuclear workers travel every day, Despite its location and size, I wonder how many of them are even aware of its existence.  We've never seen anybody else there on our visits.
Clints Quarry is situated between the busy A595 and A5086, just outside of Egremont.
It covers over 9 hectares but it so well hidden that anyone driving by will be unaware of its existence.
Clints Quarry has been the site of quarrying for over 450 years. In the 1600's it was the source of agricultural lime for use on farm land around Egremont. In the 1800's both limestone and iron ore mining were increased to supply the emerging steel industry in Egremont and nearby Cleator and Cleator Moor. The name "Clints" is taken from the blocks of lime stone left in the quarry basin, which were traditionally known as "Clints" or "Clintz". Quarrying ceased in the 1930s and nature slowly recolonised the remains turning it into a self-enclosed wildlife haven. During the 1970s, the exposed rock faces were popular with climbing clubs as was the nearby Clints Scar, but the landowners weren't happy with their intrusion and made the climbers unwelcome, even going as far as pouring slurry down the cliff faces. In the early 1980s, the quarry was threatened with a landfill proposal, but in 1984, the Cumbria Wildlife Trust purchased the Quarry from Lord Egremont and British Steel to safeguard its future as a nature reserve and a Site Of Special Scientific Interest (ASSSI).
The exposed rock faces at the head of Clints Quarry are around 20m high.
Our 4 year old loves the place almost as much as his Mam 'n' Dad and he had his usual hands-on education today - this time it was geology, history and nature. About 350 million years ago, Clints was under a tropical sea and today fossils of creatures such as coral can be seen in the quarry walls and in the boulders that line the quarry floor. The cliff faces at the head of the quarry also reveal the distinctive bands of silt and rock giving a natural timeline of the geological history of West Cumbria. The spoil heeps, screes and ponds have also been colonised by flowers, plants and wildlife, which make it a natural playground for our family.
Tracks between the overgrown spoil heaps.
Crystalised rocks on the quarry floor
Moss growing on the limestone "clints".
The quarry is filled with quaking grass, wild strawberries, oat grass, oxeye daises, the spectacular bee orchid with its unusually shaped flowers, and the vivid pink pyramidal orchid, a Cumbria rarity. On the rock face and between crevices grow many ferns including hart's tongue. In damper parts of quarry the pale pink common spotted orchid and the deeper pink northern marsh orchid are present. Sedges and rushes are common here, as are tufted hair grass and hemp agrimony. Bluebell, dog's mercury, enchanter's nightshade, early purple orchids and common twayblade orchids populate the woodland. Many mosses, fungi, lichens and moulds can be found growing on the trees, spoil heaps and rock faces.
Wild Strawberries are everywhere... but you have to look hard to find them.
Moss covers the ancient tree roots and rocks.
These derelict ponds are now filled with newts, sticklebacks, frogs and beetles... and they're very deep!
The wildlife includes beetles and common blue, meadow brown and gatekeeper butterflies. Robins, goldcrests, long-tailed tits and sometimes treecreepers inhabit the quarry whilst kestrels and ravens nest on the quarry face. Stickleback, palmate newt and common frog can be found in the derelict concrete lined ponds and pools along with water beetles and "water-boatmen". It also gives me plenty of scope to take a few photos and get my boots muddy! Clints Quarry nature reserve is open at all times and is on the Egremont to Whitehaven cycleway (National Route 72). It lies on land seperating the main A595 and A5086 routes but is only accesible from a minor road just off the A5086. 

2 comments:

  1. I'll mark that down for a visit next time I'm up that way, cheers

    ReplyDelete
  2. So will I. Nice to find hidden treasures like this...

    ReplyDelete

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Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Disenchanted City Boy who rode out of the fast lane and into the back lanes! Life on Two Wheels is so much fun.