The Westmorland Dales is the product of millions of years of Earth processes and a few thousand years of human activity. Geological processes continue to shape the landscape on a range of scales. Rocks tumble from crags, fissures in limestone widen and sinkholes develop as the rock gradually dissolves. The area’s becks and rivers are constantly eroding, transporting and depositing material.
Geology has governed where settlements are located, what they are built of, what local resources exist and what industries developed. Rocks and landscape have also shaped local people’s beliefs, leading to a rich cultural heritage of stone circles, cairns and the intriguingly named ‘thunder stones’.
The activities of people living and working here for millennia have had a profound influence on the landscape. Agriculture has played a major role, through early woodland clearance, enclosure by dry stone walls, drainage and liming, and the development of farming settlements. Quarrying has also greatly influenced the landscape, leaving a legacy of old workings, limekilns and a distinctive built heritage. Some old workings, where safe, are now excellent places to explore the area’s geology, as well as being important wildlife habitats.