Straddling the border between England and Wales, the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is known for its limestone gorge scenery and for its dense native woodlands. Quarries like this one near Chepstow have come ... and then gone again.
In the case of this Hanson-operated site, known as Livox (pronounced Liv-Ox (short i as in ink) Quarry, working left steep side faces and a level floor. While nature was more than ready to take over, successful restoration depended upon making best use of limited soils, subsoils and quarry waste, some of which was stored 20 years previously.
Amongst the stored material at the Crown Estate-owned site was what amounted to ecological gold-dust – original topsoil from the ancient woodland that that occupied the site before it was quarried. The soil stores showed plenty of evidence of natural regeneration and the Hanson team was confident that it that the flower and tree provenance locked into the soil would survive further handling to make wider use of it.
And they have been proved right. Amongst the emerging tree saplings, bluebells appeared in the first season, and through the course of a year you can now find wild flowers such as celandine, wood anemone, dog’s mercury and even the rare herb-paris.
Meanwhile, a commercial wild flower mix has been sown on the calcareous grassland which is emerging on the old quarry waste and scalpings. Here, at the right time, you will see knapweed, scabious, ox eye daisy, bird’s-foot-trefoil, lady’s bedstraw and wild carrot.
The site demonstrates very well that natural rejuvenation takes time but that, with a gentle helping hand, it can be very effective.