Geo Dales Project

The Yorkshire Dales National Park contains some of the finest limestone scenery in the UK, while coarse-grained sandstones have been weathered to create famous tors like those at Brimham Rocks in Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Features like these are important for conservation, but also for the rural economy.    

Geo Dales was an innovative project celebrating the rich variety of the geology, or ‘geodiversity’ in this area, focusing on two important sites in the Yorkshire Dales and Nidderdale AONB.

Winskill Stones, Victoria Cave and Langcliffe/Attermire Scars

These sites of major scientific and historic importance are an excellent example of how geology is integral to human activity and how the latter leaves its story imprinted in the geological and archaeological record for us to interpret, share and enjoy.

Aims & achievements: 

  • Two new trails have been developed from Settle and Stainforth village focusing on the geological and archaeological points of interest en route. The trails are promoted with leaflets, panels and a smartphone app – with the aim of engaging the public, raising awareness and increasing understanding of the area.

    The smartphone ‘Geo Trail The Settle App’ is available free for Apple phones at I Tunes and Android phones at the Play Store. It provides the two walks, a directory of Settle shops and services, a local photo gallery and other places of interest to visit.
    An additional element is the new free Wi Fi service based at the old Town Hall. Courtesy of Jeremy Taylor and Steve Amphlett of Vibrant Settle.

    An innovative secret ‘signal’ panel was installed at Winskill Stones cattle grid scar illustrating and explaining the rich fossil life.

  • The project supported an exhibition marking the 175th Anniversary of the Victoria Cave re-discovery.  Victoria Cave has huge scientific and historic importance, telling us about life and climate change in the Dales over the last 600,000 years. The exhibition, based at the Museum of North Craven Life in Settle ran from July 2011 to July 2013 and included information panels and a series of educational talks and events. The panels have now been moved to a permanent display in the historic barn at Lower Winskill Farm Visitor Centre.

  • Conservation work
    Practical works at Victoria Cave focused on the urgent need to improve and control visitor access to the site and within the cave, to reduce the adverse effects of trampling and erosion of the cave sedimentary record.

    At Winskill Stones survey work, restoration and minor consolidation of two limekilns using specialist conservators was undertaken. Volunteers also helped to clear the ruined limekiln and remove agricultural debris.
  • Research
    The removal of an unstable large boulder in Victoria cave revealed undisturbed important cave sediments, which required immediate sampling and analysis. This ties in and supports research planned by University of Ulster, London and the British Museum.

    Volunteers from North Craven Heritage Research Trust also led a survey of ancient field systems at Winskill.

Greenhow and Upper Nidderdale

The Geo Dales project focused on developing some less well-known corners of Nidderdale AONB and developing community involvement and interest in geodiversity.

Aims & achievements:  

  • Geological Trails at Greenhow Hill
    The lead mining landscape of this area is notably rich in its geology. Greenhow Local History Group played a key part in developing the project with YDMT and Nidderdale AONB staff, creating a circular walk starting at the Toftgate Limekiln, taking in the Coldstones Cut at Greenhow Quarry and the historic mines at Cockhill and Gillfield. The Group installed wooden posts with ‘signal panels’, produced a trail leaflet and enabled guided visits to the mines.
  • Nidderdale Young Geologists Club
    The Greenhow Local History Group also set up a local Young Geologists Club. The group ran for two seasons with indoor sessions and excursions to sites in the field.
  • Upper Nidderdale
    The area has at its heart the Upper Nidderdale SSSI and the incredible karst scenery at How Stean Gorge. The project researched a set of geological maps, diagrams and cross sections with keys backed up by a short geological history to put these in context. These were created in a range of formats for use in leaflets, panels and websites.


Geo Dales was funded by grants from a variety of sources, including LEADER, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete UK through the Landfill Communities Fund, Hansons Greenhow Landscape and Biodiversity Enhancement Fund, and Nidderdale AONB Sustainable Development Fund.

The project also received invaluable support from many other individuals and organisations.

  • Hansons donated stone for the kiln restoration.
  • North Yorkshire County Council designed and erected interpretation posts at Greenhow.
  • Tom Lord voluntarily produced material for the Victoria Cave exhibition.
  • David Johnson, Adrian Kidd and Marion Dunn produced material for the trails.
  • Steve Finch, Robin Sutton and Tony Dilger supplied images.
  • Greenhow History Group produced material for the Greenhow Trail.

The funding for this project was made available through the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.

Click here to find out more about European Funding.