Moorhouse and Cross Fell

Moorhouse and Cross Fell is a Site of Special Scientific Interest covering an extensive area of moorland in the Wear Valley district of west County Durham and the Eden district of Cumbria, England. It is contiguous with Upper Teesdale SSSI to the east and Appleby Fells SSSI to the south. The area covered extends roughly from an arc through the villages of Gamblesby, Leadgate and Garrigill southward as far as Milburn in the west and Cow Green Reservoir in the east. It includes the whole of Cross Fell, the summit of which, at 893 metres asl, is the highest point in the Pennines and in England outside the Lake District.

The area is important for its wide variety of upland habitats, especially blanket bog, sub-montane and montane heath, montane bryophyte heath, limestone grassland and flushes, and for the fauna and flora that they support. The site also includes a number of localities of geological interest.[1]

More than forty species of birds breed in the area, including several raptorsmerlin, peregrine, common buzzard, common kestrel, short-eared owl—and wadersEurasian golden plover, dunlin, common sandpiper, northern lapwing, Eurasian curlew, common redshank, and common snipe—whose survival is threatened; four (merlin, peregrine, golden plover and short-eared owl) are listed in Annex 1 of the European Commission's Birds Directive as requiring special protection and others (including lapwing and dunlin) are listed in the United Kingdom's Red Data Book (Birds).[1][2]

The invertebrate fauna is best known from studies conducted over many years at the Moor House NNR.[3] The area shares many characteristics with the Cairngorms region of Scotland but there are some notable rarities, including a rove beetle, Olophrum assimile, which is known from only one other locality in Britain, a carabid beetle, Nebria nivalis, which has not been found anywhere else in the North Pennines and is known elsewhere in Britain only from North Wales, the Cairngorms and Scafell Pike, and a leiodid beetle, Hydnobius spinipes, which is known from only four other localities in Britain. In all, some 27 endangered species and over 70 nationally scarce species have been recorded from the Moor House reserve.[1]

Although the area has a variety of habitats, it is the montane vegetation that is particularly notable. The summit of Cross Fell is dominated by a heath in which the moss Racromitium lanuginosum is dominant and is the most extensive area of such heath in England. Other notable montane and sub-montane species include hair sedge, Carex capillaris, northern bedstraw, Galium boreale, mountain everlasting, Antennaria dioica, and alpine forget-me-not, Myosotis alpestris.[1]

Within the site are five localities of geological interest, of which the following are particularly notable:[1]

  • Knock Fell Caverns — situated at the head of Knock Ore Gill, this is the most extensive maze cave system in Britain.
  • Cross Fell — together with the Dun Fells and Knock Fell, this area is important both for its examples of periglacial landforms and because some periglacial processes are still active.
Moorhouse and Cross Fell
Cross Fell summit
Summit of Cross Fell, with Great Dun Fell in the distance
Map showing the location of Moorhouse and Cross Fell
Map showing the location of Moorhouse and Cross Fell
Location of Moorhouse and Cross Fell, Cumbria / Durham
LocationTeesdale, Durham
Eden, Cumbria, North East, England
Coordinates54°43′N 2°23′W / 54.717°N 2.383°WCoordinates: 54°43′N 2°23′W / 54.717°N 2.383°W
Area13,707 ha (52.92 sq mi)
Established1951 / 1963
Governing bodyNatural England
WebsiteMap of site

SSSI history

In 1975, Moor House NNR was the first site in Britain to be declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Moorhouse and Cross Fell SSSI was created in 1990 as part of a substantial revision of existing SSSIs that had originally been notified under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. In the course of the revision, parts of the Cross Fell SSSI and Upper Teesdale and Appleby Fells SSSI were amalgamated with Moor House NNR to form the new Moorhouse and Cross Fell SSSI.

The site is within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is one of a group of SSSIs underlying the North Pennines Moors Special Protection Area designated in 2001 under the European Union Birds Directive.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Moorhouse and Cross Fell" (PDF). English Nature. 1990. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
  2. ^ Eaton, M A; A F Brown; D G Noble; A J Musgrove; R Hearn; N J Aebischer; D W Gibbons; A Evans; R D Gregory (2009). "Birds of Conservation Concern 3: the population status of birds in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man". British Birds. 102: 296–341.
  3. ^ Downie, I S; J C Coulson; L J Bauer; J E L Butterfield; L Davies; S A Goodyear (1994). "The invertebrate fauna of Cross Fell and Dun Fell summits". Vasculum. 79: 48–62.
  4. ^ "Designated sites". English Nature.
Geology of County Durham

This article describes the geology of the ceremonial county of Durham. It includes the boroughs of Darlington, Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees but not those former northeastern parts of the county which are now in the county of Tyne and Wear.The geology of County Durham in northeast England consists of a basement of Lower Palaeozoic rocks overlain by a varying thickness of Carboniferous and Permo-Triassic sedimentary rocks which dip generally eastwards towards the North Sea. These have been intruded by a pluton, sills and dykes at various times from the Devonian Period to the Palaeogene. The whole is overlain by a suite of unconsolidated deposits of Quaternary age arising from glaciation and from other processes operating during the post-glacial period to the present. The geological interest of the west of the county was recognised by the designation in 2003 of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as a European Geopark.

The word 'geology' may be traced back to a coinage of Richard de Bury who was a Bishop of Durham in the 14th century. He introduced the term geologia in his work The Philobiblon which he explained as 'the earthly science'.

List of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in County Durham

This is a list of the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in County Durham, England. It excludes SSSIs situated in that area south of the River Tyne that is now part of the metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear as well as the area north of the River Tees which, prior to 1996, formed part of the county of Cleveland.

As of July 2010, County Durham has 88 sites that have been designated as SSSIs, of which 67 have been designated for their biological interest, 16 for their geological interest, and 5 for both.Five of these sites are shared with an adjacent county:

Moorhouse and Cross Fell with Cumbria;

Derwent Gorge and Horsleyhope Ravine, Hexhamshire Moors and Muggleswick, Stanhope and Edmundbyers Commons and Blanchland Moor with Northumberland;

Durham Coast with both Cleveland (in the south) and Tyne and Wear (in the north).

List of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Cumbria

The following is a list of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in Cumbria, England, United Kingdom. In England the body responsible for designating SSSIs is Natural England, which chooses a site because of its fauna, flora, geological or physiographical features.As of July 2012 there were 278 SSSIs within Cumbria. Of these, 70 are listed purely for their geological interest and 170 for their biological interest. A further 38 have both geological and biological interest.The county includes the whole of the Lake District National Park, as well as three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: the Solway Coast, part of Arnside and Silverdale, and part of the North Pennines.

For SSSIs in other counties, see List of SSSIs by Area of Search.

List of the largest Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England

This is a list of the largest Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England in decreasing order of size. A lower threshold of 100 hectares or one square kilometre has been used.

Moor House-Upper Teesdale

Moor House-Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve covers 7,400 ha of the Pennine moors in the north of England. It straddles Cumbria and County Durham. It was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1976.

The Moor House area was in the first group of National Nature Reserves (NNRs) created in England when it was designated in 1952. Upper Teesdale was a separate nature reserve until the end of the twentieth century.

The combined reserve is England's highest and largest NNR. Great Dun Fell is the highest point. The Pennine Way passes through both “halves” of the reserve.

Upper Teesdale

Upper Teesdale is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the Teesdale district of west County Durham, England. It encompasses an extensive upland area that includes the headwaters of the River Tees and the surrounding catchment area upstream of the village of Langdon Beck.

The site has a diverse mix of habitats, mainly dry heath, with wet heath and blanket mire in areas that are poorly drained.

The SSSI is one of the most important botanical sites in Britain; the flora is exceptionally rich in species that are nationally rare, including some that are relicts of the arctic-alpine environment of the last glacial period. The area supports internationally important populations of some wading birds and is home to several rare invertebrates. Within the SSSI are several locations that are of national importance geologically, including one of only two known outcrops of 'sugar' limestone in Britain.The southern part of the SSSI largely coincides with the eastern portion of the Moor House-Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, which has been designated a 'Biosphere Reserve' by UNESCO. The entire area falls within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Much of Upper Teesdale SSSI was formerly designated as Upper Teesdale and Appleby Fells SSSI. Following a substantial revision in 1990, most of the site was divided between two new (but adjoining) SSSIs, Upper Teesdale in Durham and Appleby Fells in Cumbria. A small part was amalgamated with Moor House NNR to form a third SSSI, Moorhouse and Cross Fell, which is contiguous with the other two. At the same time, two further SSSIs, Mill Beck Wood and Moking Hurth Cave, were incorporated into Upper Teesdale SSSI and ceased to exist as separate entities.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.