October 4, 2008

Vision Which Brought Life Back to a Disused Quarry ; Environment

TEN years ago Jill Essam and partner Tom Mercer opted for a purchase with a decided difference - they bought a quarry.

Their aim for Harehope Quarry, near Frosterley, in Weardale, was to demonstrate a more sustainable way of living through a range of social, economic and environmental projects.

The Harehope Quarry Co-operative was one of the ventures helped by the Mineral Valleys project.

The Bollihope Burn runs through the quarry, whose south side is now a nature reserve with otter holt, quarry pond, and bird hide.

An area where stone from the quarry was tipped has become a geology garden, and safe play area for children.

A Footpath Through Time walk leaflet guides youngsters around rocks in the quarry, which were formed between 354 and 290 million years ago.

They include limestone formed in tropical seas, sandstone and shale from a river delta and Frosterley marble - a layer of dark grey limestone embedded with coral fossils.

Mineral Valleys funded an eco-classroom, built by volunteers, and powered by wind and solar energy.

Water is pumped from a borehole by a solar pump, grey water is treated by a reed bed, the building's roof is planted with sedum, the toilets are composting and the classroom's wood stove is made from concrete containing ceramic chips which retain heat.

An area of 14 acres has been developed as an organic smallholding, and there are two acres of carp ponds which will generate revenue for the co-operative.

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