Rock ’n’ roll with geology
The rocks beneath our feet have a fascinating story to tell; a story that has lasted almost 3,000 million years and shaped our islands and their rich wildlife as we know it. In that time, the land beneath us has travelled halfway around the world; through periods of busy volcanic activity; colonised by swamps and rainforests; glaciers advancing and retreating; land buried under a kilometer of ice. Abandoned quarries also carry the scars of our industrial past, but steadily reclaimed by nature, these places are a breathtaking mix of history, industry, geology and wildlife, and are among the wildest and most unusual places in lowland UK.
Exposure of rocks million years old can reveal fossilised species like brachipods, gastropods and ammonites as well as fossilised shark teeth, shells and wood
Find rocky places near you
Browne’s Folly in Avon combines natural beauty with the remains of Bath stone quarries. The exposed rock, quarries and mines echo 300 years of flourishing mining activity, including the stone provided for the facade of Buckingham Palace. The disused quarries provide excellent conditions for roosting bats including the greater horseshoe. Many species of wildflower including the pyramidal orchid, harebell and wild thyme also benefit from the exposed rock, giving home to many invertebrates including the green hairstreak butterfly. Rare breeds of sheep help preserve the reserves geological features here by grazing on encroaching vegetation and shrub.
Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Clint’s Quarry - This site was quarried for limestone until the 1930s. From the reserve’s entrance you can see spoil heaps with track ways in between, radiating out to a terrace. Above, the quarries face rises up to 20 metres in some places. A large lime-kiln also nestles in the woodland near the southern boundary of the reserve.
Damp conditions between the spoil heaps are ideal places to find the northern marsh and common spotted-orchid. Explore the drier slopes and you will stumble across wild strawberry, ox-eye daisy, centaury, mouse-eared hawkweed, bird's-foot trefoil and knapweed. Meanwhile, butterflies thrive in the shelter of the quarry while the ponds are home to frogs, newts and sticklebacks.
Durham Wildlife Trust
Bishop Middleham Quarry - A large magnesian limestone quarry noted for the plant life it supports. Unusual species abound on the thin limestone soils such as blue moor grass, moonwort, autumn gentian and fairy flax, and there are a range of orchid including pyramidal, common spotted, fragrant, bee and most significantly large numbers of rare dark red helleborine.
In 2002, the reserve became the UK’s second recorded breeding site for bee eaters, where a pair nested in the quarry faces and fledged their young. The reserve also attracts large numbers of butterflies including one of the county’s largest colonies of the rare Durham brown argus.
Blackhall Rocks - Part of the Durham Coast SSSI and National Nature Reserve this coastal site combines superb geological exposures with internationally important grassland communities to produce a site with a unique character both in terms of biodiversity and landscape.
The 60-foot high cliff consists of 20 feet of glacial boulder clays, separated by a bed of gravel. Below this, the exposed cliffs and the rocks deliver a range of fossils. The insect fauna here is fantastic with 15 species of butterfly recorded, including the northern brown argus butterfly and the cistus forester - a rare green moth that breeds on the cliff tops.
Trimdon Grange Quarry is a Geological SSSI and a Geological Conservation Review site with geological features of national importance. This abandoned quarry provides magnesian limestone flora, complimented by mature hawthorn scrub and developing ash woodland. The steep-sided former quarry faces provide good exposure on all sides of the Permian Ford Foundation (formerly the Middle Magnesian Limestone).
The flat quarry floor has been colonised by magnesian limestone grassland flora and dingy skipper butterflies thrive on the short turf, with its blue-moor grass, quaking grass, carline thistle, autumn gentian and blue fleabane. Look out for the scarce but attractive bee orchid.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside
Cross Hill Quarry - Abandoned as a working quarry in the early 1900s, Cross Hill is a mosaic of woodland and small meadows on a man-made site, which has become an exceptional refuge for wildlife. The main rock face in the former quarry makes a great visit, showcasing the exposed limestone laid down in bedding planes, which have been tilted over the period since they were formed millions of years ago.
The quarry floor, made up of mounds of spoil, is rich in lime, providing the optimal growing conditions for many limestone grassland flowers including the common spotted and northern marsh orchid. These flower-rich grasslands attract frequent butterfly residents such as the small skipper, orange tip and meadow brown. With plenty of woodland edge, the reserve is also a good site for bats where hunting pipistrelles, noctules and Daubenton’s have been seen skimming over the surface of the river and throughout the woodland.
Salthill Quarry - Designated as a SSSI by virtue of its geological formations, this reserve also holds great botanical interest as it displays a mixture of vegetation from the earliest stages of soil development on limestone – a rarity in Lancashire. Fossilised rocks are abundant in several areas of the reserve. The fossilised tubes that look like stacks of polo mints are parts of Crinoids (sea lilies) and are estimated to be around 335 million years old. Those lying loose on the ground may be collected but hammering rock faces or removing large pieces of rock is strictly forbidden without written permission from the Trust.
Stay here until twilight in the summer and you can hear swifts and you might even be lucky to catch a glimpse of hunting pipistrelle bats that roosts in the area. The kestrel also makes use of the reserve for feeding on wood mice and voles.
Warton Crag is home to an outstanding collection of butterflies and plants that are nationally uncommon alongside fantastic displays of lichens. The limestone ledges on the south face are home to plants well-adapted to the free-draining, shallow soils. In May and June, the flowering of horseshoe vetch, kidney vetch and bird's-foot- trefoil produce a spectacular display of yellow. Meanwhile rock rose and purple mats of thyme provide a fine sight in summer.
Some of the level terraces on the Crag have outcrops of limestone exposed as pavement – a rare habitat in which slabs of rock are separated by deep cracks called grikes. Notable species dwelling within them include rigid buckler-fern and angular solomon's-seal. Look out for warblers in summer, while butterflies including the pearl-bordered fritillary and nationally-threatened high brown fritillary can be seen here.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust
East Crindledykes Quarry - This disused limestone quarry has developed a rich limestone flora as well as having interesting geological exposures. The quarry faces are between three and six metres high and show exposures of the Great Limestone - a band of rock that sweeps around south Northumberland. The flora includes autumn gentian, salad burnet, thyme, cowslip, hoary plantain, heath grass and crested hair grass.
This reserve is only open to Northumberland Wildlife Trust members (cards must be present).
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Wharram Quarry - Actively quarried for chalk between 1919 and the 1940s, the reserve was offered to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in the 1960s by owner Lord Middleton after he noticed bee orchids growing on the quarry floor. The quarry is one of the few Wolds sites to find thistle broomrape, which parasitizes woolly thistle. The endangered red hemp-nettle has been introduced from nearby populations along with small-flowered buttercup on the quarry face.
Butterflies abound on sunny days, including plentiful marbled white, small heath, meadow brown, ringlet and common blue. Dingy skippers can sometimes be seen, particularly in the north east corner.
The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country
Moorcroft Wood Local Nature Reserve is an unusual and attractive site in Moxley, Walsall. The area has been shaped by the presence of coal seams, which have been mined since Roman times, and iron ore. The "clinker rocks" around the edge of Moorcroft Pool are the only remaining evidence of the iron works of the 18th and 19th Century. The woodland was planted by the Midlands Reafforesting Association in the early 20th Century as part of their pioneering urban forestry work.
Today it is a pleasant wooded reserve with a large lake at its heart. Despite being far from the countryside , many traditionally rural birds have been seen on the reserve such as buzzard, sparrowhawk and kestrel. It is owned by Walsall Council, and managed in conjunction with the Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Moorcroft Wood. The Wildlife Trust has an environment centre next to the Wood which provides activities for local community groups.
Portway Hill, which is part of the Rowley Hills, is a grassland backed by spectacular rock exposures of Rowley Rag - volcanic rock that welled up to form a saucer-shaped layer some 300 million years ago. The huge quarries, producing road stone, kerbstones, cobblestones and building blocks, have provided much of the built environment across Birmingham and the Black Country.
Today the quarry’s dry, warm sparsely vegetated slopes are home to a wide range of invertebrate species; butterflies, moths, beetles and ground nesting masonry bees. The site is also excellent for birds of prey including the peregrine and kestrel.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust
Miller’s Dale was a bustling limestone quarry until 1930. Today, the quarry floor is a special place for a different reason. Visit during a hot day in July when the scent of fragrant orchids fill the air. Many other wildflowers also flourish on the poor soil where they do not have to compete with other plants and grasses.
With such a variety of plants around the reserve, it is a haven for insects such as the common blue butterfly and day-flying six-spot burnet moth. The quarry face contains crevices which provide safe nesting sites for jackdaws and sometimes to a pair of kestrels.
Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust
Brown's Hill Quarry The area south east of Holwell village was originally mined for building stone. Today, the reserve is a mixture of habitats ranging from bare rock faces, slopes and spoil heaps to colonised herb-rich grassland. The geological interest at Brown’s Hill Quarry consists of an excellent exposure of Middle Lias Marlstone and Upper Lias Paper Shales.
The site’s quarrying history has left shallow, nutrient poor, lime-rich soils: the ideal conditions for many wildflower species including the bee and common spotted-orchid. Perforate St. Johns-wort, meadow vetchling, viper’s-bugloss and the diminutive hare’s-foot clover all add to the rich diversity here. The reserve also supports important populations of dingy skipper and green hairstreak butterflies, as well as a large colony of common blue which gather together and feed on common bird’s-foot trefoil.
Tilton Railway Cutting - This 3.1ha reserve is a Geological Site of Special Scientific Interest. Dug in the 1870s for the railway from Melton Mowbray to Market Harborough, trains once passed through the cutting from 1879 until 1965 when the line was closed and the rails were lifted. Following closure, tall, dense scrub very quickly invaded the cutting, which was purchased by the Trust in 1983.
The remaining exposed rocks are marine sandstones, ironstones and clays of Liassic (lower Jurassic) age and are about 200 million years old. Fossils such as brachipods, gastropods and ammonites are plentiful, and may be studied in outcrop or collected from fallen blocks or spoil. Habitats include scrub, tall herbs, rough grassland with ant hills, marsh and vertical rock outcrops whjich are home to many species of small birds and a variety of grasses, sedges and rushes.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust
Dolgoch Quarry - One of a string of abandoned limestone quarries in the area, Dolgoch on a sunny summer's day is a delight. A profusion of wild flowers grow on the limestone quarry floor, including yellow-wort, with its waxy, grey leaves, the upper ones cupped around the stem and star-like yellow flowers that shut in the afternoon. On the rock faces, look out for viper's bugloss, with its bristly spikes of cobalt blue flowers.
The rocks are interesting too; within the limestone strata you may see fossils of sea creatures such as corals and shellfish that lived some 330 million years ago, when this landmass that was to become England lay in a shallow sub-tropical sea. Look out for the oyster-like fossil shells of Gigantoproductus giganteus, 150mm across, and, as its name suggests, the giant of its day.
The Ercall - More than 500 million years of history can be enjoyed here. Human activity is dramatically evident in the huge chunk blasted out of the hillside to provide road stone for the nearby A5. This was certainly destructive, but it had the unexpectedly wonderful effect of laying bare the earth's history; revealing rocks from the earliest beginnings of life on this planet. Ripples in the surface where waves lapped on an ancient shoreline some 500 million years ago are still distinctly visible.
In spring, the woods are awash with bluebells and singing with birds that have just returned from Africa. Come summer, plentiful bird's-foot trefoil makes this a favoured stronghold of one of Telford's speciality butterflies, the dingy skipper.
Avon Wildlife Trust
Browne's Folly - A fascinating reserve that combines natural beauty with the remains of Bath stone quarries. The reserve’s huge amount of exposed rock, quarries and mines all echo with the 300 years of mining activity that once flourished here, including the stone provided for the facade of Buckingham Palace.
The disused quarries provide excellent conditions for roosting bats, including the greater horseshoe. Many species of wildflower, such as the pyramidal orchid, harebell and wild thyme also benefit from the exposed rock, in turn providing homes for many invertebrates including the green hairstreak butterfly. Rare breeds of sheep help preserve the reserves geological features by grazing on encroaching vegetation and shrub.
Goblin Combe - A deep valley carved out by glacial melt water with exposed rock features, cliffs and old mines, this reserve is a place where rare specialists flourish. Look out for limestone plants, including limestone fern and a population of the nationally scarce stinking hellebore which grows on the reserve’s scree slopes. Other flowers include yellow-wort and autumn ladies tresses.
The site also supports over 30 species of butterfly including the grizzled skipper, dingy skipper and green hairstreak. Soay sheep graze here to help keep open the wildflower grassland.
Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust
Ardley Quarry - This old quarry and nearby railway cutting have geological features of national importance as well as abundant wildlife. The layered, bare limestone rock faces give a fascinating insight into the site's Jurassic past (more than 160 million years ago). Meanwhile, medieval earthworks show Ardley Quarry's more recent historical interest (from just a few centuries ago).
This warm, sheltered site is good for butterflies, which are not deterred by the occasional passing trains. There are good colonies of grizzled and dingy skipper and green hairstreak butterflies, especially near the quarry floor. Marbled white butterflies can also be spotted in the taller grassy areas.
Cornwall Wildlife Trust
St Erth Pits and Tresayes - The Pits was Cornwall's first geological reserve. Wildlife has invaded the once bare ground of the worked pits, and semi-mature woodland now dominates. The sand and clay deposits exposed in this pit are aclled the St. Erth beds, and conatin a rich fossil fauna, including sea snails, sponges and corals.
Less than 100 years ago Tresayes quarry provided valuable employment - you can still see the steps where the men stood to work the rock face! Here, molten magma rose from deep below the surface of the earth to form a special granite, with very large crystals, called a pegmatite. The large white feldspars were the first to crystallise from the magma. The spaces between filled with grey quartz, shiny flakes of mica, long black glistening crystals of tourmaline and dull black cordierite. Now a nature reserve with willow cloaked in lichens, ferns and mosses. On the dryer part you will find heathers and many species of wild flower. Birds also find shelter and food in the willows including the long-tailed tit.
Devon Wildlife Trust
Meeth Quarry - After nearly 100 years of operation (former clay quarries and mines), the legacy of this industry has created a very diverse landscape, including two huge lakes containing large exposed soil heaps. Some fascinating plant assemblages live here, alongside flourishing butterfly and dragonfly populations. Meanwhile, the sparse open areas provide the ideal home for brown hares. Elsewhere there are ponds, woodlands, bogs and grasslands.
Dorset Wildlife Trust
King Barrow Quarries - The site of former stone quarries abandoned some 100 years ago, this reserve offers excellent views of the Dorset mainland, Chesil Beach & the Fleet lagoon. The site has been left to regenerate naturally with the control of invasive scrub forming the main management.
Interesting plant species here include horseshoe vetch, kidney vetch and autumn gentian. Look out for Adonis and chalkhill blue butterflies, whitethroats, linnets, meadow pipits and little owls.
Tout Quarries - This abandoned stone quarry has been turned into a wildlife haven, managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust with remnants of the old industry also forming a sculpture park, managed by the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust. Carvings and works made from the Portland Stone include ‘Still Falling’ by Antony Gormley.
The Portland Living Landscapes project aims to restore up to 200 hectares of limestone grassland in Tout and Kingbarrow Quarries on Portland, restoring habitat for hundreds of rare and threatened wildlife including the silver-studded blue butterfly, which is found nowhere else in the world. Interesting plant species include horseshoe vetch, kidney vetch and autumn gentian. Lichens and bryophytes are also found across the site.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Cutsdean Quarry - One of the few small sites in the area producing Chipping Norton limestone. The bare rubble has created interesting limestone grassland and scrub with areas of scree. During the spring and summer months, the open rock faces make it a great location to spot sunbathing reptiles including adders, grass snakes and common lizards.
Plentiful butterflies can be found here, including the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly along with good populations of ringlets, marbled whites and large skippers. Linnets, whitethroats, tree pipits and greenfinches also make home in the scrub along the eastern edge of the reserve.
Spion Kop Quarry - A large deep quarry with superb views across Cannop Valley and beyond. A good range of plants have colonised the rock face and boulder-strewn floor here. Many ferns and plants grow in the rock crevices including maidenhair spleenwort, lady-fern, scaly male-fern and hard fern. The boulders support a variety of mosses.
Redstart, great tits and blue tits are amongst the birds which nest in the quarry. Of the many woodland birds which visit, turtle dove and wood warbler are regularly heard.
Stenders Quarry - A great reserve for fossil and wildlife lovers. A SSSI, Stenders Quarry is important for both its geological features and wildlife. The steep dip of the quarry shows a wide range of rock types close together. Excellent exposures of fossiliferous Lower Carbonifierous limstone shales are the best in the Forest of Dean which yield fossils of sea lilies, water fleas and shellfish.
Diverse plant species have colonised the shallow limestone soils, including a fine show of the common spotted orchid and autumn gentian in late summer. The loose rocks and short grassland are ideal for snails and host many species uncommon in the Forest of Dean. The banks and rocks bear a rich variety of mosses and liverwort. The great spotted woodpecker, gold-crest and numerous scrub-loving birds visit the reserve, resting amongst wild cherry, pendunculate oak, ash and wych elm.
Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
Dry Sandford Pit - Geological wonders, nationally scarce fen and rich insect life make Dry Sandford Pit a nature reserve of national importance. Its extraordinary mosaic of fossil-rich cliffs, limey fenland, ponds, streams, chalk grassland, scrub and woodlands are all bursting with plants and animals, including rare species.
The exposed layers of Dry Sandford Pit's low sand and limestone cliffs illustrate the various stages as the sea that once covered Oxfordshire receded. The cliffs contain many corals and visible fossils of marine creatures dating back to the Jurassic era.
Somerset Wildlife Trust
Ubley Warren - With its rakes cut into the limestone and deep mine shafts, Ubley Warren bears the scars of an industrial past. Lead mining dates back to the Roman times and continued until the late 19th century. Nationally scarce plants recorded include the lead-tolerant dwarf mouse-ear and spring sandwort.
Other uncommon species include a rare variety of bee orchid with five large pink sepals instead of the normal three; frog orchid and one of the four rare and difficult to identify cheddar hawkweeds. Bat species also use the mineshafts, while a hole in the ground that opened up in autumn 1994, was quickly utilised by lesser horseshoe bats. Many mammals dwell here including badgers, foxes, rabbits and roe deer.
Surrey Wildlife Trust
Brockham Limeworks - Lying within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this former chalk quarry has been designated as a SSSI because of its unique wildlife habitats. Decades of industrial chalk quarrying have shaped the land here - a network of narrow gauge rail tracks carried the chalk to two batteries of lime kilns. Here, the chalk was burned to produce quick-lime which would then be used to make mortar and fertilisers. The site reached its peak at the end of the Victorian times and digging continued until 1936. Since, the deep scar in the landscape has gradually been reclaimed by nature.
The remains of the kiln provide a winter roost for eight species of bat, while the old railway cuttings, spoil heaps and chalk faces have been colonised by many interesting plants including rock-rose, vipers bugloss and many orchid species.
Beds, Cambs, Northants Wildlife Trust
Totternhoe - Impressive flower-rich chalk grasslands now dominate the large spoil heaps, which were left as a result of the reserve’s medieval quarrying activity. Species decorating these heaps include many types of orchids including the common spotted, man, fragrant, pyramidal and frog.
Visit the reserve in spring and the grasslands are already showing signs of colour with violets and cowslips – a crucial food plant for the caterpillars of the scarce Duke of Burgundy. In summer, the cat-like purr of the turtle dove echoes lightly from the scrub and marbled white butterflies flit from flower to flower. Shark’s teeth are occasionally found in the exposed chalk also.
Essex Wildlife Trust
The Naze - This coastal site is fabulous for geology. Fossilised sharks teeth, shells and wood are found daily on the beach. Fossil discoveries from here shaped the global understanding of bird evolution and the cliffs are designated as a SSSI accordingly. The soft crumbling cliffs are actively eroding through a combination of rotational slumping and wave action.
Essex Wildlife Trust, via The Naze Heritage Project, helped deliver Crag Walk in 2011: an educational and access platform built at the base of the Naze Cliffs, which protects the future of the iconic Naze Tower. The Naze boasts a small number of locally and nationally rare plants, is an important place of land fall for migrant birds, and home to many wonderful species, such as barn owl, adder and nesting sand martin.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust
Ashwell Quarry and Quarry Springs - In summer, this former quarry site is packed full of plants including the pyramidal orchid, field and small scabious and glaucous sedge. Vivid purple petals of the clustered bellflower also deliver colour. Deep shaded hollows add their own interest and many of the older thorn and elder bushes support rare mosses. The adjacent Quarry Springs produce a stream of water at a consistent temperature of about ten degrees centigrade – the prime conditions supporting the very rare flatworm here.
Access to the reserve is by permit only. Please contact Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust for information on gaining permit access.
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust
Llanymynech Rocks - Straddling the border between England and Wales, the reserve lies at the southern end of the carboniferous limestone outcrop that stretches from Anglesey and the Great Orme at Llandudno. From the early 19th century until the end of the First World War, the site was a busy limestone quarry.
The greatest botanical treasures here are found in the short grassland and old spoil heaps directly beneath the cliff. Look out for bee and pyramidal orchids, bright yellow rock rose and a whole herb garden of aromatic herbs - thyme, marjoram and wild basil. New glades are now being opened up and small-scale felling is being carried out to open up a corridor of light - aimed to attract the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly.
North Wales Wildlife Trust
Cors Goch - An extensive area of trenches and baulks from peat digging occurs just east of Llyn Cadarn. This may have been for use in the millstone quarry forges. The neighbouring area of Anglesey was well known as a source of high quality millstones and several are visible around the reserve. The stones were used on the island but also taken to Red Wharf Bay where they may have been shipped to Ireland and further afield; the peak of activity had passed by 1841.
Today, the reserve is important to wildlife for its lime-rich water, limestone and acid grassland. The reserve is home to many rare and threatened plants and animals’ species including 10 species of orchid, 15 species of dragonfly and 19 species of butterfly recorded.
Marford Quarry - This old sand and gravel quarry was the source of the aggregate for the construction of the Mersey Tunnel. It is now a SSSI and most noted for its invertebrates and wild flowers. Over 110 species of bees, wasps and ants have been recorded here including rare solitary and spider hunting wasp species.
Meanwhile, over 300 species of plants make residence on the reserve such as the rare wild liquorice, green flowered helleborine, bee orchid, pyramidal orchid and common twayblade. The site also has a healthy population of slow worms.
Mariandyrys - Limestone grassland common with views of Snowdonia and Puffin Island. An old lime kiln sits just south west off the reserve, while several quarries remain on site, dating from the 19th century. It is believed that before ceasing in 1850, the largest quarry supplied some of the stone for Britannia Bridge across the Menai Straits.
Visit for blue carpets of spring squills, beautiful shows of the common spotted orchid, purple saw-wort and the yellow common rockrose. The abundant wildflowers provide opportunities for butterflies and their caterpillars to feed.
Nantporth - The principal impact of man on this site has been by quarrying for limestone, both for lime production and as good-quality building stone. The main quarry dates from 1829, when the Nantporth lime works was set up to supply the Vaynol Estate. The second major quarry is more recent, represented on the Ordnance Survey map of 1899 and marked as “disused” by 1911.
This historic mining activity is what gives Nantporth its unique atmosphere. The reserve’s limestone woodland (a rare habitat outside Scotland), population of whitebeam trees and a beautiful display of wildflowers make Nantporth a fantastic place to visit.
Scottish Wildlife Trust
Petershill - An old limestone quarry that once operated in the 18th century. Today, the reserve is noted for its geological exposure. Fossils from a prehistoric marine reef have been found here, including trilobites, crinoids and brachiopods. The combination of high humidity and limestone is locally rare and hosts lime-loving mosses and liverworts of regional importance. Also look for common twayblade, greater butterfly orchid and water horsetail.
Alderney Wildlife Trust
Alderney consists of an archipelago of small islands, with one main landmass (Alderney itself) and numerous islets and reefs. In turn, this chain of islands encloses 60km² of sea which, uniquely within the British Isles, belongs outright to the island and its resident community. With around 1,000 hectares of terrestrial and 16,000 hectares of marine environment, Alderney contains a bit of everything: from woodland to wetland; scrubland, grassland and heathland; sandy beaches and dunes to rocky shores; shingle banks to rocky seabed. This astonishing range of habitats is linked to a temperate climate and a marine environment with extreme tidal conditions, giving Alderney an abundant and diverse wildlife out of all proportion to the island's small size.
Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust
Of the 24 SSSI's managed by the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust 4 are designated for their geological interest and are not actively managed; these are Porth Seal (St Martin's), Porthloo (St Mary's), St Martin's sedimentary shore & Watermill Cove (St Mary's).
What to look out for
You’ll find all sorts of things in our disused wild quarries and rocky places - creative sculpture trails, fossils, colonies of bats that roost in shadowy caves, reptiles, wildflowers, insects and birds. Amid the rocks you can look for traces of bygone industry – the remains of a quarrymen’s hut, ‘dressed’ stone and old tramways once used for transporting hundreds of tonnes of rocks. Winter is a good time – you’ll see more geology with less vegetation
If you can't get to these places
Have fun exploring the wild places around you. You can share your photos with us by tweeting @wildlifetrusts or using the hashtag #wildgeology, or share them with our Wildlife Trusts group on Flickr. For a good introduction to the rocks beneath our feet, read “The Lie of the Land: an under-the-field guide to Great Britain” by Ian Vince.
More wildlife experiences
From seeing colourful wildflowers to spotting magnificent birds of prey, we can help you get closer to wildlife across the UK.