Posted by: lensweb | June 11, 2014

Ticknall Limeyards & Calke

Jun 9 Ticknall Limeyards & Calke. Good for orchids. See Betty’s Pond and some of Calke’s noteworthy trees.

Park at Ticknall Village Hall, Ingleby Lane (off A514).

Ground rutted in places and can be muddy.

Grid ref SK 353 242             Postcode DE73 7JW

Leader Dot Morson

What a fine evening for a walk around Ticknall Limeyards and Calke Park. Dot quickly took charge and gave a demonstration of a working village pump.

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Standing under the canal style bridge of the old horse drawn tramway which linked Ticknall lime works to the Ashby Canal (1802-1915). Dot reminded us that in 1962, outrage at proposed pond in-filling had been the spur for the formation of Derbyshire Naturalist’s Trust now Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT)and Ticknall Limeyards was DWT’s first nature reserve, although it is now managed by the National Trust.

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We walked down the 150 year old lime tree avenue and crossed a meadow to access the tramway. Four ventilation and light grids in the grass beneath our feet showed we were walking on top of the tramway tunnel which was built by covering a cutting, under the carriage drive. By the tramway we saw pegged hollows in the track bed stones which used to hold the rails, then everything went black as we walked through the tunnel.

Back into sunlight, enchanter’s nightshade and dogs mercury grew under sycamore and ash. A roe deer had left slots in the mud. Many sycamore and (non-native) larch trees had been removed but a fine upright stand of pine trees remained.

An interpretation board told us that this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is important for it’s geological interest and the flora associated with limestone grassland. The Thringstone Fault crosses the parish of Ticknall from east to west, separating the Coal Measure clays to the south from the Carboniferous Limestone to the north. Limestone is fairly rare in South Derbyshire and the dual use of lime for mortar and for fertiliser led to the development of the limeyards at Ticknall in the 18th and 19th centuries. The limestone (calcium carbonate) was burnt with coal in order to reach the high temperatures necessary to burn off carbon dioxide, leaving quicklime (calcium oxide). Lime was spread on the land, which helped to break up clay soils and “manured” the land to give improved crop yields. To make mortar, the lumps of quicklime were placed in a pit in the ground and water was thrown on to it resulting in an exothermic reaction heating it up and making it crumble into a powder called slaked lime. This was then mixed with sand to make a mortar which had to be used before it hardened on exposure to the air. Limestone from the quarries was also used for building.

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The lime pits, which had been cleared, were again becoming overgrown with a lot of bramble and hedge woundwort. The old pits can be treacherous but we felt safe on the new walk, even when standing on a bridge looking down into a very deep fern filled lime pit.

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The track led to the quarries, with deep black pools growing yellow iris, water horsetail, water plantain and mare’s tail. The grassland around was close grazed and hundreds of common spotted orchids put on an exciting pink flower show with some twayblade and quaking grass and other flowers such as buttercups, clover and bird’s foot trefoil.

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Dot speeded up and shimmied through Serpentine Wood where the changed geology supported veteran oak and sweet chestnut. The Old Man of Calke, a 1000 year old oak tree, is now protected from compaction by protective fencing, we also made a nodding acquaintance with other twisted, gnarled, burred and holey ancient trees.

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Now we were field walking, passing the ruined gamekeeper’s cottage and the pumping station at the hill top then descending through bracken coated heathland edged with speedwell and lesser stitchwort to where yellow flag and yellow water lily was flowering at Betty’s pond. Dot disappeared, she had squeezed into a hidey hole at the foot of a very large veteran small leaved lime, so we joined her like ‘Sardines’ to stand at the venerable foot of possibly the oldest tree on the Calke Estate.

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The air was heavy but a nuclear blast of yellow sunshine showed the way through the trees to a new laid wide white track which led us back through Poker’s Plantation towards an enticing and exciting sunset.

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Marion Bryce 11 June 2014


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