Location and access
OS map ref: SK 741234, 739235 and 741236 (Sheet 129)
The reserves of Brown’s Hill Quarry, Holwell Mineral Line and North Quarry lie about 5 km north of Melton Mowbray. From the town centre, take the Scalford Road. After 3 km, turn left and take the first right. Cross a cattle grid and enter a section of unfenced road. After 0.5 km, the road forks and the reserve entrance is on the left near the fork. Park on the open area opposite the entrance to Brown’s Hill Quarry.
For Holwell Mineral Line walk down the road from the parking area towards Holwell village. The entrance to the reserve is to the right of the old railway bridge. Walk down the track from the entrance on to the old railway cutting and the reserve runs in both directions as indicated on the map.
For North Quarry, walk across the gated cattle grid on the minor road to the north of the parking area (please leave the gate as you find it), and the reserve entrance is immediately on the right.
A lovely circular walk links the nature reserves of Brown’s Hill Quarry and Holwell Mineral Line and is named the Fred Lawrie Walk in memory of a key member of the local volunteer group.
A limestone grassland links Brown’s Hill Quarry to Holwell Mineral Line. For direct access to the grassland enter Brown's Hill Quarry and turn right at th bottom of the slope. A small handgate into the field is on the right after 50 yards.
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 not allowed on these nature reserves due to the sensitive wildlife.
Please note that no collecting of fossil or other material is allowed without a special permit.
The reserves are owned by the Trust and cover 16.4 ha.
Brown’s Hill Quarry and North Quarry are Regionally Important Geological Sites.
History, habitats & management
The area south east of Holwell village was originally mined for building stone. There is evidence to suggest that Brown’s Hill Quarry was in existence by 1815. Ironstone was first quarried from the area by the Stanton Ironworks company from 1879 until 1881. Mining resumed in 1918 and continued until 1933 when the company began to work the mine with galleries based on the pillar-and-stall method. Open cast working was reinstated at the quarry between 1953 and 1957 when exploitation ceased.
Habitats include bare rock faces, slopes and spoil heaps colonised by herb-rich grassland.
There is also an area of mixed woodland, planted in the 1930s. Most of the management work on the reserve is aimed at maintaining the species rich open grassland by preventing scrub encroachment. Dominant grasses, such as torgrass, are also controlled to prevent them from forcing out the delicate herbs.
Holwell Mineral Line was built by the Midland Railway Company and was opened in 1876. It runs from the main line near Asfordby to a terminus at Holwell Wharf and was used to transport ironstone to the Holwell Works. The line was closed in the 1960s, when mining finally ceased in the area. Habitats include rough grassland, scrub, young woodland, marsh, streams and ditches. Management work includes preventing scrub from shading out the species rich grassland.
North Quarry was worked for ironstone by the Stanton Ironworks Company from 1943-1960. The road below the exposed rock edge was opened in 1951 to allow lorries to carry ironstone from the quarry to the railway. Once working ceased, most of the quarry was filled in and returned to agriculture. The only remaining exposed face now forms the reserve. Wildlife habitats include bare rock face, grassland and quarry spoil. Management of the site is aimed at keeping the main rock exposure open and preventing scrub encroachment on the grassland.
The limestone grassland was acquired in 2008.
Features of interest
The geological interest at Brown’s Hill Quarry consists of an excellent exposure of Middle Lias Marlstone and Upper Lias Paper Shales. Quarrying has left shallow, nutrient poor, lime-rich soils providing ideal conditions for many species of wildflower including both bee orchids and common spotted-orchids. Perforate St. Johns-wort, meadow vetchling, viper’s-bugloss, and the diminutive hare’s-foot clover all add to the rich diversity. The reserve supports important populations of dingy skipper and green hairstreak butterflies, as well as a large colony of common blue, which feed on common bird’s-foot trefoil.
The entrance to old mine tunnels can be seen on the reserve. The constant temperatures and fissured rocks of the tunnels provide ideal conditions for bats. Natterer’s, Daubenton’s, brown long-eared and pipistrelle bats have all been recorded.
The woodland, which was planted in the late 1930’s, is dominated by spruce, larch and ash with an under storey of hawthorn, holly and rowan. It is not old enough to have a large plant diversity but it does support primrose, wood avens and herb Robert.
Holwell Mineral Line has an interesting flora ranging from that characteristic of dry neutral grassland to species of scrub and marsh. The scrub is dominated by sallow with occasional plants of guelder-rose, wild privet and buckthorn.
The rich herb layer includes ragged-robin, marsh thistle, common spotted-orchid, bee orchid and common toadflax. Large areas of snowdrops and violets bloom in spring. In all 142 plant species have been recorded from the reserve. The scrub attracts a variety of nesting birds which have included willow warbler, tree creeper, blackcap, chiff-chaff, lesser whitethroat and spotted flycatcher. Insects recorded from the reserve include brimstone, comma and common blue butterflies. 95 different species of moth have been recorded as well as several species of dragonfly, including the large red and common blue damsels and the brown hawker and ruddy darter.
The major interest of the North Quarry reserve lies in an outstanding exposure of Upper Lias clays, shales and limestone and Middle Lias (Jurassic) Marlstone similar to that at Brown’s Hill Quarry. The grassland which has developed on the quarry banks support cowslips and common spotted-orchid in spring, betony, common bird’s-foot-trefoil and perforate St John’s-wort in summer. The wildflowers attract many butterflies including painted lady, dingy skipper, meadow brown and small skipper.
The wildflower-rich limestone grassland has a variety of plant species including harebell and fragrant wild thyme. The profusion of wildflowers attract an abundance of butterflies including the common blue and dingy skipper.
A new area of native broadleaved woodland was planted in 2008 to join existing areas of woodland at Brown’s Hill Quarry and Holwell Mineral Line to create a larger area of continuous woodland cover.
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 Holwell Reserves. For more information contact us.