Harebells Colonize An Old Industrial Wasteland


This photo was taken at Snailbeach Mine in the wilds of the Shropshire Hills. From the 1780s through the nineteenth century this was the most productive lead mine in the world, employing over 300 workers. But the history of lead mining in the area is much older than this, and for centuries the mineral was mined all over the nearby Stiperstones hills.

The Romans were certainly here. They left behind a great lead ingot weighing over 87 kilos and impressed with the inscription ‘IMP HADRIANI AVG’. This meant that not only did it belong to the Emperor Hadrian, but also that Snailbeach was an imperial mine between the years of his rule, 117-138 A.D.

The Romans used lead for water pipes, cooking vessels, paint and to sheath the hulls of ships.  Of course some of these purposes proved highly toxic to the users.

And it is now hard to imagine an association between something as hard, industrially wrought and poisonous as lead and these delicate harebells that seem to thrive on the waste ground near the mine ruins. In fact this whole area, with conservationists’ help,  has been so reclaimed by wildlife it is now part of the Stiperstones Site of Special Scientific Interest. The birdlife of the area includes red grouse, ravens, buzzards, peregrine falcons, curlew and the rare ring ouzel. There  are grayling and green hairstreak butterflies, fox and emperor moths. The vegetation includes heather, cowberries, whinberries and rare mountain pansies.

It is so heartening, isn’t it, when so much on the planet seems environmentally challenged. Here in this corner of Shropshire at least, the natural world has overcome – reclaiming this once poisonous, highly industrial environment.


For those of you interested in mining history there is more about Snailbeach HERE and HERE. The latter link includes lots of useful teaching information and has a great video of aerial views of the area, which is anyway worth a look if you want to see more of this fascinating part of Shropshire.



DP Daily Prompt: overcome

40 thoughts on “Harebells Colonize An Old Industrial Wasteland

      1. Haha…long way to come, as I no longer have folks I know in the area! Although it would be great to meet you, Tish!

  1. It has such beauty, does Schropshire, you cannot imagine the toxic product unearthed in the mines. But then, plenty of beautiful plants are poisonous, and lead itself was used to make foundation in make-up, so perhaps that is the price of beauty–that it holds a touch of danger?!

      1. Incredibly short! Hah! I’m not sure I could expand it much without a nice long exploratory trip to view the place! I’ll have to put it on my very long list of places I’ll visit if I’m ever rich!

  2. Love the little blue flowers. Of course lead has been in the health news for a while lately and it is deadly . You have to wonder about the people and the water supply. Can’t be good. Beautiful scenery.

    1. Yes, lead continues to have a bad press. Of course for a long time we had it our petrol in the UK, until it was accepted that it was causing developmental problems in children in areas where there was a lot of traffic.

  3. I think we’ll be amazed at how quickly nature will reclaim what’s hers if people just got out of the way. We see the same here at our iSimangaliso Wetland Park – ten years after the exotic plantations were removed, there is almost no sign left that they were ever there!

  4. Your first shot alone was enough to cheer me on a very gloomy morning Tish. And to follow that with a good read and a little bit of hope for nature’s power …. what can I say? I’m smiling.

  5. Environmentally challenged is right, Tish! There’s a sense of waiting for what’s next, right now. 😦 Good bit of escapism in the harebells 🙂 🙂 Have an excellent week!

  6. Oh, the poetry of lists! The generic fails miserably to lift the spirits: nature needs specificity, which you, out of your great knowledge, always supply. Broken Hill had / has major lead issues and the levels in children was dangerously high. In ceilings and in the dirt children played in. People with young kids were actually leaving town when I was there 25 years ago. I don’t think harebells have taken over, or even Sturt’s desert pea.

  7. Better to have harebells than hare-brains from lead poisoning. Great that nature is undoing the damage humans created in the area. By the way the blue of the harebells makes me think of the blue glaze in old pottery which can be a sign of lead content.

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