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Orchids by day, bats by night! Free guided nature walks at planned mega quarry site

LOCAL people opposed to the reopening and expansion of a mega quarry next door to the ancient Asham Wood in the Mendips are offering free guided nature walks this Saturday 4th June. 

Greater Horseshoe Bat. Photo by Ian Redding.

Led by knowledgeable local guides, the walks will showcase the incredible biodiversity of the wood and Westdown Quarry near Nunney. The wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation, is home to protected animals such as bats, otters, dormice and protected birds.

Organisers say, “An afternoon walk at 3pm will offer visitors the chance to see rare orchids in Asham Void, while a second walk after tea will trace the bat routes using detectors. Twelve per cent of the entire UK Greater Horseshoe bat population live, feed, breed and raise their young within two kilometres of the proposed mega quarry.

“The quarry has been disused for nearly 40 years. In May 2021, Hanson submitted planning applications to Somerset County Council to ‘re-open’ the quarry and significantly expand it onto over 100 acres of farmland. The plans also include dumping oolite waste from this land into the old Asham quarry, the 79-acre Asham Void, burying nearly 40 years of natural regeneration. There are already four quarries nearby including Whatley and Torr super quarries.

“Objectors to the plans include Somerset Ecology Services (Somerset County Council’s own ecology team), the Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency.”

Local resident and environmentalist, Indra Donfrancesco, is organizing the guided walks. She said, “The quarries and the adjacent farmland support at least 13 species of bat, 21 species of bird, dormice, great crested newts, otters, badgers and other protected species. Nobody can predict the devastating effects of this new quarry. The walks are a way for people to experience this important nature-rich habitat for themselves.”

Hanson’s applications have yet to go to Somerset County Council’s Regulation Committee for determination, and campaigners are hopeful that there is still time to stop the plans.

Local resident Richard Mawer said, “The campaign against plans for this mega quarry has been very successful so far, with over 500 people objecting to the planning applications and over 2000 people signing the petition. It’s not too late to get involved – our website has plenty of ideas for how people can help. These walks offer the chance for people to see for themselves the incredible biodiversity of the area.”

To sign the petition visit: www.change.org/p/hansons-stop-hanson-s-westdown-quarry-expansion; or to visit the group’s website, go to: www.shewq.com

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