All Round The Wrekin
Although The Wrekin forms part of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), this has not prevented extensive quarrying from taking place in the vicinity during recent times and nowhere is this more apparent than in the other hills of the range. The Ercall, Lawrence’s Hill and Maddock’s Hill have all been permanently scarred by industrial activity, which has, ironically, uncovered scientific and geological evidence that has made the area a site of international significance where the history of life on earth itself can be easily traced.
On the Beach
The Ercall Quarries are renowned for their exposures of Precambrian Uriconian Volcanics and Wrekin Quartzite, which was mined here from the middle of the 19th Century until 1986. The true significance of the site lies in the change in colour of the exposed rock in the quarry walls, from the pink tinge of granite to a pale grey. This ‘unconformity’ marks the transition from the Pre-Cambrian to the Cambrian era when life became more numerous and varied in the shallow seas that covered some of the Earth’s surface at the time . In fact, Wrekin Quartzite is a type of sandstone that was formed on a beach and traces of rippling can be still seen in the quarry. When the tide went out, around 540 million years ago, Shropshire lay south of the equator and was situated in the area where the Falkland Islands are located today! A wide variety of other rock types and structures are exposed in the area and Lawrence’s Hill Quarry, which stand adjacent to The Ercall, was once mined extensively for the mineral Dolerite. An igneous rock (meaning it was once molten) that never reached the Earth’s surface, it is often dark green in colour.
Through the Woods
The slopes of the Ercall Quarries are home to a wide variety of plant life, while a number of moth and butterfly species can be found close by, in the grassy areas of the nature reserve. Limekiln Wood contains over 150 different plant species and areas of semi-natural ancient woodland that were once part of a royal forest that pre-dated the Norman Conquest. Like The Ercall Hill, the wood has suffered the depredation of industrial activity over the course of many centuries and was used to provide the raw materials for local lime workings (a constituent ingredient in the iron making process) from the mid 13th Century onwards. The remains of some of these lime kilns can still be seen near Steeraway Farm, while abandoned mine workings in the wood have since been used as roosting sites by Daubentons, Pipistrelle and Long-eared Bats. On its eastern and southern sides, Limekiln Wood merges with Short Wood and Black Hayes which were formerly part of Wellington Hay, the deer enclosure within the Royal forest, which formerly ran northwards towards Watling Street. It may have been that Black Hayes was originally wood pasture and the majority of semi-natural ancient woodland surviving in the area today is located in the southern part of Short Wood, which itself was split into two parts during the 18th and 19th Centuries.