Sunday, 23 April 2017

Filling the Vacuum

I have mixed feelings about quarries. We need the stones and minerals they provide, but they can be very destructive to nature. Smaller ones can sometimes give back more than they take, and gravel pits are probably the best example. On Gower there’s a history of limestone quarrying going back centuries. Most were very small affairs on the south coast, extracting limestone to be shipped across the Bristol Channel to Somerset and Devon. All of these have been reclaimed by nature a long time ago, but their legacy remains in the form of small kilns hidden in the landscape, much sought after by historians.

By comparison, the one at Barlands Quarry dates from the second half of the last century, and ceased working only a decade ago. A great chasm of a place, its working are hidden from view, and it now provides peace even though near a main road. Already nature is beginning to get a foothold. Bare ground is soon invaded by common plants; daisies, dandelions, coltsfoot, great masses of buddleia, mats of forget-me-nots and wild strawberries, all beginning to hide the years of disturbance. In the shelter of the wind, and as spring gets warmer by the day, peacocks and green-veined whites give hope for a better butterfly year. 

But it’s the echoing jackdaws that star here. Like a colony of seabirds they enter nest holes in the vertical cliff face, and are never quiet. They’re spoiled for choice, continually carrying nesting material into a myriad of cracks. Peregrines have reared young here in recent years, and I’ve seen them around this year, but there are none today. A pair of vocal ravens mix with the jackdaws; maybe they nested, but it’s too late in the season to check. Swallows from the nearby farm stay well above the ridge, where fully-grown trees perch precariously as though about to fall. Lower down sycamore saplings, 20 or 30 feet high cling to the face, but seem to have a firm foothold; nature’s desire to fill this vacuum carries on relentlessly.

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