NATURE

Nature

Enjoy landscape, geological features, wildlife and botany in beautiful surroundings

 Landscape and Geology
Two principal factors conditioned the formation of Conistone and Kilnsey's landscape in geological times - the presence of hard Carboniferous limestone as the predominant bedrock, and the action of glaciers during the Ice Ages.  So Kilnsey Crag is a 'truncated spur', formed by the force of the Wharfedale glacier moving down the valley and cutting away a projecting mass of limestone; the dramatic limestone gorge of Conistone Dib, behind the village, and the dry valley of Gurling Trough beyond, were created by the action of post-glacial meltwater at the end of the last Ice Age;  and the flat valley bottom between Kilnsey and Conistone is the site of a glacial lake which was held back by a moraine across the valley about a mile south of Kilnsey near Chapel House Farm.


The fine landscape beyond Gurling Trough includes areas of the characteristic 'limestone  pavement' - flat expanses of bare rock formed by retreating glaciers scouring away the soil and other loose material, and remaining exposed because on limestone weathering creates no new soil - and the distinctive limestone outcrop nicknamed Conistone Pie.  Further south, a second meltwater channel runs alongside Grass Wood, with a dry waterfall know as Dib Scar; and Grass Wood itself, extending towards Grassington, is a good example of an upland ash wood on limestone pavement, in which a series of attractive footpaths was laid out in the nineteenth century.
Nature: Birds, Botany and Butterflies

 Within close reach of Conistone and Kilnsey there is a variety of habitats rich in wildlife, including a riverine pasture, mixed woodland, upland pasture and moorland. These very different habitats attract a wonderful variety of wildlife, including birds, flowers, butterflies and moths.

At various times of year up to 80 species of birds have been spotted within a three-mile radius, as resident birds are joined by summer and winter migrants.

Spring brings the welcome call of the curlew as it floats down from the hilltop, and flocks of lapwings begin seeking their nest sites in the rough pastures. By Easter-time the wheatears are back, followed by the early sand martins, and then the warblers begin to sing.  House martins, swallows and swifts appear over the villages and, in May, spotted flycatchers may nest around the houses.

Occasionally, red kites and migrating ospreys are seen in the area, along with the resident buzzards, sparrow hawks, peregrines, kestrels and ravens.

There are regular sightings of 16 species of butterfly and a wide variety of wild flowers, particularly limestone loving orchids and helleborines which can be seen very easily (for a small fee) in the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Kilnsey Park, where a nature footpath has been created around Kilnsey Flush.

Land behind Kilnsey village is also part of the extensive Malham-Arncliffe SSSI which is of outstanding geological and biological interest. In the 1450s a hedge and ditch was created to enclose 'The Cool', a cow pasture alongside Cool Scar above Kilnsey village, and today Cool Pasture is also designated as an SSSI.

On the other side of the dale, Conistone Old Pasture is another SSSI where mountain pansies, fragrant orchids, birds eye primrose, dropwort, rock-rose, field gentians and grass of parnassus can be found.

In Grass Wood, between Conistone and Grassington, you can see many interesting plants including herb paris, wild garlic, lily of the valley, Solomon's Seal, orchids, violets, harebells and field scabious.  Grass Wood is owned and managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Lower Grass Wood, next to the river, is owned by the Woodland Trust and has ash, oak, birch, blackthorn, dog rose and hazel trees.  Here you can find primroses, cowslip and bluebells.

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