Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
Saturday 07 February
Thursday 12 February
Helen Mark tracks down moths and dinosaurs on the Isle of Portland.
The Isle of Portland is part of Dorset’s World Heritage Coast. Its cliffs are a magnet for fossil hunters and a haven for unusual wildlife. But the island is also pock-marked with the huge quarries that produce the Portland stone that built St. Paul’s Cathedral.
In Open Country Helen Mark hears why one quarry company wants to start digging just three metres away from the cliff-edge. Geologists say it will destroy rare features and locals say their peace will be shattered. But isn’t quarrying the point of Portland?
Helen starts with a visit to the quarries currently worked by Stone Firms Ltd. where she sees some examples of the dinosaur footprints which are often revealed as the valuable Portland stone is cut from the face. She hears about the company's plans to begin working the new quarry on the island's last remaining undeveloped coastal strip. The company says it is running out of the best quality stone and needs to move its operation toward the coast but the local branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England is fighting to preserve the site.
Away from the immediate controversy Helen visits Independent Quarry which ran out of workable stone last year. The Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust has brought together artists, geologists, naturalists, quarry men and local schools with the help of the Aggregates Sustainability Levy Fund to create a trail through the quarry which will guide visitors through millions of years of Portland stone, from its creation in the age of the dinosaurs to the present day.
The disused quarries play a major role in attracting unusual moths and butterflies to the islands. Mark Parsons of Butterfly Conservation takes Helen on a perilous cliff-top walk in search of the caterpillars of one of Britain's rarest species.
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