Geology – Ground Zero Start of the Yorkshire Dales

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Geology Base Camp

  • Most of the Yorkshire Dales gets it appeal from carboniferous formations resting on a platform of ancient hard rock called the Askrigg Block.
  • Some old rock formed from originally molten granite can be seen in the river glens of the Greta and the Twiss.
  • Great scar limestone are the formations that overlay the ancient land at Thornton force.
  • The cliffs at Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Kilnsey Crag are some 400 feet thick.
  • At intervals there are flat partings or bedding planes marking the the old sea bed that can be seen from around Kettlewell.
  • Earths pressure has cracked the limestone in a cross cross pattern of near vertical fissures and the rain through the ages has developed the fretted pavements or clints.
  • Shade loving plants live in some of the crevices above MalhamCove and on Ingleborough a mountain stream has created and plunges down Gaping Gill to a cave larger than the the nave at York Minster.

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Dales Drainage Continue reading Geology – Ground Zero Start of the Yorkshire Dales

Adam Sedgwick of Dentdale and Cowgill


Dent Village and Dentdale

‘The Dent Fault cuts across the valley close to the village of Gawthrop, marking a geological boundary between the carbonferous limestone of Deepdale and the Craven Dales to the south and the older Silurian and Ordovician rocks of the Howgill Fells to the north.’
In modern times tourists and the Dalesway pass along the valley towards Dent and onward to Sedbergh. I am not sure Adam Sedgwick, dents world famous geologist, would approve of all the changes that have come to Dentdale but he would be proud that his legacy and geological knowledge is still celebrated.
Dent is also famous since the 18th century for its knitters who used local wool to produce garments and socks during the first world war.
Get the full Dent story on a visit to Dent Heritage Centre.

Dent Railway

From Dent the valley winds its way through Cowgill, on its way to Dent station which is a surprising 4.5 miles from the village. In fact the station is much nearer Cowgill.
Dent is the highest railway station in Britain, at over 1100 feet above sea level. Dent station is a stop on the famous Carlisle to Settle Railway where you can still catch a steam train on special excursions.
The line crosses the huge viaducts at Arten Gill, Ribblehead viaduct and Dent Head.

Settle and dent

Adam Sedgwick

Nearby is St John the Evangelist church enroute to the railway station for Dent which serves all the villages around. The church has connections to Adam Sedgwick, the father of modern geology, who came from a local family of Vicars. Cambridge University still maintains a museum in his name the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Science but the monument most people will know is the vaguely pyramidal stone on the cobble streets of Dent engraved Adam Sedgwick 1785- 1873.
Returning to the tribulations of the Cowgill Chapel there is an account by Adam Sedgwick of Orthological skulduggery (scanned in by Google) entitled ‘A Memorial by the Trustees of Cowgill Chapel By Adam Sedgwick, Cowgill Chapel (Yorkshire) 1868. The curate of the new church attempted to change the name of the local hamlet from Kirthwaite to Kirkthwaite without informing the trustees of which Adam Sedgwick was one. Since the Sedgwick family were already bemoaning the change of name of Coegill to Cowgill they put up a robust fight resulting in an ecclesiastical court battle. From the foundation stone laying in 1837 until the final protest in 1866 the story hints at empire building and parochial politics that could still be relevant today. With added appendices about Climate History and Dialects of Dent it makes a fascinating read to see what exercised the bright minds of the time.

The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is the oldest of the University of Cambridge museums, having been established in 1728 as the Woodwardian Museum…….. it is now a major teaching and research resource and the Sedgwick Museum collections are a national treasure.

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Cowgill and Around

Cowgill and particularly The Sportsmans Inn was a favourite watering hole for our family when the children were young. I was able to drink and the kids could dabble and fall in the Cowgill rivulet. The Sportsmans Inn now advertises itself as ‘a family owned chain of one’.
Cowgill was the home of the Dent Marble mill, where fossilised limestone was quarried, cut, dressed and polished, to make luxury fireplaces and memorials.

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Click on the travel guide image or this link for a book from Amazon Sedbergh, Garsdale and Dent: Peeps at the Past History and Present Condition of Some Picturesque Yorkshire Dales (1910)

Norber Erratic Boulders Near Austwick

‘A quick course in geology will take eons or longer.’

Is an erratic one of the ‘Rock of ages cleft for me?’

Twixt Austwick and Clapham in Crummackdale lies a group of erratic boulders called the ‘Norber Boulders’ up on Norber Brow.

Erratics are large rocks deposited by glacier or ice flows on top of the natural underlying rock strata.
Norber boulders are dark grey green Silurian slates and sandstone grits. They were originally carried up from the Silurian basement floor of the valley by glacier moving south from Ribblesdale. They were left stranded on top of the lime stone.
Unprotected limestone has eroded by rainfall and the boulders often stand on limestone pedestals polished and scratched by ice.

Some of the boulders still show markings from when they were dragged along the ground being scratched and ground beneath slow moving ice.

A great walk with accompanying photographs is available on the walking englishman
See also what to see in Clapham

Yeager Rock  is a large glacial erratic on the Waterville Plateau in Washington USA. Erratic was one of many dropped by the Okanagon lobe of the last glacial period.

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Erratic Rock State Natural Site by Frederick Miller et al plus ‘Big Rock Glacial Erratics’ by the same team are the geology books of choice on the subject of ‘Erratics’.

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Gargrave North Yorkshire


Canal running past Gargrave.

Gargrave is a great little village on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales. It is a convenient starting point for walkers and cyclists. It is 2 miles west of Skipton bisected by the busy A65. There is also a canal running through the village. The canal offers an excellent towpath for walkers and cyclists.

Within Gargrave there are a few excellent local shops. The famous Dalesman cafe is a well worth a visit for tea and teacakes and an old fashioned sweat shop.

From Gargrave you can go north about 6 miles to Malham or North East towards Grassington and Kettlewell. The south side of Gargrave is also well worth visiting even though it is not in an official National Park.


Like many Yorkshire villages Gargrave is not short of activities and various clubs have been organised by the locals.

Village Hall
Womens Institute
Football Club
Cricket Club
Bowls Club
Golf Society
Civic Society

Steepest Hills in Yorkshire

Trooper Lane Halifax – 25% Max

If you’re a cyclist in Yorkshire, you’re spoilt for choice if looking for some steepest hill. In the Yorkshire Dales, there are plenty of climbs which touch the dreaded 1 in 4 (or 25% in modern money).

The steepest Hills in Yorkshire

Park Rash, north of Kettlewell
  • Park Rash ascending from Kettlewell a steep section of 25% on a double haipin bend (makes for a tricky ascent.



  • Fleet Moss from Hawes south. At the top it reaches 22% for a considerable time. It’s a really hard climb and reaches the highest point in Yorkshire


Shibden Wall – 25% cobbled climb near Halifax. Notice steps for pedestrians. Continue reading Steepest Hills in Yorkshire

Danger from Cows in Field

Beware cows are not Tour de Yorkshire friendly as even Limousin cattle in the dales don’t moo in French.


This shot of Yorkshire cows is taken in the Wharfe Valley between Grassington and Burnsall. Generally speaking cows are placid animals who will happily co-exist with humans. However, there are occasions when cows and bulls can present a danger to walkers and ramblers. For anyone who enjoys walking in the countryside it is important to be aware of these potential problems.


When Cows Are Potentially Dangerous to Walkers

Firstly, cows do not look upon humans as a threat. However, they may see dogs as a threat, it harks back to the time when wolfs would attack cows and their calves. Therefore, it is a walker with a dog who is most under threat.
Secondly, the most dangerous time is after new calves are born and the cows feel protective towards their young.

If they see a walker with a dog approaching they may become defensive and attack the person with the dog.

If this was ever to happen, the most important thing is to let go of the dog. Your dog will easily be able to run faster than cows. If the dog runs away from you, the cows will lose interest in you. THe only danger comes when the walker won’t let go of their dogs and so gives the cows a reason to attack. Unfortunately, on very rare occasions tragic incidents of cows trampling over people can occur. However, if you take care to follow basic principles there is no need to fear cows in field

About Mastiles Lane Twixt Malham and Kilnsey

Mastiles Lane to Kilnsey.

Yorkshire’s three most important lanes are Kirkstall Lane at Headingley, Bramall Lane at Sheffield and Mastiles Lane in t’dales. Sporting links to cricket, football, rugby and rambling bring the three together in this short tribute focused on Mastiles Lane.

If you are feeling the need to stretch your legs there is a great walk down one of our ‘green lanes’. From Raikes Road heading north east from Malham (birth place of the water babies) go for 3 miles to Streetgate which then leads you on to the fine walk along the lane. Mastiles Lane runs from the field gate here for 5 miles to Kilnsey (of Crag Fame) on the B6160 in Wharfedale.
Do not let the walls on either side of the lane put you off, the views are still stunning and you may appreciate the shelter of the dry stone walls if a squall blows up.

Roman marching camp sign

Roman marching camp sign
What did the Romans ever do for Yorkshire? Well they knew a good thing when they saw it and Mastiles Lane was obviously a good thing. On a still clear day you can still hear the echo of the Roman soldiers boots as they march along the limestone clints and cobbles which form the harder road surface. At night you may even see the ghost of an old soldier

mastiles lane

The remains of two Medieval monastic crosses that once marked the way to Fountains Abbey survive along the lane. Much of the surrounding land was owned by the monks who had a monastic grange at Kilnsey and sheep pastures on Malham Moor.

Monks, pack horses and animals have given way to mountain bikers and even more damaging vehicles. Mastiles Lane is not a ‘Boat’ (Byway open to all traffic) and traffic is banned. Long may it remain so.
Read more about Yorkshire byways open to all traffic on the ‘Green Lanes of Yorkshire with Boats.’

‘Starting from the Yorkshire Dales national car park at Grassington BD23 5LQ.
23 miles starts by climbing up onto the moors and Mastiles Lane, over towards Malham Tarn before looping back around to Kilnsey. Climb back up to finish on the first climb. Route total 2600ft of climbing.’

About Malham

Malham is a tourist hot spot and offers all that is good about the dales.
Limestone scenery abounds with Gordale Scar a centre piece.
Malham tarn has many water fowl and is a bird watching paradice.
At the top of Malham Cove is a limestone pavement used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Many people drive past Kilnsey without giving it a thought.
The Crag is a significant climbing challenge with a massive overhang.
As cars can’t park near the crag many people miss taking in the surrounding scenery.
Kilnsey show is demonstrates typical Yorkshire traits with dry stone walling, equestrian events, fell races and harness racing.

Credits – ‘2000 years old and still going strong – the old Mastiles Lane’

Mastiles Lane to Kilnsey. and Roman marching camp sign by nksheridan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Grassington and elevation data by aliweb_gt CC BY-NC 2.0