A short circular walk around the ponds of the Brockhall Quarry Nature Reserve. The walk starts and ends at point 9 on the landscape Tour by Car (Car Tour 1), taking in points 7 and 8 on the landscape Tour by Bike (Cycle Tour 1).
The walk explores both the wildlife and fascinating geology of this former sand and gravel quarry site.
Explore the walk by clicking on the markers (Q1 to Q11) on the map below.
Download a printable copy of the map
Regeneration of habitats including ponds and lakes following extensive sand and gravel extraction. Access to the Country Park and the permissive paths within it is by courtesy of the Duchy of Cornwall.
Parking place for several cars at lay-by on A438, Sugwas Pool, grid reference SO 453 419 (postcode HR4 7QD).
There is no ideal place for cyclists to leave their cycles since the kissing gate entrances are too small for them to fit through. Possibilities are leaving them near the north entrance at Site 8 on the cycle tour or along the path to the southern entrance in this walking trail.
Stout footwear recommended. Paths are locally muddy; deep water in lake. Entrance by kissing gates, so not routinely accessible by wheelchair. In the western area, livestock are sometimes grazed and dogs should be kept on a lead.
The nearest site for refreshments and toilet is Hereford Garden Centre (former Wyevale Garden Centre) at Kings Acre (SO 473 415, HR4 OSE); also the village shop and takeaway outlets at Credenhill village (SO 448 432).
Find these creatures
At certain places along the trail – which you need to find – the option to take a selfie with one of these creatures from the Ice Age in Herefordshire will occur. You will know you have found one of these places when the camera button appears at the top of the screen. So keep a lookout as you explore.
Q1: Starting at Sugwas Pool | back to map
Crossing the busy road with care from the suggested parking spot, continue west, branching off along the lane on the right
Path between houses
After 25 metres, turn right down a narrow unsigned path between two houses.
Continue on path
Before the first of three kissing gates there is a possible narrow location to leave bikes. Shortly afterwards is a second kissing gate into woodland. Continue straight on the path (an alternative route is to the right).
Q2: Reserve entrance | back to map
After this third kissing gate you are in open land.
Bear left beyond the kissing gate to find a path overlooking the lake.
View of lake
Soon you have a view of the main lake which fills the centre of the former quarry. An island is visible near the western shore which can be a refuge from predators for some birds except when water levels are low.
Pebbles and cobbles
Throughout the site there are pebbles and cobbles remaining from the glacial deposits that were formerly quarried. This one shows characteristic features of being transported under ice: flat faces, rounded corners and a network of fine abrasion scratches.
Q4: Northern shore | back to map
Near point Q4 is a northern entrance (the same as site 8 in the cycle tour 1). The view from here gives a good impression of the scale of the site. Extraction of sand and gravel here was already happening by the 1880s and expanded in the 1930s; a wide area was covered by the 1970s. This area represents a moraine (material left behind by the glacier) where the glacial deposits are unusually thick and quarry faces were up to 20 m high.
The geological exposures were spectacular and varied, changing decade by decade as the quarry expanded. The deposits included till (a boulder clay laid down under ice), layered lake deposits and thick sands and gravels from meltwater streams. They revealed a complex history of ice advance and retreat. An added significance is that this moraine caused a blockage in what had previously been a valley of the proto-Wye river. So, when the ice retreated, meltwater cut a new channel that became the Breinton gorge of the River Wye (see Breinton Walk).
The deposits in the quarry were thick because they lay along the line of the proto-Wye river channel which became choked with river and morainal deposits.
Geology of Stretton Sugwas pit
No detailed account of the geology is available in the public domain, but several different beds representing distinct events are recorded which together reveal the history of what used to be called the Stretton Sugwas pit. The following provides known details.
River channel fill
The lowest (first) deposits formed in a river valley of the precursor to the River Wye (the proto-Wye). These are several metres of sand and gravel representing the deposits of the river prior to and in the early stages of glacier advance.
The picture shows, stratified gravels which filled a river channel of the proto-Wye. October 1996. Photographer: Nick Chidlaw.
2. Where the river channel gravel deposits are absent, the bedrock is overlain by up to 8 metres of till deposited underneath the ice, probably as it advanced to its limit on the outskirts of Hereford.
Deposits of powerful meltwater channels
3. Next is 6 metres of sand and gravel representing deposits of powerful meltwater streams when the ice had retreated back to the west. These would have been shaped into a variety of folds when the glacier later re-advanced.
The diagram is an interpretive sketch of a photograph in Luckman (1970) taken in May 1965 of the north quarry face. The field of view is probably about 10 metres across. It shows folded gravels and overlying till, which are likely to be push-folds made by the glacier when it created a moraine ridge (see next picture).
Gravels formed into broad fold related to icemelt subsidence.
October 1996 | Nick Chidlaw.
Formed inder the ice
4. Above the previous deposits are 8 metres of deposits formed under the ice and in glacial lakes. These deposits are deformed with the underlying gravels. Photograph: Bed of till (gravel and sand set in a muddy matrix and deposited beneath the ice). Overlain by some layered silts at the top which formed in a small glacial lake.
October 1996 | Nick Chidlaw.
Formed in a glacial lake
A fine layer of rock known as laminated siltstone formed in a glacial lake, with folds and faults probably caused by collapse from the melting of the underlying ice.
There are several ways in which they have been formed:
a) upright folds and associated faults reflect pushing (bulldozing by the glacier),
b) flat-lying folds reflect shearing as the ice moved overhead,
c) a variety of folds and faults are created by collapse due to melting of underlying ice.
October 1996 | Nick Chidlaw.
Glacial outwash streams | back to map
5. Finally are 6 metres of sand and gravel which continue to the east of the pit. This represents deposition from glacial outwash streams as the glacier retreated from the area. These deposits are expected to be continuous with gravels that can be found under Hereford City.
The account of the geology in the Stretton Sugwas-Breinton area, draws on the publications of Luckman (1970), Brandon (1989) and Richards (2005), data and photographs of Nick Chidlaw, correspondence with Duncan Hawley, Nic Howes and Alan Inkersole.
Q5: Fence into water | back to map
Around Q5, there is a simple stile over a fence that runs down into the water to the south. This is an atmospheric site in foggy weather – can you spot the cormorant?
Q6: Roman road | back to map
As you approach the eastern end of the lake, there are warning signs about the deep water here since this was the deepest part of the quarry as you can see on the LIDAR image. At Q6 you are close to another entrance to the site. Outside is the straight (originally Roman) road that used to run to Kenchester (and was followed by the line of the former railway to Brecon). This road is now a dead-end and offers an alternative car parking spot.
Q7: Changing levels | back to map
At Q7, there is a path down to a flat area next to the lake. Changes in the water level controlled by rainfall make a big difference to the appearance of the shores of the lake.
Exposed beach during a period of low water level, 9th December 2009.
High water level
Brockhall lake at a high level, August 2007.
Brockhall lake, end-November 2007.
Q8: Borehole | back to map
At Q8, there is a capped-off borehole. Boreholes can be used to check on water levels in the underground aquifer and are used extensively in quarries to check the nature of the materials to be worked. After this, the route takes you to the east of a long trench.
Q9: Site of former works | back to map
Q9 is close to the SE entrance of the reserve, the route then swings around through 180 degrees towards the southern shore of the large lake. The LIDAR image shows that the flat areas along this part of the walk were formerly where the quarry industrial plant was located.
Q10: Ecological experiment | back to map
Near Q10, there is an embankment behind which the area is fenced off. This was the site of settling lagoons, which are unsafe for the public. However, in this protected area, an ecological experiment has been carried out. In 2010, Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile team were funded to create three new small ponds to enlarge the breeding habitat for great crested newts and insects including dragonflies. Examples of pioneering vegetation is shown below.
Yellow-wort is a plant suited to chalky grasslands, but is also a pioneer of dry habitats like Brockhall. It indicates higher pH in soil and is unusual for Herefordshire.
Giant Horsetail is local in occurrence – it thrives on disturbance and so is regarded as an aggressive invasive species in gardens.
Emerald Damselfly at the settling lagoon pond on Field Horsetail which is also a pioneer species.
Examples of pioneer and planted vegetation at Brockhall Quarry (Photographs by Will Watson).
Planted Yellow Iris
Examples of pioneer and planted vegetation at Brockhall Quarry (Photographs by Will Watson)
Brooding sky over birch saplings (either Downy or Silver).
Glacially transported boulders | back to map
Glacially transported (erratic) boulders in the foreground and shallow settling pond in the background. The pond is rich in aquatic invertebrates and arguably replicates some of the conditions following the glacial retreat 20,000 years ago. It is typical of a pond in the early/mid stages of succession and supports species of water beetle associated with Ice Age ponds. The pile of erratic boulders was placed by the ponds to encourage dragonflies to bask.
Q11 Return route | back to map
The path continues to the southern shore of the large lake and another capped-off borehole is found at Q11. From there it is a short distance to rejoin the outward route at Q2. Brockhall is well worth visiting under different weather conditions and different times of year to see all that it has to offer.