Shap Beck is a large limestone quarry situated off the A6 in a rural area about two miles north of Shap village, seven miles south of Penrith and some 25 miles south of Carlise. The quarry is the second largest in the Hanson group and produces around 500,000 tonnes of stone a year. The limestone found at Shap is very pure and around 100,000 tonnes a year is used at the nearby Shap Fell works, owned by Tata Steel, to produce burnt lime, a fluxing agent in steel manufacture. The quarry also supplies local and regional markets and has on-site plants for making ready-mixed concrete and asphalt for raod surfacing.
There are 21 people employed directly and the quarry supports a further 30 jobs for drivers and contractors. The site extends to 118 hectares.
Shap Beck is dominated by the exposed bare ground, buildings and machinery associated with the quarry works. The area also includes a number of water bodies, including the Shap Beck, which flows along the east side of the site, and a number of ponds and calcareous semi-improved grasslands, willow-alder scrub and mixed plantation, all predominantly around the site perimeter.
Identified habitats include bare ground of the operational areas, semi-improved calcareous and acid grassland, tall herb and ruderal vegetation, mixed plantation, standing and running water. Two water features have potentially more than local ecological significance - Sweetholme Ponds and Shap Beck.