Monday, 30 September 2013

Brown's Folly and the Stone Quarries in Bathford

The walking and geology groups on their way to the Bathford stone quarries and "The George Inn" in Bathampton.

Brown's Folly on top of the hill.

Built by Colonel Wade Brown in 1848, to provide employment during the agricultural recession, and is designated Grade ll listed building. 

I gives it name to a 96 acre site of biological and geological "Site of Special Scientific Interest" near the village of Bathford in Bath, and was first notified in 1974.  Also known as Farleigh Down Stone Quarry, it is operated as a nature reserve by the Avon Wildlife Trust.

The Folly is situated on the steep west facing slopes that overlook the River Avon.  The site includes the remains of quarries used for the extraction of Bath Stone, and provide a rich variety of wildlife habitats.  Downland flora has covered the spoilheaps where wild thyme, harebell and nine species of orchid, including the rare Fly Orchid, flourish.  The damp cliff faces support a variety of ferns, fungi and spiders.  Pockets of ancient woodland on the lower slopes are home to woodpeckers and unusual plants such as Bath asparagus.

Quarry entrance with stratified limestone.

The old underground quarries are used by the Greater Horseshoe Bat for roosting, and by five other species.  "Boris" the oldest Greater Horseshoe Bat ever recoreded in Britain, was discovered at Brown's Folly in January 2000. 

The underground workings are of great speleological and historical interest.  They contain many delicate stalacites and examples of gull formation (cave features formed by land slippage.)  These quarry workings provided stone for the facade of Buckingham Palace. 

That's a big rockface!

"The George Inn" the haunted canalside pub in Bathampton.

Some debate exists about exactly when the Inn was built.  Some sections seem to have been built as early as the 12th century, when it was part of a monastery for the Prior of Bath. According to English Heritage however, the present building of coursed rubble with a Cotswold stone slate roof, dates from the mid late 17th century.

The resident ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, a foreign noble haunts, the Inn.  He died in a duel on Claverton Down at dawn on the 18th November 1778.   He was mortally wounded, and his body was bought back to the Inn for post-mortem.   This fact in now way affects the taste of the cider, beer and jacket potatoes!

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