A walk on the wildside
Barr Beacon’s 27 hectares (67 acres) are not only rich in history but also support a wealth of wildlife. By following the site’s nature trail you’ll be able discover even more about the site’s history and explore some of the habitats that are home to the Beacon’s many plants and animals.
You’ll find purple blankets of heather, golden flowering gorse and flower-rich meadows, attracting butterflies and other insects. These, together with broad-leafed and conifer tree plantations, provide food and shelter for a varied bird life.
Here are some of the trail’s highlights to give you a flavour of what to expect and look out for.
Set in stone
Barr Beacon’s war memorial is built of highly prized Portland limestone from Dorset. If you look closely you’ll see the fossils of ancient sea- creatures which make up the stone. This soft sedimentary rock contrasts with the hard Derbyshire granite that’s been used for the steps.
Barr Beacon’s acidic soil supports rare lowland heath. Heathland was created around 3,000 years ago when our ancestors cleared woodland to make way for farmland.
Without trees, rain washed away the topsoil and its nutrients. Crops could no longer be grown, but other plants like heather, gorse and bracken grew instead.
Farmers’ livestock then grazed the land, which prevented trees from growing back. Today we use modern techniques to preserve this unique habitat and the plants and animals that have adapted to live here
The beech and Scots pine trees in this plantation were planted by the Scott family in the 1700s.
A wrought iron fence had enclosed the trees since at least the 1930s to protect newly planted trees. It was removed as part of the war effort in 1943, being reinstated in 1951 following further planting.
Most of it has now been removed again except for a small section which is used as a secure area for events and activities. The nearby flagpole was first installed by Joseph Scott in the 1700s – flying a flag on all public occasions.
Scots pine can also be found in other plantations, having been a feature of Barr Beacon for hundreds of years. Elsewhere, other trees include English oak, birch, holly and rowan.
Barr Beacon is divided in half by South Staffordshire Water’s underground reservoir. Within the site a ‘trig’ point or triangulation pillar indicating the highest spot in the area – 227 m (745 feet) above sea level.
Letting the grass grow
We encourage wildflowers and grasses to grow by cutting Barr Beacon’s meadows at the end of summer, when their seeds have had time to drop and set. The grassland is mainly made up of red fescue and common bent grasses, with wildflowers such as heath bedstraw. As well as being good for wildlife, we can bale and sell the cut grass for hay and it’s also cheaper than regular mowing.
All these features and more are described in the Barr Beacon App, which is available to download for free.Remember too that the nature trail also doubles up as a healthy walking route.
Details of how to using the route can benefit your health can be found in both the Barr Beacon App and the Nature Trail leaflet.
To find out more about the wildlife of Barr Beacon, why not download the mobile app?