County diary: from hellish origins, a heavenly suite of Derbyshire plants

County diary: from hellish origins, a heavenly suite of Derbyshire plants

Waterswallows Quarry, Derbyshire: The volcanic rock here is home to an expanse of great burnet, twayblade, spotted and fragrant orchids

How delightful to think that in picking a name for the spot, the locals had chosen as the most fitting motif the bluest of birds as they dipped to feed over their own surface reflections.

Alas, it comes from nothing quite so idyllic. “Waterswallows” describes a place where the river vanishes into the limestone, literally where water is swallowed down. It is the same Carboniferous geology that explains the existence of the quarry itself, but not perhaps in the way you might think. The longest excavated limestone face in Europe may be just 2km away, at Tunstead, but Waterswallows was worked for entirely different reasons – here, the region’s deep reefs of calcium carbonate were split asunder by lava.

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