Extraction of sand and gravel started at the site in early 2011, having previously been non- operational since the early 1980s, with the site finally closing in December 2016.
Simon Wiltshire, Biodiversity and Restoration Advisor at Aggregate Industries, comments: “Having started restoration works immediately after closure of the site, we were able to deliver our restoration scheme, which was developed in consultation with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the local community, in a short timeframe. We are proud of the habitat we have created, which includes an area of broadleaf woodland, a species rich meadow lined by hedgerows and large areas of heath connecting with the wider landscape.”
The biodiversity project initially involved moving and spreading large volumes of overburden and material to create the final land form, followed by the spreading of indigenous soils. The meadow was sown with a grass and wild flower seed mix in May 2017, with many species flowering that summer, followed by sheep grazing in the autumn.
Simon added: “It is always a top priority for us to protect the local wildlife, which is why we have been working with the RSPB for a long time. This has included monitoring populations of rare heathland birds, such as nightjars, and Dormice that were present prior to the quarry becoming operational again to ensure they were protected.
“We have also worked with a partnership of local conservation groups to design and build a large Horseshoe bat hibernacula, which is a winter hibernation chamber, to support the areas Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats, which are two of the UK’s rarest species.”
Additional restoration works on site included building approximately 2km of fencing to facilitate several pony grazing areas on the heathland, as well as planting 600m of hedgerow and 1,600 woodland trees.
In order to ensure the future maintenance of the site, timber from a block of mature conifers which were originally removed as part of the operational quarry development, have been used to build a new office and volunteer accomodation for the local RSPB team.
The 30 hectare site is in close proximity to the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area (SPA), as well as being adjacent to a RSPB nature reserve.