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autumn 2016

New Nunkley Hill Visitor Centre and Café: ten minutes from Barrow.


If you haven’t already paid a visit to the Rothley / Mountsorrel Community Heritage Centre then I recommend that you should give it a try, especially if you have young children. Although not yet completely finished, you can see that it’s going to be a great facility, more than ever, when the steam trains start to come this way and stop at Nunkley Hill. That’s right, Nunkley Hill, because it’s where Nunkley Hill Quarry used to be.

As you approach the site, from Rothley, you would never have believed that the old quarry had once been there as it was totally covered in thick vegetation. The only clue was a rather insignificant granite bridge which has now been renovated. It looks wonderful as you view it from the railway platform. There has been considerable excavation of soil, from the road, in order to gain access to the centre where there is now a substantial car park.

The cafe, “Granite’s”, most appropriately named, is in a building that was originally at the old quarry and is built of chunky, granite lumps. There’s always a smile and a welcome here from the friendly staff. The cafe is spacious with a range of seating options including an outdoor terrace with a children’s play area. The cafe menu has a range of snack and meal options, I can recommend the quiche, and the choice of cake is amazing. The Red Velvet always looks especially spectacular and they all come from David North’s at Rothley. Then there’s the ice cream! There are the usual options of vanilla, strawberry or chocolate, then there’s the upmarket Eton Mess or the two sky blue options: one’s “Bubble Gum” the other Blue Banana”. Both are delicious although I think the “Bubble Gum” has to be an acquired taste!

This building is also the home to the new heritage exhibition which can be found in the room opposite the cafe. Here there are display boards with details of the history of the area from very early days through to the present day. It includes photographs of the area’s industrial heritage, buildings past and present plus some information about a Lord Lanesborough of Swithland Hall and his love of trains. There are displays of artefacts that have been found locally including products made in local factories together with a small section showing vintage toys.

After you have enjoyed a snack and viewed the heritage display you must venture outside so walk down the concrete path and head for the railway. You will pass the workmen’s huts on your left which are still very much “a work in progress” as I write. The volunteers are very friendly and will take the time to explain what they are doing. These huts are being constructed from granite blocks to match the originals that were once in the quarry. When you reach the gate make sure you follow the safety instructions when you are crossing over the railway track. Then there’s a steep climb to the Nature Trail. This part of your visit is an amazing journey of discovery with information boards where “Robbie the Robin” informs visitors about what to look for in each location. This woodland walk is wonderful: you will pass Hedgehog Way: the Spooky Wood, with its witches’ fingers, signs to tell you where to look for rabbits or badgers and there’s rustic seating, if you need a rest, and even a picnic area. I won’t say any more about this trail as you need to have your own adventure. How many bug hotels can you find?

When you’ve completed your meander through the wood you make your way back to the cafe where you might want to have a quick refreshment stop; a cup of tea or one of the many types of coffee on offer, or just pass through to the car park for your drive home. Maybe your curiosity will get the better of you and you just have to try that “Blue Banana”!

Ginnie Willcocks