Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Shapwick Grange Chalk Quarry, Nr Uplyme, Devon

The works & buildings on this site were abandoned when quarrying stopped in 2002, Shapwick Grange being designated an SSSI...Scientific Site of Special Interest. Also known as Uplyme Quarry, it's the only locality in Devon to contain the fauna of Upper Greensand age. This makes it a key site for palaeogeographical and stratigraphical studies of the Lower Cretaceous period. As well as being an SSSI it is also a Geological Review Site because of its Pleistocene stratigraphy.

Planning permission was originally granted in 1960, the quarry being continuously worked for chalk as a source of agricultural lime. Additional permission was granted in 1990 to work the sandstones that lie beneath the chalk within the existing quarry. The chalk was worked by a mechanical excavator and crushed to a fine powder. This was then stored in the shed prior to bagging and bulk sale. The sandstone part of the works was a separate undertaking to the agricultural lime operations, supplying a local market for infill.

Having visited here three times now; in 2007 on my own and twice in 2008 with others, I found it a fascinating place to explore, each time discovering more to look at. On my third visit some changes had been made and there was evidence of new activity, with additional conveyors and a caravan. Some digging had begun on the site of the smaller excavations, away from the main one. However, on a bus journey in Sep 2009 I saw various earth movers at the top of the main excavations and it appears that extensive quarrying may have been reintroduced.

The control room in the above two photos, complete with a funky, trundly machine. Not sure what it is, but it looks like a small, portable generator maybe?

The above switchgear came from the local firm Ottermill Switchgear in Ottery St Mary.

The crusher, shown in the photo below. Fed into the shute by the hopper, the crushed material then travels on conveyor belts to be loaded onto trucks below.

As is often the case, there's a tendency to be more careful when on your own, but when with others it's easy to become complaisant. That happened to me on my second visit, as I was accompanied by a couple of aquaintances who wanted to see the site...and that was when I had a really stupid accident. I ran up a mound of clay, forgetting that we'd had a lot of rain recently, and before I knew it I was almost up to my knees in quicksand and firmly stuck. After an aborted attempt by the others to pull me out, I was resorted to digging out first one foot and then the other with my hands. I went home plastered...literally! ;)

The main excavation, below, with a small 'lagoon'. The turquoise, aqua-green colour in quarry pit water is caused due to the high mica content; one of the unwanted by-products in the extraction process of clay areas.  Interestingly, there were newts, water boatmen, damsels and dragonflies in and on the water.

And finally, a funky cog on a conveyor belt. One of my favourite photos on one of my favourite explores to finish up with.

More photos from all three visits can be viewed in the Photo Gallery album, along with these.

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