Finding hidden gems in oft visited areas is immensely rewarding. Take our high tide visit to Banc y Lord a couple of weeks ago as one such example. Another came at the conclusion of our recent long weekend in Welshpool when, with a few hours spare before heading home, we popped up the road to Llanymynech and its intriguingly marked Heritage Area on the OS map. Now this is somewhere we’ve driven past on numerous occasions, probably even spotting the small brown attraction sign as we did so, yet we simply had no idea that what lay within was a wealth of history and one of the best small nature reserves I’ve visited.
Doing a bit of research reveals that this area was a major centre for the lime industry up until the 1900’s and a remarkable collection of associated buildings and infrastructure remains to this day. Railway embankments and a stretch of disused canal offer plentiful walking opportunities, weaving through woodland which one minute finds you entering a sunny glade and the next drops you out in front of a forty two metre chimney. Sitting high above all this is the quarry itself, straddling the English Welsh border and active for almost two thousand years up until the first world war.
The intervening years have seen extensive regeneration with Ash woodland now covering much of the site. Beneath the cliffs however, where old spoil tips and tramways dominate, large swathes of short grassland have developed to produce a true botanical treasure. Since 1972 the Shropshire Wildlife Trust have managed the quarry as a nature reserve, carefully nurturing this special habitat for its orchids and butterflies. With the sun blazing there was certainly no shortage of the latter and we spent a happy hour trying, and in the most part succeeding, to get a few photographs.
Being a fan of abandoned industrial sites I couldn’t of course resist a photograph of one of the old winding drums. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a slate quarry or a limestone quarry, climbing those inclines is still one hell of a good workout.
The quarry also plays host to some decent birdlife with family groups of Willow Warblers flitting through the scrub whilst Buzzards and a Red Kite were pretty much a permanent presence overhead. Announcing its arrival with a harsh call though was our star bird for the day, a Peregrine Falcon which flew in and quickly vanished behind a crevice high up on the rockface.
I’ll finish with an image of probably the most impressive structure on site, a vast Hoffman lime kiln. Built around 1900 it was Llanymynech’s last significant development and today is exceptionally well preserved. One of only three examples left in the country it was used for the continual burning of lime and must have been a hellish place to work. Men would have spent their days inside those vast arches surrounded by heat, noise and dust. Hard to imagine when standing in the cool, tranquil setting of today.
In summary then a true gem which I have a feeling will become a regular stop-off point in future whenever we’re passing through. We were a bit too late this time to see the Orchids in flower so that’s definitely worth a return trip alone.