North York Moors History Geology and Geography

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history geology and geography of north york moors


To the north and east of the Roman walled city of York the North Yorkshire moors cover a broad area, stretching from the Vale of York and the Vale of Mowbray across to the east coast with its popular seaside resorts of Whitby, Scarborough and Filey.

The National Park covers stunning moorland, a spectacular coast line, ancient woodland and historic sites. Everywhere there are reminders of history in the form of abbey ruins, old castles and splendid cathedrals etc. On the higher ground there are many tumuli, barrows and ancient forts. Roman remains can be found, as in Romancampat Bainbrigde and there are many straight roads built by the Romans. the A66 highway from Scotch Corner was the original Roman Watling Street. There are also reminders of the occupation of the Norsemen (Vikings) in the names of villages, ending in “bergh”, “burgh” and many names of hamlets ending in “by”. Flint tools have been found, evidence of the first hunters and evidence of occupations such as shoemaking and saddle making. There are remains of Cistercian and Benedictine abbeys and priories where the mediaeval monks lived.

The varied landscapes are due to the underlying geology going back over two million years. History has seen North Yorkshire flooded by oceans, covered in huge river deltas and invaded by great ice sheets. Many geologists come to this area to study the rocks. Many locations show where there was mining, quarrying of limestone, alum, coal, building stone and jet. The area is particularly famous for fossil remains and the oldest rocks in this National Park are 200 million years old. Dark coloured shale and limestone can be seen along the coastline at Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby cliffs. About 170 million years ago the sea level fell and the area was covered in river channels and swamps. Thick sandstones formed along the coast, above Jurassic shales and formed the bedrock of central moorland. It was rich in plant life, including monkey puzzle trees, the source of the famous Whitby jet. Dinasaurs left hundreds of foot prints hence the coastline is called the Dinasaur Coast.

Some areas of the National Park have very deep and steep sided valleys which were carved out by melt water from the Ice Age. There are great expanses of purple heather on the moorland. Under the peat where the heather grows, there are rocks about 150 million years old, deposited by rivers from the north to form sandstone. Many of the houses in the village were built from this stone. It also means the soil on the moors is of poor quality.

Whether you are driving, walking or cycling you will find many amazing views and places of interest. For cyclists there is a 100 mile cycle route from the North Yorkshire Moors to the east coast.