A Short History of Tarn Pasture
Contributor: Judy Dunford
350,000,000 yrs ago Tarn pasture was covered by a warm, shallow sea. As the sea evaporated,calcium rich animal remains and minerals were deposited which formed limestone. We can find evidence of this today at Tarn Pasture where there is exposed limestone (1) and in the stone used to build the walls. The stone on the floor of the old quarrys is covered with a thin layer of soil and in summer this is carpeted with wild flowers. There are layers of fossil shells (2) and fossilised coral (3).
350,000,000 years ago
The limestone is soft but there are also much harder minerals in places. This picture shows Calcite with some iron (4).As time has passed the limestone has been slowly dissolved by slightly acid rain and that leaves us with the karst landscape of Great Kinmond (5) and Wild Boar Fell (6) that we see today.
Also 2 plants are found growing on Tarn Pasture of which fossilised remains linking them to the plants of today have been found dating back 300,000,000 million years. These are Moonwort (7), a very small fern and Marsh Horses Tail (8).
Ice Age - 10,000 years ago
The limestone slowly eroded till we reach the ice age, 10,000 yrs ago. It eroded underground as well as above ground, with a result that sink holes or shakeholes and an underground passage system started to form. The line Tarn Syke follows was beginning to form( 9) Today, in the muddy waters of parts of Tarn Syke are two very small water snails. They only have latin names; Vertigo geyeri which Tarn Syke is its only known location in the British Isles, and Cantinella arenaria which is only found at three other sites. Both these snails have been about since the last ice age.
As the ice melted debris was deposited which started to form soil. As the soil developed trees began to grow from seeds in the ice age debris. Two flowers which grow amongst the heather suggest that Tarn Pasture was once wooded. These are Wood anemone (10) and Bluebell (11).
Until 1801 any Lord of the manor had to apply to the parliament of the day for an act of parliament to allow him to enclose land. The Lords of the manor were granted for land in Orton and Raisbeck in 1769. Tarn Pasture was enclosed, under this act in April 1779. At the time of the enclosure the pasture was divided into 100 stints or gaits. During the ensuing years the number of stint holders has been an average of 22. The pasture was to be grazed by sheep (12) between 1st October one year and the 5th April of the next year. The number of sheep grazing has never been specified. Care has to be taken with the sheep as the pasture lacks some minerals that are needed for their health and well being. Either an appropriate mineral supplement has to be given or the sheep grazing must be rotated regularly onto a different pasture. Then between 1st June and 30th September cattle and horses have grazed, one cow or horse for each stint (13 & 14). Cattle and horses thrive on the pasture. A herd is appointed to look after the health and welfare of the cattle and horses in the summer but this responsibility lies with the owner of the sheep in winter. This grazing regime is unchanged since 1779.
The shooting rights for game have always been leased, at one time this included the rights on the tarn as well but today they are leased separately. Income was divided between the stint holders.
Before the time of enclosure the residents of Great and Little Asby had turbuary rights on the pasture. These continued after enclosure until coal became readily available for fires. The terms for getting the turves stated that the top sod must be removed and replaced after the turves were cut to maintain the integrity of the surface of the pasture. No heather was to be harvested. This led to a dispute because heather was being taken as well. In 1875, when this had been going on for 20 to 40 years a legal ruling was asked for, which stated that heather was not to be removed and anyone removing it could be fined. Records of the courts leet of the time show people being fined one shilling for “pilfering of the heather”.Routine maintenance had to be carried out and receipts show the cost at the time. The stint holder held periodic meetings in the Dames School at Raisbeck and this is a record of one meeting.
People also went to Tarn Pasture for relaxation and photographs taken in 1907 show this (15 and 16).
Wildlife and Countryside Acts
THE first act came into place in 1949 and Tarn Pasture was notified and granted SSSI status in 1954. The act was amended in 1981 and Tarn Pasture was notified under this act in 1986, continuing the SSSI status. This was last revised in 1994. The reasons for Tarn pasture and the surrounding area being given SSSI status are “The tarn is a small, upland marl lake surrounded by rich fen, which together with Cow Dub forms a wetland area of outstanding biological interest. The tarn lies within an area of carboniferous limestone upland, with scars and pavements of geological interest surrounded by heath, acid grassland, and areas of acid and calcareous mire (17).
A large area covering Little Asby Common, and parts of Ravonstonedale Common, Potts Valley and Crosby Garret Fell are include as well as Sunbiggin Tarn and Tarn Pasture. This is a general view towards Little Asby(18).The whole area is of outstanding importance for its range of habitats and for the flora and fauna they support(19 and 20).
Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000
After consultation this act came into force in 2005. It gives people the “Right to Roam” on foot. There are several boards with information about this now in place at Tarn Pasture but people interpret in their own way and ride horses through the heather, drive over the moor to a bit that they want to get to or ride trail bikes around just for fun. This all does damage to the mires and the heather moorland(21 and 22).
By-way open to all traffic
In 2004 there was a Public Enquiry to decide if the footpath crossing Tarn Pasture should be extended to join the road above Newbiggin-on-Lune as had been requested by Ravenstondale Parish Council. This public enquiry in its wisdom decided that the whole length should become a by-way open to all traffic. No-one from Orton Parish was invited to attend the public enquiry. Any questions regarding Orton were answered by a person from Ravenstonedale. This by-way enters Tarn Pasture at Mereslack gate, to the south of Cow Dub and crosses to a point close to the cattle grid at the west end of tarn pasture. It has limitations in place for its use in that it is unsuitable for four-wheel drive vehicles and it is not to be used in wet weather or when the ground conditions are very wet.
Today Tarn Syke continues to run across Tarn Pasture with small tributaries joining it along its way(23). Many of these arise from springs, where water runs out of the limestone. It leaves Tarn Pasture to the north of the road and continues its way across the fields, crossing the road at Grimesmoor bridge. Near to Holme House it runs under ground for most of the time. However when there is very heavy rainfall the underground waterway is not big enough for all the water and some flows overground till it joins the Rais beck. When this happens it form a spectacular waterfall as it flows over the edge of Slapestones Quarry (24). The underground water eventually finds its way to the River Lune but the route it takes is unknown.
There are over 100 wild flowers growing on Tarn Pasture today as well as Hawthorn trees and numerous varieties of grass, sedge, moss and liverwort.
The flowers of the boggy areas include Round leaved sundew(25), Bog asphodel(26), and Marsh cinquefoil(27).
Several varieties of Cotton grass grow in the boggy area and the areas which are wet for most of the year. Birdseye primrose(28) only grows where acid water runs out of the peat and over limestone. Flowers of wet areas include Butterwort(29) and Water avens andGrass of parnassus(30).
On the thin soil over limestone flowers like Rockrose(31), Yellow rattle(32), Slender St Johnswort(33) and Autumn gentian grow.
There are also many orchids These include Fragrant orchids(34) and Early purple orchids(35) which grow mainly on the limestone grassland and Early marsh orchids(36), Northern marsh orchids(37) and many variations of crossbred orchids(38).
All the flowers encourage insects and there are many Hoverflies, Bumblebee’s and butterflies. Unfortunately many of the ducks and the gull colony seem to have gone from the tarn but a pair of swans still raise their young there. There are many frogs(39) of varying sizes in the wetter areas of the pasture. There are also a few deer(40) which live around the tarn and Tarn Pasture. Some of the heather is in poor condition, but there is new heather growing. Hopefully the pasture will remain for future generation to enjoy.