Perched high on the side of Ingleborough this impressive nature reserve has large areas of prime limestone pavement with its associated rich plant life but also high quality limestone grassland and blanket bog.
The outstanding feature of Southerscales is a huge area of open limestone pavement which is truly awe-inspiring with a fascinating pattern of runnels on its surface and deep grykes which provide shelter for many interesting plants including baneberry and rigid buckler fern.
In the shallower, grassy grykes, plants such as meadow rue, fragrant orchid, Northern and limestone bedstraw and field garlic grow. In the wetter places you may find the stunning bird's-eye primrose.
The limestone grassland is covered with thousands of early purple orchid in spring followed by a succession of beautiful flowers such as small scabious, harebell, eyebright and carline thistle over summer. The acid grassland holds a different range of species typical to its condition, including round-leaved sundew, cross-leaved heath, ling heather and bog asphodel. There are a wide range of grasses and sedges here too.
You may find palmate newts in the two small ponds on site, along with common frog. On warm days, many butterflies can be seen including the fast-flying dark green fritillary, common blue, small heath and meadow brown. Britain’s largest moth, the emperor, can be seen in spring.
Take the path through the reserve – many plants can be seen along the edges without the need to venture on to the fragile and hazardous limestone pavement.
At an altitude of 1,100 feet this large site is part of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve and has been managed by the Trust since 1982. Lying on a bench of carboniferous limestone, some areas are covered with boulder clay leading to the formation of acid grassland and blanket bog.
There are a number of caves and potholes to explore, including the massive shakehole of Braithwaite Wife Hole right by the main path.
The pavement can be extremely slippery during wet weather and limestone blocks can be loose. Visitors should take special care at all times and watch out for deep grykes and potholes.
The Trust manages the grassland with grazing, employing the traditional method of cattle in summer and sheep in winter to maintain the ecological balance of the site.
Discover Yorkshire's Wildlife
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The nearest train station is in Ribblehead.
For up-to-date bus services visit Dales Bus
The nature reserve is off the B6255 Ingleton to Hawes Road. Follow path below the layby and small water company building on the B6255 through the gate. Follow the track towards Ingleborough for three fields to the nature reserve entrance. Another entrance is accessible by parking near the Old Hill Inn and walking south
Want to see more of Southerscales Nature Reserve before your visit? Have a look below.