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Slate - Post Industrial Rehabilitation

Removing the scars of industry from the landscape is today given the importance it deserves though reclamation and rehabilitation. Nowhere is this more true than in the north Wales slate quarrying area.

Reclamation can both restore and remodel landscapes affected by quarrying and indeed construction projects, which involves civil engineering, earth moving and ecological technology to create natural environments. In order to achieve this natural materials and processess should be used to work with nature.

It is essential to establish an after-use scheme before preparing a land restoration programme, and the choice of after-use will of course influence the design solution and restoration techniques adopted. Attention must also be given to identifying the most appropriate ecosystem for the site as well as considering the visual effects at the initial stages. Nature conservation is the practice that protects and and enhances biodiversity.

Diversification of wildlife habitats such as grassland, heathland, woodland and wetland are used to simulate the conditions that occur in the natural environment. In such cases local native species of trees and cuttings would be used since they show the greatest capacity for survival in hostile environments. This, in turn results in ecological compatability between the restoration scheme and surrounding landscape, and also receives sympathy from the conservation and amenity movement.

Quick-fix answers are rarely the right way forward, since it is paramount in ecosystem modelling to choose genetically suitable native plants, shrubs and trees to produce desirable results. Open spaces also have to be managed as well as exposed rock and water features to create a variety of wildlife habitats.

An integral part of such projects is the preparation of aftercare programmes.

In 1993 Alfred McAlpine (Slate Products) Ltd., the owners of the Penrhyn Quarry requested an environmental assessment from Cynefin Environmental Consultants Ltd with regards permission to extend the quarry by opening up some40 hectares of land on the southwestern fringes of the existing quarry to obtain fresh sources of new material. This area was just outside the northern boundary of the Snowdonia National Park and about one half of it was within the northern boundary of the Glydeiriau Site of Special Scientific interest. The countryside on all sides of the of the proposed extension , except that which adjoined the existing quarry was typical Snowdonia heathland and bog, with very low agricultural value and was used for sheep grazing.

The proposed development would affect the vegetation and wildlife in the area to be quarried. However, these plant communities and habitats were typical of the wet acid soils in an upland area of northwest wales and well replicated in that part of Snowdonia. The mitigation measures that were proposed would ensure that the peat bog at Gwaun Gynfi, below the site would not be affected. Also, the wider mitiation programme would recreate existing habitats as well as establishing new ecological systems to increase the natural variation occuring in the area. The restoration schemes proposed were water based and included a lake surrounded by moraines containing a variety of plant communities and wildlife habitats.

The landscaping measures were required for the following reasons:

  • to reduce the visual impact of the quarry and tips;
  • to replace or enhance ecological conditions affected in the area;
  • to provide opportunities;
  • to develop techniques of using natural processes;
  • to reclaim slate wastelands;
  • to offer, in the Bethesda area, landscape with enhanced ecological and aesthetic qualities;and ·
  • to provide landforms that will make contributions to the leisure, recreational and educational facilities of the community.

Similar projects have been and are being undertaken at many quarrying sites in the area.


Gwynedd Council
Welsh Slate Museum, Llanberis
Cynefin Consultants
Enrich UK - Lottery Funded New Opportunities Fund
© Copyright Gwynedd Council 2003