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West Quarry, Wirksworth

Parking at The National Stone Centre, Porter Lane, Wirksworth

We needed some fresh air today. Irrespective of the fact that the skies were a leaden grey and the wind was building up a ferocity that left the trees shaking, we needed to blow away some cobwebs. We packed a picnic, grabbed our coats and wellies and headed out. 

Turning the ignition in the car, I still hadn’t decided quite where to go, so we settled for an old favourite for fossil hunting. 

The limestone here is embedded with fossil after fossil: brachiopods and crinoids everywhere you look. 

There are trails for the kids to follow with kid-friendly maps, crayon rubbings, information boards, gem panning and a cafe and shop. 

Turn right from the car park (facing the Stone Centre) and you’ll end up at Middleton Top, turn left and you’ll find yourself at a Black Rocks in Cromford. Both are manageable walks for little legs and ones we do frequently. 

Fossil hunting, Peak District, Derbyshire

Turning rocks over on the Quarry floor, the boys found endless red ant nests and spent almost an hour upturning stones and then watching the ants collecting their eggs to drag back underground. 

We played in the newly built play-area outside of the cafe. As we played noughts and crosses (or ammonites and brachipods, if we’re going to be pedantic) two robins danced around us, collecting twigs and singing their hearts out. As we descended into the Quarry itself, the pair followed us, flying from branch to branch alongside us. 

There are examples of all the different types of dry stone walling here, which the boys love. The information boards are clear and simple and they talk of a world so very different to what we see now – 330 million years ago. 

The boys take sheer delight in finding small pebbles to drop into the lead mine shaft, listening for the sound of them hitting the bottom. They scrabble around searching for things that will fit through the grate, their smiles wide. 

Rock carvings, steps, sculptures and fossils. It’s childhood territory and the boys love it here. 

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