Ardley North Quarry was operated by Smith & Sons (Bletchington) Limited from 2004 until limestone aggregate extraction ceased in 2010.
In recognition of the site’s geological heritage, which includes two Geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the initial restoration objectives were altered to conserve and enhance these features, whilst proactively seeking to increase biodiversity. The Ardley Trackway’s SSSI is a layer of rock strata beneath the quarry floor, imprinted with dinosaur footprints. The Ardley Cutting SSSI is a limestone exposure formed by the railway, located adjacent to the site. By working closely with Natural England, both SSSIs have been preserved for future generations to appreciate.
Smiths and their landscape consultants, ESP Ltd, used Pond Conservation’s ‘Aggregates Pond Creation Toolkit’ to adapt their restoration scheme in 2009. This included creating a series of overflowing ponds, which not only attenuate surface water and reduce erosion, but also enhance biodiversity. The ponds vary in profile, from shallow gradated shorelines to rocky faces, from permanent water to seasonally dry islands and shores. These features create a diversity of aquatic and marginal habitats for a range of potential species, including invertebrates, crustaceans (such as the white-clawed crayfish), wildfowl and waders. Importantly, the ponds feed into a wider aquatic network through a specially created rock weir, cut into the limestone ridge of the geological SSSI with the permission of Natural England. This allows water to flow into the adjacent site’s pools known to support colonies of Great Crested Newts, developing new habitat linkages.
The brash side slopes of the quarry have been left to naturally regenerate and the upper parts of the quarry floor restored and seeded to unimproved pasture. Furthermore, a nearby badger’s sett has been monitored and preserved during the restoration to prevent disturbance to foraging grounds.