A walk at Holwell Reserves never fails to disappoint. These disused quarries, with a mixture of grassland, woodland, streams, wet woodland and exposed rock faces create a peaceful atmosphere throughout the year. A special place for bats, wildflowers, birds and mammals, Holwell Reserves is a real hidden gem in the heart of Leicestershire.

Location

Main Street, Holwell, Melton Mowbray
LE14 4SZ

OS Map Reference

SK 741234, 739235 and 741236 (Sheet 129)
A static map of Holwell Reserves

Know before you go

Size
16 hectares

Entry fee

Free

Parking information

Park on the open area opposite the entrance to Brown’s Hill Quarry

Grazing animals

Livestock may be present

Access

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 follow the road right. Cross a cattle grid and enter a section of unfenced road. After 0.5 km you reach a wide area with a fork in the road. The reserves are accessible to the left, the right, and via tracks slightly further on under the road bridge.

Please note that there are steps and steep parts of the reserve.

Dogs

No dogs permitted

When to visit

Opening times

Always open

Best time to visit

Summer

About the reserve

This trio of reserves together form a hidden gem in the Leicestershire countryside, just a few miles from Melton Mowbray and on the edge of the Vale of Belvoir. With a mosaic of habitats and steeped in the geology and history, you can easily spend a couple of hours, or a whole day, exploring the varied habitats and spotting the wildlife that lives there. There are steps and some slopes in some areas, so come with good footwear.

Originally a quarry, the reserves are built on the mines and the infrastructure that supported them. This means that there are dramatic bare rock faces, slopes and spoil heaps, which have now been colonised by herb-rich grassland. These hollows make ideal sheltered sun-traps, perfect for spotting butterflies in the spring and summer. Common blue, dingy skipper, green hairstreak, Essex skipper and more are all at home here; visit on a sunny summer’s day and you’ll be walking through clouds of meadow browns. You’ll also have a chance of admiring carpets of common spotted-orchids, and even spotting a bee orchid or two.

In the early spring, there are areas of the reserves that turn white – they’re thick with snowdrops. You’ll also be in with a chance of spotting some lovely woodland birds, which make the most of the feeders. Bird screens are set up at various points to give you the best views. Tits, finches, woodpeckers, sparrows and more all pay regular visits, and if you’re lucky you might even see a marsh tit. Willow warblers, blackcaps, lesser whitethroat and spotted flycatchers all nest here in late spring. Green woodpeckers make the most of the grasslands, diving into the ant hills, and you’ll be able to hear them yaffling around the whole area. Buzzards, kestrels and red kites have all been seen soaring overhead.

The entrance to old mine tunnels can be seen on the reserve – if you stand near them, you can feel the dank chill within (although for safety reasons, we don’t allow members of the public inside). 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.

Quarrying has left shallow, lime-rich soils providing ideal conditions for many species of wildflower including St. Johns-wort, meadow vetchling, viper’s-bugloss and hare’s-foot clover. The rich herb layer includes ragged-robin, marsh thistle and common toadflax. In all 142 plant species have been recorded from the reserve. 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.

All in all, the diversity of these reserves is truly outstanding, and worth a visit at any time of year.

Environmental designation

Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS)