In an interview on BBC Radio Leicester, Attenborough explained to presenter Ben Jackson that the rock helped him earn a scholarship to Cambridge University. Attenborough had a prized collection of Mountsorrel granite samples that he donated to the University of Leicester’s geology department when it was founded in 1951.
On learning that Attenborough no longer had any samples, Jackson contacted Tarmac to inquire whether it would be possible to acquire a piece of the pink granite.
“It was definitely one of the most unusual and exciting requests we’ve received at the quarry,” Trevor Warren, Mountsorrel Quarry’s works manager said. “We were thrilled to hear of Sir David’s interest in Mountsorrel granite and jumped at the opportunity to send him a sample.”
Tarmac selected a large piece of granite and polished it so that all the special geological features were visible. Tarmac then invited Jackson to the quarry to collect the sample and learn more about the site’s history and operations.
“The sample was much larger than Ben was expecting, but we wanted to make sure Sir David could appreciate the rock properly, given his obvious passion and enthusiasm for the region’s geology,” Warren said.
Jackson had the opportunity to visit different areas of the quarry, including the primary crusher, the asphalt plant and railhead at Barrow-upon-Soar. He aired an account of the site visit on his radio program shortly afterwards.
“After Ben’s visit, we sent the sample to Sir David the next day with some information about the history of Mountsorrel Quarry,” Warren said.
In late February, the Mountsorrel Quarry team received a letter from Attenborough, thanking them for the “magnificent” and “superb” sample. He also wrote of his experience studying the local geology, recounting a time when he discovered garnets – the crystals often found in metamorphic rocks – on a dig.
“I’ve been a keen geologist all my life and, like many people, have enjoyed Sir David’s work,” Warren said. “I never thought I would have the opportunity to correspond with him directly, especially over something as close to me as Mountsorrel.
It’s a real privilege to know that despite travelling the world far and wide and seeing some amazing sights, Sir David still remembers the unique and special qualities of our Mountsorrel granite.”
Tarmac’s Mountsorrel Quarry supplies granite to major construction projects across the UK. The quarry lies at the heart of Charnwood’s historic granite-quarrying communities and employs more than 100 people from the surrounding towns and villages.
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