Malhamdale Natural History
Malham Moor and the surrounding area is wonderfully rich in natural history. This wealth stems from the climate and the geology – the limestone laid down beneath ancient seas and capped by sandstone deposits, raised up, fractured by fault lines and scoured by glaciers to form the watershed of our modern rivers. In the ice ages glacial melt wore deep valleys now often left dry as the hydrology seeks underground ways. The relic gritstone caps shape the profile of the highest hills, manifesting in craggy edges as well as in erratic boulders abandoned by the retreating ice. The rich variety of landscape thus formed results in diverse habitats.
Land adjoining High Trenhouse, including Malham Tarn estate, is owned by the National Trust. The estate supports a centre run by the Field Studies Council, which, while enabling young students to learn from nature, also offers public courses that help people appreciate this wonderful area. Malham Tarn is a designated Ramsar site – a wetland of world class significance, largely because of its particular juxtaposition of calcium rich waters and acid peat bog – a combination that creates unique ecosysytems. The whole area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
It is perhaps for birds that the area is best known – from the peregrine falcons nesting at Malham Cove to the characteristic ground nesting birds of the uplands – pewits, skylarks, curlews and oystercatchers that fill the summer air with sound – plus all the migrants that seek out this rich landscape. Others find delight in the flowers of the limestone pastures, on the tarn moss and fenlands, in the secret gardens in the grikes of the limestone pavements, or the rare species found on the upper slopes of Penyghent – and all the butterflies and insects in symbiotic relationship with them.Limestone Pavement on Malham Cove