Location and access
OS map ref: SK 485 107 (Sheet 129)
The reserve is located about 13 km north-west of Leicester. From the city, follow the A50 towards Coalville, but turn off the main road at the Field Head roundabout, take 2nd exit (Leicester Road) towards Markfield, go right through the village and where the road bears sharp right, continue straight on down Altar Stones Lane (a 'no through road'). The reserve is about 150 m further along on the right. The Trust recently purchased the Altar Stones site from Leicestershire County Council and has now amalgamated it with the adjacent Blacksmith's Field nature reserve, already owned by the Trust. The combined site is now known as Altar Stones.
Please park in the adjacent lay-by.
We encourage visitors to use environmentally friendly forms of transport wherever possible. Most of our reserves are easily accessible by bicycle with many close to the National Cycle Network. Please note that cycling is not permitted on the nature reserve itself.
Public transport - contact Traveline for further information www.traveline.org.uk or phone 0871 200 22 33.
Dogs are permitted on this reserve but only under strict control - able to bring to heel at all times. If there is livestock on the land please keep your dog on a short lead at all times.
The reserve, which covers 3.7 ha, is owned by the Trust and is a candidate to be a Regionally Important Geological Site and a Local Wildlife Site.
History, habitats & management
The Altar Stones is situated on a rocky hilltop with wide views over the surrounding countryside. It is said that during the Second World War the bombing of Coventry could be seen from here.
The four concrete and stone plinths on the mound are the remains of foundations of an old mill and the little building in the north west corner is the former miler's store.
The prevailing habitat is rough heath-grassland with rock outcrops, drystone walls and scrub.
Management objectives are to maintain the heath-grassland, control scrub and restore the very dilapidated walls.
We graze the site between April - October.
Features of interest
The large rock outcrops are composed of Precambrian volcanic ash, tuffs and slump breccias some 600-700 million years old. The rock material was ejected from a volcano and settled out in water.
These rocks break down very slowly to form poor acid soils on which grows a type of heath-grassland that was once common in the Charnwood Forest. There are a number of coarse grasses such as mat-grass and patches of bilberry amongst herbs such as heath bedstraw and tormentil. A number of lichen species occur on the rocks, including several that are now very uncommon in Leicestershire. We therefore request that you do not climb on the rocks.
Live near here? Want to help out?
Why not join one of our teams of volunteers. We have regular work parties covering reserves in this area including Altar Stones. For more information contact us.