Bridestones Nature Reserve

On this blog, we show you a lot of what we do on our sites and why we do it but explaining our sites generally is something that is important to gain more of an understanding and context on our more specific blog posts.

So I am going to tell you about the Bridestones Nature Reserve.

Bridestones Nature Reserve is found at the south side of the North Yorkshire Moors with the nearest urban area being Pickering. Bridestones Nature Reserve is an extensive area of heather moorland dissected by steepsided stream valleys with areas of semi-natural and partially ancient woodland and former wood pasture. The Bridestones are a prominent feature of the site and their distinctive shapes and geological significance is a major feature of the reserve. Bridestones Nature Reserve contains within it Dovedale Griff, Bridestones Griff and Bridestones Moor.


Bridestones Moor is an area of upland heathland unlike many others as it is unintensively managed. The Bridestones heath is therefore in unusually good condition for nature conservation, with good diversity of dwarf shrub age, including old heather with collapsing canopy and natural dwarf shrub regeneration in the gap. It contains a mixture of wet and dry heathland including cowberry, crowberry and cranberry. The Bridestones also houses uncommon ferns and lichens. Tracks alongside the moor are home to a large amount of sundew.

However, due to the lack of intensive management on the moor we suffer from birch and conifer scrub and large areas of bracken. A lot of the management we do on the site is to reduce the scrub on the moor as it shades out and kills the heather

One anomaly that is seen on the moor is a small area of calcareous grassland. It contains common knapweed, birds’ foot trefoil, and the rare plant Adder’s-tongue fern. It is surrounded by banks of mostly bracken and bilberry. The calcareous grassland is the circled area on the map

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Bridestones Griff and Dovedale Griff

Bridestones and Dovedale Griff are both areas of semi-natural woodland is a sessile oak-birch woodland which also includes hazel and ash on the lower slopes. The woodland support a good range of native tree and shrub species such as rowan, holly and aspen. It has an excellent age structure which includes older trees and collapsed canopies and new canopies and trees.

The valley sides are dominated with bracken but also includes some dry heath. There also some birch, pine, rowan and shrubs occurring on the valleys. The valleys are a key habitat area as they provide a rare ecotone from down slopes to woodland.

Physical and Geological

The Bridestone Nature Reserve is underlain with sediments of the Upper Jurassic Age. It mainly consist of sandstones and shales. The Passage Beds form the outcrop over the Nature Reserve including the Bridestone themselves. The Bridestone are made up of alternating bands of siliceous and calcareous sandstones. Siliceous sandstones are more erosion-resistant than calcareous and has created the top heavy appearance of the Bridestones.


The griffs are made up of younger sediments that outcrop which are made up of shale clays, shales and sandstone beds.

Historical Information

The Bridestones main historical connection is with the Brigantes who were a Celtic people of the North East of England. The association of the Bridestones are with the goddess Bride is based on name and their location in a part of England once occupied by the Brigantes. They are all liminal places set in wild moorland. It is also suggested that their name derives from the Norse for edge stones. The Bridestones are seen as a shrine to the Goddess Brigantia.

Local stories about some of the Bridestones tell a tale of petrified bridal parties lost in the mists that descend on the moor.

The area has also been used for mining sandstone in the 19th and limestone was mined from the calcareous area of the moor. Here are two OS Maps from the 1850’s showing the quarries in the Nature Reserve that exists now.

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Jonny | National Trust


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