From 1880 until 1944, the lime kilns in the structure in front of you produced over 50 tonnes of quicklime a day. During the 1800s, the demand for quicklime increased for the growing steel and chemical industries as well as agriculture. To meet this demand, limestone quarries and kilns opened next to railways like this Midland line, now the Monsal Trail. Trucks used to bring in coal to burn in the kilns and take the quicklime away.
Limestone turns to quicklime when it is heated in a kiln (calcined). During the process the stone turns pale and cracks. The end result is quicklime, which is used in cement and mortar, and also by farmers to improve soils. The remains of lime kilns can be seen in many places in the Peak District, such as here on the Monsal Trail
Today, the kilns are a home to wildlife. The white boxes you can see high up on the buttresses are for swifts. They need the height to be able to take off and once hatched and left the nest, they can keep flying non-stop for up to 3 years! The dark crevices in the kilns are often used by hibernating bats in winter. Natterer’s, Brown Long-eared and Daubenton’s bats are common species in this type of habitat, close to trees and rivers.
The woodland is mainly Ash with Hawthorn and Hazel providing cover for flowers such as Forget-me-nots, Ground Elder, Wild Strawberry, Campion, and Wintergreen. Listen out for the Green Woodpecker and look for the Redstart with its orangey red tail singing from the top of an Ash tree in spring. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust manage the Reserve next to the lime kilns.