Today’s Treasures – Llanymynech Rocks
This unique haven for wildlife on the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire border of England and Wales is entrancing. The harsh limestone cliffs rise almost vertically to a height of over 200 feet creating a dramatic backdrop to the sheltered quarry floor which, in spring, is carpeted with orchids.
Common lizards hide in sheltered rock crevices, jackdaws, sparrowhawks, buzzards, and peregrine falcons soar over the cliff face; many different butterflies – including skippers and fritillaries – enjoy the nectar from over 300 species of plants that all find sanctuary in this sheltered abandoned quarry. Here can be found rare bee orchids and butterfly orchids along with a stunning variety of summer wild flowers including yellow wort, agrimony, red bartsia, wild marjoram and wood sage.
The cliffs at Llanymynech form the southern end of the carboniferous limestone outcrop that stretches from Anglesey and the Great Orme at Llandudno through Llangollen to Oswestry. This limestone was formed around 360 million years ago and the fossilized remains of corals, brachiopods, crinoids, and bivalves can be found in the spoil heap remnants of the old quarry.
Apart from being a SSSI, it is also a significant industrial heritage site. From the early 19th Century to the end of the first World War limestone was quarried here – on both the Welsh side and the English side – eventually linked by a railway tunnel. The Montgomery Canal was specifically built for the transportation of limestone from the hill and reached Llanymynech by 1786. In 1806 a tramway and incline were constructed to transport limestone to a new wharf on the canal. In 1863 the Llanfyllin branch line, part of Cambrian Railways, opened and had a major impact on the quarry,
The site is managed by both Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trusts, and Offa’s Dyke path runs through it. There are amazing views across the Shropshire Hills and the Welsh Hills – and you can see Rodney’s Pillar on Breidden Hill – and the historic 42.5 metre tower of the Hoffman’s lime kiln in Llanymynech village – one of only 3 remaining Hoffmann lime kilns in the country and the only one with the tower intact. Thanks to a conservation project managed by the Llanymynech Heritage Partnership the site has been restored and opened in 2008.
Published in the September edition of the Whitchurch Gossip