Rewilding success at BMC-owned Horseshoe Quarry

Posted by Claire Maxted on 23/05/2024

Horseshoe Quarry, also known as Furness Quarry, is a large, disused limestone quarry in Stoney Middleton, Peak District with a long history of climbing and owned by the BMC since 2005. Almost three decades on, rewilding at the site has already been fantastically successful, with hundreds of newts and toad tadpoles spotted in the pond this spring.

A short history of Horseshoe Quarry

Although climbers snuck in anyway, there was originally no CROW access to Horseshoe Quarry. So, in 2005 the BMC purchased an 8.5ha area of the site to secure access to walkers, climbers and cavers in perpetuity. Alongside this, a local management group was created to care for the area and promote local botanical and ecological interests, because the land lies within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Photo: Horseshoe Quarry back in the 1970's, Dave Turnbull

Over the years there has been a great deal of rewilding work at Horseshoe Quarry including footpath improvement, the creation of a wildlife pond, ecological surveys, woodland management and control of invasive species. So much so that this former quarry has become a highly reputable recreational and environmental asset. 

In 2007 the Vision Project funded the creation of a wildlife pond to the south of the quarry floor, which is now teaming with wildlife, as Chris Monk, secretary of the Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG) discovered this spring. 

Photo: Chris Monk (left) with pond builder Dan Spencer

Rewilding: latest update

Chris Monk, secretary of the Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group shares the good news.

What were the amphibian and reptile counts like before this restoration work?
Initially there was no pond in the quarry but a small area of shallow water that collected on the quarry floor and was used by amphibians. However these pools dried up in summer most years so the amphibian tadpoles would die. I was asked By the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) staff in May 2006 to survey the quarry and other ponds in the area for their Vision Project. This revealed just over 30 smooth newts, some frogspawn and toad spawn strings in the shallow pools.

Photo: The ponds at Horseshoe Quarry are now teaming with toad tadpoles, Chris Monk

How has the site improved for amphibians and reptiles?
The PDNPA asked Henry Folkard [award-winning BMC Peak District volunteer and tireless access campaigner] whether they could include the quarry in their new Proliferating Ponds in the Peak funding bid to have a completely new pond constructed. The funding bid was successful and work to build the pond started in spring 2007. It was built close to the pools on the quarry floor so that the amphibians could easily find it and a survey in 2008 found smooth newts in the new pond with none in the shallow pools.

Photo: The rewilded pond at Horseshoe Quarry, Chris Monk

Over the years the amphibian population based around the pond has grown as there is now no risk of summer desiccation of the tadpoles. Also the pond has been colonised by great crested newts, so the pond is now used by all four amphibian species that are found across the White Peak.

The May 2024 survey of the pond by the Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group counted 241 smooth newts, 14 great crested newts and thousands of toad tadpoles. The disused quarry is obviously an ideal location for amphibians with a good pond for breeding and excellent terrestrial habitat with its loose rock piles providing a mass of resting and hibernating locations for them.

Photo: Smooth Newt UK CREDIT Erni/Shutterstock

What will you do with the survey information you collected?
The survey results are passed to the BMC and PDNPA, so that such a good amphibian population, especially with the presence of the legally protected great crested newt, is on record and is taken into account when considering management of the site.

How can BMC members and climbers using Horseshoe Quarry help maintain this improvement in wildlife?
By taking care when at the site to not disturb the boulders and rock piles in the old quarry as that could result in hiding amphibians being crushed or buried. Also by not introducing any plants or animals into the pond. Thank you. 

Anything else to mention?
Little is known about reptiles in the area - a single grass snake was seen in the quarry in 2009 by Henry Folkard, but they range quite widely so it was probably just assessing the location. Slow-worms and common lizards could be present in or near the quarry but they are often difficult to spot. If anyone sees a reptile then please report it to the BMC and the PDNPA ecologists.  

The initial pond work was funded by Derbyshire Aggregates Levy Grant Scheme (DALGS), which also funded the woodland walkway and link to the PROW down the Dale to the east. The recent pond renovation was funded via FiPL (Farming in Protected Landscapes).


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26/05/2024
This article and others of it's kind, which show the hard work done by the BMC in access and conservation should be splashed all over facebook, (On BMC pages and Area pages.) Efforts should be made to get in into local and national news outlets.
We should be shouting about all the good things the BMC does for outdoors people, climbers, walkers and every one who enjoys the amazing UK countryside.
Come on BMC, tell the World how good we are! Stop being introvert and coy!
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