Growing Our Reserves

Four outstanding limestone landscapes linked by one Geotrail

The Landscape Trust’s Coldwell Parrock reserve is the first stop on a 6 mile geotrail which also explores three other spectacular limestone landscapes at Gait Barrows, Trowbarrow and Hawes Water.  Remarkable conservation campaigns helped to establish these four reserves and the circular walk around them passes through some of the finest scenery of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Coldwell Parrock (Landscape Trust)

This delightful reserve has a display board at the entrance gate.  Parrock means a small field or enclosure. The bedrock here is Urswick Limestone which is exposed near the limekiln and under two fine glacial erratics, a Borrowdale Volcanic Group (BVG) boulder probably from Kentmere or Longsleddale and an Urswick boulder with a dwarf ash on top which had a shorter journey perhaps from limestone scars 1km NNE near Underlaid Wood.

Borrowdale Volcanic Group glacial erratic boulder
Urswick Limestone glacial erratic

Gait Barrows NNR (Natural England)

This is the UK’s finest lowland pavement and came top for biodiversity out of 537 national pavements. Gait Barrows became a National Nature Reserve in 1981. Much of the original pavement was removed as part of a lucrative trade in water-worn limestone sold to decorate gardens and walls. The pavements have formed on Urswick Limestone and the central area holds outstanding examples of kamenitzas, solution pans formed by the chemical erosion of the near horizontal beds of limestone.

Landscape Trust field trip to Gait Barrows May 2017
A fossil kamenitza whose base has eroded through to subterranean cavities.

Trowbarrow Local Nature Reserve

Unlike Gait Barrows the Urswick Limestone beds exposed by quarrying at Trowbarrow are close to vertical, the result of structural tectonic upheavals involving faults and monoclines.  The quarry also has an interesting industrial history and witnessed the birth of quarrite, a type of tarmacadam.

When the quarry closed in 1986, the Landscape Trust launched a campaign to purchase and conserve it with the support of rock climbers, natural historians and local people. After a successful appeal the Landscape Trust donated Trowbarrow to Lancaster City Council who now run it as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) with a part-time warden.  The day to day management is co-ordinated by the Arnside & Silverdale AONB team. 

Trowbarrow Quarry is a wonderful site to study structural geology. On the rock climbers’ Main Wall the vertical beds of Urswick Limestone are part of a monocline.

Hawes Water (Natural England)

Hawes Water is part of Gait Barrows NNR and is one of Britain’s finest examples of a lowland post-glacial marl lake.  It is one of the most important quaternary research sites in the UK. The moss just north of Hawes Water was once part of a larger lake so cores taken here give an accurate record of this original lake’s sediments which reveal the story of 15,000 years of palaeo-environmental history.

Hawes Water

Silverdale Moss (RSPB)

After Hawes Water the geotrail continues via Silverdale Moss and Coldwell Lime Works and, once the new reserve paths are developed, the trail route will follow these paths to return to base.  

Coldwell Lime Works

The Geotrail

This 28 page guide has 100 colour photos, maps and diagrams and covers the geology, ecology, conservation story and history of the four reserves. There is also a short section about the RSPB’s reserve at Leighton Moss. This geotrail is part of a series aimed at walkers who want to learn more about the wonderful landscapes they are passing through. Copies are available at the AONB office at Arnside Old Station and at the Pier Gallery in Arnside for £3 with profits donated to the Landscape Trust Coldwell Appeal.

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