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.