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Limestone Pavements

Limestone Pavement Orton Scar

Limestone Pavement Orton Scar

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by Charles Paxton

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One of the most distinctive features of our area are the Limestone pavements.

According to the pamphlet Limestone Landscapes -The Orton Fells  “These pavements run east west along the top of the escarpment and form the four distinct masses of (west to east) Crosby Ravensworth Fell, Orton Scar, Great Asby Scar and
Little Asby Scar. This is the most extensive area of pavements in the UK outside the Ingleborough area in Yorkshire. Most of the landscape is protected by both Site of Special Scientific Interest and candidate Special Area of Conservation designations because of its international importance .”

Glacial action stripped off the overlying rock and topsoil exposing the Carboniferous limestone beneath to some physical, but mostly chemical weathering. The Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere combines with moisture to fall as weakly Carbonic acid rain. Over millennia, this acid has etched the hard limestone into dramatic shapes sometimes with sharp edges and deep gulleys. You have to watch carefully where you put your feet in some places.  The raised portions of the pavement are known as ‘clints’ and the gap spaces in between are called ‘grikes’. It is within the grikes that rare subarctic assemblages of plants can be found, some are relict populations of normally forest-dwelling species!  There is an excellent website on the subject from the Limestone Pavement Conservation Group and an attractive and informative pamphlet published by the group, please click on the image below to download it.

Limestone Landscapes - The Orton Fells Pamphlet

Limestone Landscapes – The Orton Fells Pamphlet

The Carboniferous period lasted roughly from 359 to 299 million years ago. During this time the super-continent of Pangaea was forming and this area was coastal and experienced successive submersion. Tropical tidal flats of calcareous mud (lime-rich from broken down shells of sea creatures) with coral and shell debris built up the Asbian formation (named after the nearby community of Great Asby) over a period of 3.4 million years, from 339.4 to 336.0 million years ago. What might it  have been like back then?

Picture gin-clear tropical tidal shallows  populated with solitary and colonial corals and  sponges on the harder patches of substrate, benthic molluscs (like cockles and clams) burrowing in and out of the softer substrate and filter-feeding for a living, and Sea Lillies (crinoids) trogging about on the sea bottom too. Spined sharks cruised the shallows to snap up Teleost boney fish.

Limestone Pavement Orton Fells

Limestone Pavement Orton Fells

26 Comments leave one →
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