Things to do at the Bridestones, Crosscliff and Blakey Topping
Climb to the top of the Bridestones, the remains of Jurassic-era sedimentary rock deposited 150 million years ago. Then explore the surrounding nature reserve and woodland, which has been named a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Follow the footpaths uphill to marvel at the Bridestones up close. These fascinating features of the landscape are all that remains of a sandstone ‘cap’ of sedimentary rock that was deposited during the Jurassic period, some 150 million years ago.
Over thousands of years, the layers of hard sandstone alternating with softer calcareous layers have been eroded by wind, frost and rain. The results are the strange and wonderful shapes left standing today.
Known as ‘brink-stones’ or ‘edge stones’ in Old Norse, these natural monuments make the perfect backdrop to sit and have a picnic or to take in the panoramic views.
Bridestones nature reserve
Spread over 300 acres, the nature reserve surrounding the Bridestones is a high, wild and inspiring place. The area is a blend of open heather, rough pasture, wooded hillsides and grassy dales filled with flowers in summer.
The reserve has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so sensitive land management is very important. On the open moor new tree growth is controlled and you might see cattle, which are grazed to stop the land returning to the woodland it once was.
Bridestones Griff separates the two groups of stones and leads to the grassy valley of Dovedale and its ancient woodland and rippling beck.
Blakey Topping and Crosscliff
To the north of the Bridestones, Blakey Topping stands out as an isolated summit, some 60m above the surrounding land. The distinctive flat-topped hill was shaped by the massive erosive forces of meltwaters at the end of the last ice age.
Folklore offers a different explanation, however. Legend has it that the ‘topping’ was created when the giant Wade threw a spadeful of earth – which he had just dug from the nearby Hole of Horcum – at his wife. Fortunately the soil missed its target, but it landed to form the heap we see today.
Crosscliff and Allerston High Moor combine to the southeast of Blakey Topping and together they offer an area of rugged, isolated moorland off the beaten track for you to explore.
Trails around the reserve
The nearest car park (not run by the National Trust) is about 1.5 miles from Blakey Topping, at Saltergate (Hole of Horcum).
A trail called Old Wife’s Way starts just north of the car park. At a fork, bear left towards Blakey Topping to go on across the moorland of Crosscliff, or continue straight on towards the Bridestones or Dalby Forest.
Alternatively, take a short, easy-access waymarked trail for sweeping views of Blakey Topping. It starts from Crosscliff car park in Dalby Forest and you can find details on the Forestry England website.
Wildlife spotting at Bridestones nature reserve
Bridestones nature reserve is home to many animal and plant species.
The moor is not burnt to create habitat for grouse shooting or sheep farming which means mosses, lichens and invertebrates thrive. You’ll also notice a lot of ling – common heather. The carnivorous sundew plant survives in this poor soil by capturing insects on its sticky leaves.
On Blakey Topping you might be lucky enough to spot the white flowers of the rare dwarf cornel. A low-growing plant, it’s usually confined to northern mountains and is extremely uncommon south of the Scottish Highlands.
Birds, butterflies and snakes
Look out for birds such as skylarks, wheatears and meadow pipits on open land, and nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers and jays in woodland. If you’re walking through grassy meadows in late May, you just might spot a small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly.
Don’t forget to watch where you step – there's a small chance you'll stumble upon an adder basking in the early morning sun. These native snakes are Britain’s only venomous species, but you can admire them from a respectful distance.