by Mark Roberts, North Wales Wildlife Trust
This month we take you on a mile-and-a-half (2.8km) walk around the beautiful and diverse Marford Quarry.
Marford Quarry is located 2.5 miles NE of Wrexham. Heading south into the village of Marford on the B5445, turn right onto Pant Lane in the village centre (immediately after the Red Lion pub). There is free parking at Maes y Pant car park, approximately 415m down Pant Lane (SJ 354 551; LL12 8HB). OS Explorer Map 256
With over 1,000 recorded species, Marford Quarry is a wildlife haven and one of the best places in Wales for invertebrates. As its name suggests, the site was quarried for many years (supplying aggregate for the construction of the Mersey Tunnel) but, now that nature has truly reclaimed it for herself, insects thrive in the mix of post-industrial habitats and several rare species make their homes here.
The reserve is especially important for a specialised group of invertebrates, aculeate Hymenoptera (bees, ants and wasps) with an astounding 171 different species recorded (2018). Ants, in particular, are an important source of food for green woodpeckers and as you wander along the network of paths that criss-cross the quarry floor, listen out for their distinctive, cackling call. In spring and summer, the vivid colours of orchids and other wildflowers accompany the reserve’s leafy greens; whilst the flashes of colour from the 35 butterfly species found here are sure to catch your eye.
You walk into an unexpected oasis of wilderness by following a tree-lined path to find rare plants like wild liquorice, special invertebrates, slow-worms and gorgeous butterflies such as the purple hairstreak.
The route is easy-going; even suitable for all-terrain pushchairs.
Turn left out of the car park onto Pant Lane and walk along the left-hand pavement until you see a finger post pointing left (shortly after crossing Quarry Brow). Follow this lovely leafy path, noticing the huge, smooth-barked beech trees among the sycamores.
When you come to the junction in paths (after about 300m), take the right-hand path, passing a bench on the left and carrying straight on. Ignore other paths leading off the track.
At the next fork, take the right-hand path, which climbs steeply uphill. Notice the change in vegetation to ash, hawthorn and birch as you gain height, whilst the atmosphere becomes drier and the soil sandier. If you wish to spot dragonflies and look for smooth newts, frogs and toads, dip down the left-hand path at the next junction to visit the pond – retrace your steps to return.
The path carries on looping around the top of the reserve, skirting a fenced area. The fence prevents
rabbits nibbling special plants such as bee orchid, pyramidal orchid and wild liquorice. In summer you smell wafts of evening primrose and hear the repetitive song of the chiffchaff.
Continue along this path past a hedge of Lawson cypress with glimpses of open countryside between the trees. Look out for alder with their distinctive cones; and mature hawthorns with their red berries in autumn and white blossom in May. In summer, you hear the loud chirping of grasshoppers. Growing around the path is wood sage, which smells pungent if you crush the leaves. Before the path drops down, enjoy gorgeous views over the lush trees of the quarry – in autumn, the colours are spectacular.
The path loops around a second fenced area: in summer, see if you can spot the bubblegum-pink flowers of common centaury in the open area to the right of the path. Pass the circular benches on the right and take the mesh path leading left.
Just before the next benches ahead on the right, turn left and left again – from here on in, you are starting to retrace your steps. Plenty of dead wood is left to rot on the reserve as habitat for invertebrates – see if you can spot the striking ruby-tailed wasp as you walk.
Very soon you come to another junction of paths. Take the left-hand route, which returns you down the long straight path, the way you came in. Turn right out of the footpath onto Pant Lane to return to the car park.
Although your guided walk finishes here, you are also free to explore the paths of Maes y Pant. The highlight is the viewing area: to reach this, turn right past the Maes y Pant welcome sign and carry on along the track until you reach a set of steep steps on the right. Climb the steps for panoramic views over the trees and distant hills – on a clear day you can even see Liverpool, 25 miles away. As you retrace your steps to the car park, look out for green and great-spotted woodpeckers.
Many thanks to Mark Roberts of the North Wales Wildlife Trust for providing us with this walk and the accompanying photos.
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