QUARRIES are an integral and sometimes controversial part of life in the Peak District.
However, based on our recent visit, we came to the conclusion that former quarries can provide varied habitats where a variety of wildlife can flourish.
Creating the right conditions where both flora and fauna can thrive depends on many factors, not least of which is the commitment of senior managers to drive through the necessary changes.
We visited two former quarries, by kind permission of the managers at Longcliffe. En route to the first site we passed a well hidden badger set and rowan trees with a fine crop of ripening berries.
Entering the site we had to tread carefully to avoid crushing the many brightly coloured snails, a good indicator of the health of the land.
Insect life on this gloriously sunny day was in abundance. Many bees, hover flies and peacock butterflies were busily collecting pollen and nectar from a variety of flowers.
Scabious, various willow herbs, thistles, hare bells, yarrow and autumn gentian were the prime targets.
A number of flowers had seeded, holding much promise for next season.
An experimental series of plots have been created on a North-facing slope.
The top-soil used in these plots ranged from 100 er cent to 25 per cent.
The species growing were monitored, the greatest variety occurred in the poorest soil.
Overhead swallows were in a feeding frenzy, a buzzard and a peregrine falcon delighted the birders in the group.
Bat boxes had been erected on a cliff face, in the hope of attracting residents soon.
Although more than satisfied with our initial sightings, many more treats awaited us at the second site we visited.
Here pond and a wet land habitat have been created. A large clump of thistles was very popular with peacock butterflies and a lone red admiral.
An observant member saw a comma butterfly.
A badger motorway and paw prints in the sun-hardened mud confirmed the presence of a large badger set nearby.
The main pond provided us with a good test of our plant identification skills.
We could cope with reeds and bullrushes, but we needed help from our excellent guides Nigel and Zanita with some species, notably, water plantain and jointed rush.
Pond skaters darted about and we were reliably informed that these insects could deliver a nasty nip.
Great crested newts are present in the pond, having been re-established.
A mini forest of mare’s tails could not hide pink campion or the many orchids with fine seed heads.
A sharp-eared member claimed to have heard a redstart, and again peregrine falcons thrilled us with their flying skills.
Two very fine owl boxes have been erected, but, as yet, no takers.
This was a fascinating and informative visit, which left club members in no doubt that, given the will and the necessary expertise, these hidden and redundant spaces can contribute significantly to the biodiversity of our beloved Peak District.
The club chairman, Arthur Williams, thanked Zanita and Nigel for their expert and friendly help throughout our visit.