Markfield Quarry Intoduction
OS ref. SK486104 (Sheet 129)
SITUATION and CHARACTER
-it's official (if still being kept quiet) but Markfield quarry in now the
property of Hinckley and Bosworth council - and being there is now legally
Regarding the great 'clean up' in
Markfield, organised by the BMC, a while back?
Tim Yorath July 2003
Markfield Quarry was active in 1830 and large scale extraction began in 1852. By 1863, Ellis and Everard who operated it employed 90 men. Quarrying ended about the turn of the century. Some of the granite was used for curbstones, setts and building but a lot went for roadstone. The rock is Markfieldite and the quarry is the type-locality for this igneous intrusion. The date is uncertain but it is certainly later than the ancient f Precambrian rocks of Charnwood. Called Hill Hole locally.
The quarry is on top of a hill - and is in two tiers. The lower tier (pit) is filled with water to a depth of about 5m. Since the quarry fills only with rainfall and loses water by evaporation, the water level can vary over a range: a factor of importance on several of the traversing lines. The water in the quarry is uncontaminated by organisms from outside and this has kept Markfield's crayfish free of an imported disease. Apparently American crayfish, imported for harvesting, have contaminated British rivers with a disease which kills the English crayfish. Markfield is one of the few areas that has escaped and contains the genuine healthy English crayfish. The crayfish are a protected species which might save the quarry from being filled in, a fate not unknown in Leicestershire. They are the second highest crayfish in England, the highest being in Malham Tarn. The quarry is good for an evening swim and scuba diving (don't use gear wet from elsewhere - remember the crayfish) and provides excellent and extensive climbing of all grades. The top is often loose and belays infrequent. Soloing is frequently attractive although a life-jacket is desirable in some places. Many sections catch the full evening sun. The noise from the motorway is a nuisance in places.
The quarry is owned by Tarmac Roadstone who have displayed various warnings about entering the area. However it is regularly used by motorcyclists, divers, young kids, young lovers, dog exercisers and climbers there have been virtually no problems of access to date. It should really be public open space. During a recent water shortage Tarmac pumped out a large volume of water to serve their existing workings at Cliffe Hill. The level has never returned to normal, slightly altering the nature of one or two of the routes. Planning permission was granted in 1980 for the quarry to be filled in. The permission has now lapsed. It certainly appears an ideal site for waste disposal of some kind. No doubt it will happen one day which is a pity since the quarry does contain a number of worthwhile routes, Baptism must rank as a "Leicestershire Classic".
At first sight the quarry is disappointing. Although it is huge there are large areas of unclimbable rock and extensive vegetation. In particular, large parts of the full-height section have been almost irretrievably lost to the thick gorse. The rock is variable: some is hard, other soft, gritty and loose; there have been one or two major rockfalls over the years. Nevertheless Markfield is an important and popular venue for Leicestershire climbing.
APPROACH and ACCESS
The quarry is one mile south-east of the M1-A50 junction (Number 22). It can be seen on the top of the hill on the right when driving north on the M1. Take the A50 towards Leicester and turn off to Markfield. Turn off before the village and follow the "Industrial Estate" sign. The quarry is obvious, on the left. There is a convenient lay-by (rubbish dump) opposite a large hole in the fence (there are several). In spite of all the large rusting signs prohibiting access there have been no problems. Indeed the quarry is used by all-and-sundry as a recreation area - so be prepared. The quarry is situated on the hill to the west of Markfield village. Access is possible by walking up a public footpath from near the church or better through one of the aforementioned holes in the fence.
Recently (April 1992) a new fence has started to circle the hill and it may be that Tarmac are taking a renewed interest in using the place. By June most of the fence was gone, a victim of local vandalism. Damage said to be £3,500. However, the posts may be useful as belays.