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Clennon Gorge

A threatened habitat

The nature reserve at Clennon Gorge covers around 60 acres of woodland and limestone grassland, and is home to a wide range of plants and animals.

Limestone grasslands

Limestone grasslands are one of the UK’s most threatened habitats and provide a home for a diverse array of insects and plants. In the past, these areas were grazed by rabbits and livestock, although nowadays we use mechanical cutting to maintain the grassland.

The limestone grassland is important because the limestone bedrock changes the qualities of the thin soil above, which in turn affects the range of plants that can grow there. In turn, a number of insect species are reliant on these plants, and on this habitat.

Shaping the landscape

Limestone has been used for a range of purposes throughout history, in everything from paint and toothpaste to building materials. While quarrying in this location ceased in the 19th century, the remains of former quarries, impressive rock faces and stone kilns can still be seen today.
As with many limestone outcrops, the limestone grassland at Clennon Gorge is neighboured by trees. This ancient woodland was first planted to provide fuel for the lime kilns and has been in existence since the 1600s.

The woodland is managed by coppicing – a practice that has taken place for centuries – which involves cutting a tree back to a low stump. Coppicing not only encourages new growth that can be harvested in the future, but also helps to create a thriving habitat for a diverse range of creatures.

Clennon Gorge provides a clear example of how humans can actually help to enrich landscapes rather than simply degrading them.