Sunbiggin Tarn and Great Asby Scar

Sunbiggin Tarn and Great Asby Scar

Location : Orton   –  Grid Ref : NY 675077

Sunbiggin Tarn. Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham

Sunbiggin Tarn and Moors is at a dramatic isolated place along a minor road from Orton to Crosby Garrett / Soulby, with views of Wild Boar Fell, the Howgills and Great Asby Scar. A great place for a picnic, and a walk around the adjacent limestone pavement of Great Asby Scar.


It is an important site for its variety of wildlife and plantlife, and is designated an SSSI – a site of Special Scientific Interest.


This area of low moorland is a magnet for many visiting birds during migration, plus its resident species, including Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard, Pintail, Goldeneye, tufted Duck and Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe, Water Rail, Coot, Moorhen, Snipe, possible Jack Snipe and, almost yearly, migrating Black Tern. Sedge Warbler, Cuckoo, Meadow Pipit, Red Grouse, Common Buzzard, Redshank, Wheatear and possible migrating Green Sandpiper and Marsh Harrier.


It is considered to be the most important site in Britain for petrifying springs with tufa formation. See Special Areas of Conservation in the UK for more information.


It is also one of only three sites in the UK where you will find the sandbowl snail. See UK Biodiversity Action Plan for more information.


It is on the route of the Coast to Coast Walk.


Great Asby Scar. Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham

Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve (NNR) contains some of the best examples of Limestone Pavement in Britain. Limestone pavements are nationally rare and have been extensively damaged by removal for garden rockery stone. Since the glaciers of the last ice age melted (about 10,000 years ago), weathering of the limestone has created deep fissures, or grikes, which divide the pavement into blocks called clints.


Woodland plants grow in the limestone fissures. Among them are harts tongue fern, wood anemone, dog’s mercury, rigid buckler fern, and limestone fern. Uncommon herbs such as angular solomon’s seal and bloody cranesbill grow in the pavements. Trees include small hawthorn, hazel, and ash.

More information from English Nature, The countryside Agency.

Great Asby Scar. Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham

The Castle Folds Settlement is one of the most important Romano-British sites, situated at the Orton Fells between the villages of Orton and Great Asby. This site, which was heavily fortified, can be found on top of one of the limestone scars making it all but inaccessible to people trying to attack it.


find out more about the Castle Folds Settlement in the book ‘Prehistoric Rock Art in the Northern Dales’ by Paul and Barbara Brown, published by Tempus, 2008.

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