Natural England - 21 Yorkshire Dales

21 Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales NCA full profile cover


The Yorkshire Dales National Character Area (NCA), situated in the Pennine uplands, is a landscape of high, exposed moorland dissected by sheltered valleys or dales, each with their own character. Geologically, the south-west of the area is considered to be outstanding for its ‘karst’ (limestone) landforms, cave systems and exposures of Carboniferous rocks.

Over two-thirds of the area falls within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and 17 per cent of the area falls within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The landscape is characterised by contrasts, especially between the dales below and the moors above.

In the dales the environment is more sheltered and there are intricate patterns of walled fields, containing meadow grasses and wild flowers. Small villages and farmsteads, built of local stone, are tucked into sheltered corners, often with clumps of trees protecting them from the worst of the elements. On the dale sides, the network of walls continues with scattered stone field barns often appearing as distinctive features. The steepest slopes are frequently marked by the presence of sparse woodlands or sometimes open rock scree.

There are large areas of actively managed grouse moorlands in the north and the east of the NCA. This enterprise makes a significant contribution to the local landscape character of areas such as Nidderdale and Swaledale. Fast-flowing streams tumble down the slopes, forming dramatic waterfalls where the rock is harder and coarser.The NCA is the source of 21 major rivers.

On the fell tops the grassland gives way to sweeps of heather moorland and cotton grass bog. Everywhere there are dramatic views of characteristic combinations of hillside, valley walls and barns, punctuated by outcrops of rock, streams and trees, and enlivened by the colours and textures of wild flowers.

The area is distinctive for its well-preserved archaeology spanning from Mesolithic to modern industrial sites, its traditional architecture and its nationally and internationally rare habitats such as limestone pavement and upland hay meadows.

Designated sites include Malham Tarn, which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Ramsar site, Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and National Nature Reserve; the North Pennine Moors, an SSSI, SAC and Special Protection Area (SPA); and Ingleborough, an SSSI and SAC. The area also has a high coverage of voluntary agri-environment agreements to improve the management of priority habitats and landscape features.

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21 Yorkshire Dalesexternal link (NE399)

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