Somerset’s secrets of the quarry

PUBLISHED: 16:10 31 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:10 31 October 2016

Discover the secrets of Ubley Warren (c) Matthew Roberts

Discover the secrets of Ubley Warren (c) Matthew Roberts


Pick your way through a moonscape of rocks and crags and you’ll find some amazing wildlife at Ubley Warren Nature Reserve

Disused quarries are curious and fascinating places. A mix of history, industry, geology and wildlife, they are among the wildest and most unusual places in lowland UK.

Extracting rock, sand and minerals from the Earth’s surface has been key to the building industry for many thousands of years and our abandoned quarries carry many echoes of our historic past. One consequence of quarrying is the opportunity to peek into the Earth’s ancient history. Exposure of rocks millions of years old can reveal fossilised species like brachipods, gastropods and ammonites, as well as fossilised shark teeth, shells and wood. Left to regenerate naturally (sometimes with some conservation management) nature is steadily reclaiming these places back from their industrial past.

All about Ubley

Ubley Warren lies at the heart of the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Mendip Hills Living Landscape project. It is part of an amazing landscape that provides a labyrinth of connected habitats that wildlife can move and thrive in. It is also living testament to the history of the community, its people and local industries that have shaped the Somerset countryside we see today.

Ubley Warren is characterised by the uneven ground of old spoil heaps and worked out mineral veins or ‘rakes’, known locally as ‘gruffy.’ These rakes cut into the limestone and deep mine shafts are the scars of an industrial past. Lead mining here dates back to Roman times and continued until the late 19th century. Romans were mining the site in AD49, only six years after landing in Britain, and mining continued in the area, reaching a peak in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Underground lies a hidden world of extensive passages and caves with spectacular rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone, including the Upper Flood Swallet system. Although these treasures remain beyond the reach of all but bats and very experienced cavers, it is a fascinating world to imagine beneath your feet as you walk. You can view and spectacular photos of these underground wonders by visiting the website.

Did you know?

Ubley Warren is in the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is an element of the Cheddar Complex Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Have fun exploring these wild places, but please take care when exploring as the reserve has uncapped mine shafts and cliff faces – climbing is not permitted and you must not enter any mineshafts. You can share your photos with The Wildlife Trusts by tweeting @wildlifetrusts or using #wildgeology, or share them with our Wildlife Trusts group on Flickr.

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