The kinds of rock seen most frequently in the Dales were formed between 280 and 350 million years ago, as sediments beneath a sea. The different ‘beds’ of rocks reflect the different conditions in that sea. Sometimes it was warm and clear, producing plants and small creatures whose remains gave us limestone – the most fascinating of all rocks, on the surface and underground. Muddy lagoons and shifting mud- and sand-banks led to bands of shale and sandstone. Later, a huge river delta developed, producing sandstones and gritstones.

Since then, what might have been a fairly simple landscape has been lifted, between fault lines, by major earth-movements, worn down several times by massive ice-sheets, then obscured by ground-up glacial debris and treated to several thousand years of British weather.

The result is a landscape showing subtle differences as you travel along each dale or from one dale to another.

Features worth pin-pointing:

  • Thornton Force
  • Ingleton Glens
  • Ingleborough
  • Caves: White Scar, Gaping Gill, Ingleborough, Alum Pot / Long Churn/Victoria
  • Pen-y-ghent
  • Craven faults
  • Giggleswick Scar
  • Whelpstone Crag
  • Castlebergh
  • Attermire
  • Scaleber
  • Pikedaw
  • Malham Tarn
  • Water Sinks
  • Malham Cove
  • Gordale Scar
  • Janet’s Foss
  • Aire Head

Nature / Wildlife / Fauna & Flora

The sometimes subtle, sometimes marked, differences in landscape and soil-type resulting from the geomorphology of the area and its human habitation have resulted in a variety of plant communities. There are several national and local nature reserves in the immediate area and much of the land is officially notified as being of special scientific interest. There are herb-rich hay meadows, acid bogs and many limestone features – pavements, scars, gills and woodlands – all with their own characteristic plant communities.

The area is less wooded than most of the country and red squirrel have retreated twenty or thirty miles to the north west, but deer can be glimpsed, occasionally, as can badger and hare.

Migrating salmon can be seen in the Ribble, each autumn and are also present in the tributaries of the Lune.

Peregrine falcon, short-eared owl and other birds of prey breed in the area, while curlew are often heard over moorland and heron seen in and around rivers and becks.

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