The thin limestone soils of upper Wharfedale
are low in nutrients and many interesting plants, which might otherwise
get overgrown, can prosper. The old-established grazing of these
well-drained fields keeps down the coarser plants which might out-compete
smaller ones. The local population of twite, a bird whose British
population is of European importance, feeds on the limestone grasslands
in autumn. Other birds which uses these areas include redstart,
green woodpecker, wheatear and lapwing, together with buzzard, which
has recolonised upper Wharfedale in recent decades.
Bird's-eye primrose, or 'mealy' primrose,
from the dusty white stalk and under-leaves - "one of the dozen
most exquisite natives of the British Isles", according to
Geoffrey Grigson- is a characteristic flower of the limestone grasslands.
It is often found in damp depressions, often with the insectivorous
butterwort. Its distribution is solely within the northern Pennines.
In the Malham-Arncliffe area the nationally scarce
blue moor-grass is often found, with sheep's-fescue and herbs such
as limestone bedstraw, thyme, small scabious, salad burnet and common
rock-rose. In areas of less intense grazing larger flowers grow,
including bloody crane's-bill and, just over the border of our area,
the nationally rare Jacob's-ladder. At Cool Pasture there is wild
thyme, common milkwort, fairy flax, bird's-foot trefoil, salad burnet,
autumn gentian, harebell, eyebright and the nationally scarce limestone
bedstraw. Moonwort, a tiny fern, occurs in varying abundance from
year to year. Several mountain and northern speciescan be found,
including alpine cinquefoil, which is also found in Scotland, mountain
avens, which is here at its southernmost point in England and mountain
everlasting, which has declined in its lowland sites and is now
found in the uplands.
At Conistone Old Pasture there is extensive
calcareous grassland, with blue moor-grass and sheep's fescue, together
with rockrose, dropwort and limestone bedstraw. The bird's-eye primrose
and grass-of-Parnassus can be found in flushed areas.
In more open parts of Grass Wood a limestone
grassland flora has developed in which blue moor-grass is accompanied
by herbs such as common rockrose, bloody crane's- bill, salad burnet
and betony. At Hawkswick Wood there is an area of limestone grassland
containing rockrose, thyme and purging flax. Areas of seepage have
purple moor-grass and butterwort. On the steep upper slopes of Scoska
Wood grassland is characterised by the presence of blue moor-grass
and a range of calcareous herbs including salad burnet and fairy
flax. In Pen-y-Ghent Gill blue moor-grass dominates, with herbs
such as salad burnet and fairy flax.
In upper Wharfedale the thin daleside soils
have blue moor-grass and limestone bedstraw, both characteristic
species of a community confined to the Carboniferous Limestone of
Northern England, with frequent common rock-rose, wild thyme and
autumn gentian. Locally dropwort and kidney vetch may be found,
both species rare in the Dales.
|Do not assume that sites mentioned here
have public access. Please use only public footpaths or ask
permission for access. Conservation of our wild heritage depends
on the goodwill of landholders - please don't abuse it!
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