From Tip to Treasure - Learning at Big Pit: National Coal Museum
Waste from Big Pit has been tipped here and nature has colonised the waste creating an ecologically important area.
The tip was formed from colliery spoil – sandstone, shale and other underground waste. Over the years, this spontaneously combust to form the red ash which is visible here today. When the waste was laid down, it destroyed the plants and animals local to this area. After the tipping had stopped, a new environment was created on top which formed habitats for many new species.
Today, this area contains a number of habitats: heathland, marshland and acidic grassland – each supporting a number of species of conservation concern. One fifth of all the heathland in the world is found in the UK – so it is vital that we look after this internationally important habitat.
Protecting the Treasure
Over time the specially adapted plants growing in this soil will alter its chemistry. As the soil changes, it will attract different plants which will eventually replace the heathland plants.
To maintain this unique habitat, people will once again have to intervene. The Local Biodiversity Action Plan provides guidance on the management of such habitats.
Damage by motorbikes and off-road vehicles is a major threat to the biodiversity and stability of this unique post-industrial environment. The fragile nature of this habitat which has taken around a hundred years to establish can be destroyed in a matter of minutes.
Can you spot any of these plants or animals?
- Stonechat - Saxicola torquata (Amber) Seen all year round
- Linnet - Carduelis cannabina (Red) Seen all year round
- Skylark - Alauda arvensis (Red) Seen all year round
- Green tiger beetle - Cicindela campestris (Green) Seen May-July
- Reed Bunting - Emberiza schoeniclus (Red) Seen all year round
- Small pearl bordered fritillary - Boloria selene (amber) Seen May-August
- Common dog-violet - Viola riviniana (Green) Flowers April-June
Conservation priority: (red symbol) =High (Amber symbol) = Medium (Green) = Low (All colour coded).