North Yorks Moors

Achieving National Park status in 1952, the North Yorks Moors is an upland area between the Vale of Cleveland to the north and the vales of Pickering & York to the south. The whole area is a designated SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and is the largest inland SSSI (Site of Special Scienfific Interest) in the UK. 26 miles of rugged coastline form its eastern boundary and in total the moors cover an area of 554 sq miles of which 96% lie within North Yorkshire (4% is in Cleveland). Although not as dramatic as the Yorkshire Dales with their Pennine influence, the physical geography of the moors is similar in that there are a series of deep valleys or 'dales' that intersect the high moorland plateau. Roughly speaking these dales flow down to one of two major river systems - the river Esk to the north and the river Derwent to the south. There are many minor dales in the North Yorks Moors (well over 100) but these are the largest / most well known -

Northern Dales - Eskdale, Westerdale, Danby Dale, Great Fryup Dale, Glaisdale, Baysdale, Commondale.

Southern Dales - Ryedale, Newtondale, Rosedale, Farndale, Bransdale, Thornton Dale, Bilsdale.

Main Habitats & Top Wildlife Sites (map top right)

Heather Moorland - although largely man made this is one of the rarest habitats in the world, around 70% of it here in the UK and a great deal of that on the North Yorks Moors which contain the larges expanses of heather moorland in the country. Whilst large tracts are given over to shooting (aug - feb) there are also areas where the moors are managed for conservation such as Fylingdales and the moors inland from Robin Hood's Bay and Ravenscar. 3 types of heather occur here - Ling, Bell and Cross Leaved along with other moorland flora such as Dwarf Cornel, Cowberry and Bilberry. Some of these heather moors are important breeding grounds for nationally declining birds such as Merlin, Hen Harrier and Golden Plover.

Limestone Grasslands & Streams - limestone lies at the very heart of the North Yorks Moors and its evidence can be seen from the steep exposed heights on Sutton Bank to the sea cliffs around Whitby. Retreating glaciers gouged through the rock and created the many broad valleys and left behind nutrient rich grasslands running down to species rich rivers and streams. White Clawed Crayfish occur in the upper reaches of the River Derwent and the River Esk supports Brown Trout, Salmon and Pearl Mussels. Fast flowing streams support many insects that provide rich pickings for birds such as Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Spotted Flycatcher whilst the flower rich grasslands especially on south facing slopes attract impressive numbers of butterflies including Duke of Burgundy, Small Pearl Bordered and Dark Green Fritillary.

Woodlands - around 23% of the national park is covered by woodlands with large plantations such as Dalby, Broxa and Boltby as well native, ancient  / semi ancient woodlands like Littlebeck, Garbutt and Brow Woods, in fact the North Yorks Moors has the largest concentration of ancient and veteran trees in northern England. The deciduous woodlands are generally better for wildlife with impressive floral displays in Spring and many varieties of fungi in the Autumn. The large forests support small numbers of breeding Honey Buzzards that are regularly seen alongside Goshawks from the Wykeham Forest raptor viewpoint. Turtle Dove, Pied & Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Nightjar are amongst the many other woodland birds to be found. Recently European Beavers have been successfully re-introduced to Cropton Forest and are thriving.

Find out more (external links)

North Yorks Moors National Park website

SAC (Special Area of Conservation) information

SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) information

Eurasian Beavers re-introduction to Cropton Forest


Moors Wildife Groups

Bransdale Moor website

Ryedale Naturalists Society

Scarborough Field Naturalists

Scarborough Birders


Header Image - Rosedale, North Yorks Moors