History of Tarn Moor
Judy Dunford

Judy Dunford told us about Tarn Moor, or as it is also known Tarn Pasture ,its history ,flora and fauna with slides showing us examples  of these.

Tarn Moor is to the East of Orton and is an SSSI (Sight of Special Scientific Interest), and over 300 million 
years old.

Sunbiggin Tarn

350,000,000 YRS AGO

This area was covered by a warm shallow sea. Calcium rich animal remains was deposited to form limestone. In limestone you can find fossil shells, fossilised coral and mineral deposits (calcite). As time passed, land moved north as a result of volcanic activity and the limestone split. It is also a soft stone and it has eroded over the years, which leaves us with the karst landscape of today. Moonwort and Marsh Horsetail are plants growing today which can be linked through DNA to fossils 300,000,000 yrs old.

ICE AGE - 10,000 YRS AGO:-

The limestone slowly eroded till the last ice age. With erosion underground passageways and shakeholes started to form. Tarn Syke was also starting to form and today two tiny snails can be found in mud in the syke which have been around since the last ice age. As the ice melted debris was deposited on the limestone. Two woodland flowers are present growing in Tarn Pasture today, Wood Anemone and Bluebell. These suggest the area was once wooded


Till 1801 any Lord of the Manor wanting to enclose land, had to apply to parliament for an act of Parliament to allow them to enclose the land. The enclosure act for Orton and Raisbeck was granted in 1769 and Tarn Pasture was enclosed under this act in 1779. After enclosure the pasture was divided into 100 stints, gaits or gates. The number of stint holders has averaged 22 over the years. It was specified at the time that sheep would graze from 1st October and 5th April the next year. No number of sheep to graze was ever specified. The pasture is deficient in some minerals so for the health of the animals they have to be either given a mineral supplement or the grazing rotated with other pastures. From 1st June to 30th September cattle and horses graze, one cow or horse for each stint. This grazing regime has not changed since 1779. A hird is appointed to look after the welfare of the cattle and horses but the farmer putting sheep on the pasture in winter is responsible for his own animals. Shooting and fishing rights have also been let since this time.

Before the time of the enclosure the residents of Great and Little Asby had been granted turbary rights. This continued after enclosure. They had to remove the top sod, take the roots, peat etc for their fires and then replace the top sod. They could not harvest heather. This led to a dispute in the 1800's and in 1885 a legal ruling was asked for. This stated that anyone not complying could be fined. In the Courts Leet records there are records of people being fined one shilling for "taking of the ling."

Photographs from 1907 show people still going to Tarn Pasture for pleasure and relaxation as they do today.

Two of the wild flowers found at Tarn Pasture

Birdseye Primrose



The first act came into place in 1949 and Tarn Pasture was granted SSSI status under this act in 1954. The act was amended in 1981 and the SSSI status was renewed under this act in 1986. It recognises the geological importance of the pasture as well as the wide range of flora and fauna it supports.


This act gives people the right to walk anywhere on the pasture. It does not give the right for horses or motorised vehicles to travel on any extra routes than those which were already in place.


This follows the route of a footpath which runs from Mereslack gate in the wall to the south of the tarn to the cattlegrid in the road on the western edge of the pasture. It came into being in 2004 following a public enquiry in Ravenstonedale."

An interesting evening with many questions asked