Older rocks in the Lake District

in Limestone

The varied sequence of older rocks which makes up the heart of the Lake District gives way to a series of younger and for the most part softer rocks on their margins.luxury themed boutique hotels in the lake district The Carboniferous and New Red Sandstone rocks form an incomplete encircling rim breached only by the penetrating estuaries of Morecambe Bay in the south. Where harder beds occur, like the compact and massive Carboniferous Limestone, they give rise to a series ofinfacing escarpments. Faulting has isolated the limestone into tabular blocks and in the country southwest of Kendal they rise abruptly from the marshes and estuarine meadows of the Gilpin and Winster. Scarps like Whitbarrow and Underbarrow are impressive landscape elements, with the harder beds standing out as scars and the whole of the lower slope covered with rubble screes.

On top, bare limestone pavements with deep grooves or grykes occur in a few places like Farrer's Allot¬ment on Whit barrow, but they are not nearly so extensive here as on Hutton Roof to the southeast. To the west of Kendal the road which leads across the tops of Underbarrow passes through a partially enclosed hollow just below Bradleyfield House which resembles, on a small scale, the basin feature known as a polje,  of common occurrence in many limestone areas on the continent. Mter heavy rain water often collects in the bottom and, for a time, a lake is formed which floods across the road. Beyond Shap there is another extensive area of limestone largely taken up by Lowther Park. This park, the creation of the Earls of Lonsdale, has given the area an artificial appearance, but no amount of landscaping by the eighteenth¬century practitioners could alter the bold white scars which dominate the south¬western face near Knipe Moor. Across the Eamont valley the limestone scenery is very subdued, largely because the solid rock is masked by thick deposits of glacial drift.

Quarries like those near Newbiggin mark the con¬tinuation of the limestone outcrop in a northwesterly direction into Inglewood Forest. Rocky knolls of limestone occasionally poke through the drift in Grey¬stoke Park and the house is itself built oflimestone obtained from quarries on the estate. It makes quite a good freestone for building, but its principal use is for dry stone walling. At Hutton Roof there is an impressive edge to the limestone with a drop of over 200 ft to the flat floor of the Mungrisdale trench. The river Caldew winds its way across the marshy valley, but beyond Hatcliffe Bridge the river cuts through the limestone in a small, though impressive, gorge. Meter a period of prolonged dry weather, when the river flow is low, much of the water disappears down swallow holes leaving only large pools in the river bed.

The most spectacular limestone gorge in the area is undoubtedly that which occurs just west of Caldbeck. Here, in the area known as The Howk, a relatively small tributary of the Caldew forms what the nineteenth century guide books describe as 'a picturesque cascade in a narrow glen fringed with firs'. When Whellan wrote his topographical history of Cumberland in 1860 he described a natural arch cut in the limestone. This has now collapsed but the gorge still retains some gigantic circular swallow holes one of which, the 'Fairies Kettle', has the appearance of boiling water when the river is in spate. The whole gorge of the Howk is a most impressive piece of limestone architecture, but, judging by the overgrown mossy paths, few who come to Caldbeck in search of John Peel venture up the valley.

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Adrian vultur writes for luxury themed boutique hotels in the lake district

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Older rocks in the Lake District

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This article was published on 2011/01/11