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Limestone pavement Limestone pavement at Southerscales - Credit: YDNPA

Limestone pavements

Forming a distinctive and dramatic landscape, limestone pavement is made up of a series of clints (the flat horizontal slabs of carboniferous limestone) and grikes (the vertical cracks between the slabs). Limestone pavements were created during the ice age when the scouring action of ice sheets exposed the pavements. Since then, water movement has widened the cracks in the pavements to form a complex pattern of crevices. The diversity of species found in limestone pavements is thanks largely to the two very different habitats that form this landscape. The clints provide an ideal habitat for light-loving limestone grassland plants. In contrast, the grikes provide sheltered, shaded conditions making them ideal for woodland plants.

Limestone pavement is a rare habitat in Britain and the majority can be found in the western parts of North Yorkshire as well as south and east Cumbria. The Yorkshire Dales National Park contains approximately half of all Britain’s limestone pavement. Of great botanical interest, limestone pavement provides a variety of habitats for a large number of ferns and flowers. In the limestone pavements of the Yorkshire Dales, plants of interest include ferns such as hart’s-tongue fern, holly fern, green spleenwort, limestone fern, rigid buckler-fern and as well as bloody crane’s-bill, common rock-rose and lily-of-the-valley.

As a rare habitat, it’s important that our diverse and rich limestone pavements are protected. Limestone pavements are of very high biodiversity importance in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, are protected by Limestone Pavement Orders and continue to be on the UK and local list of priority habitats for biodiversity.

Baneberry

Dog’s Mercury

bloody-cranesbill

Bloody Crane’s-bill

Geranium sanguineum

The bloody crane’s-bill is characteristic of Yorkshire and Derbyshire’s limestone areas. It has vivid pink flowers, intricately divided leaves and a distinctive red stalk joint which gives the plant its name.

Within the British Isles, this species has a localised distribution on grassland, rocky areas, sand dunes and open woods on calcareous soils in northern and western areas.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, bloody crane’s-bill flowers between July and August and grows in limestone woodland, on scar ledges and on limestone pavement.

Though it isn’t a common plant good examples of bloody crane’s bill can be seen in the open rocky parts of Grass Wood near Grassington and on the limestone pavement in the Ingleborough area of Ribblesdale.

Lily-of-the-valley

wood sorrel

Wood Sorrel

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