Bolton Abbey Woods IPA
Location: South of Barden Bridge, Wharfedale, to the north east of the B6160.
Grid Reference: SE 063 565
The ancient ravine woodlands on the Bolton Abbey estate are one of the largest areas of acidic oak woodland in the Yorkshire Dales.
Here the broad River Wharfe becomes suddenly narrow and the water rushes with great force. By the wearing away of softer rock by the circular motion of small stones in hollows, a series of potholes formed which in time linked together to form a deep, water filled chasm. It is the dramatic series of waterfalls and rapids on this part of the river which are known as the Strid. The woods lie on the steep sides of the Strid, between the Cavendish Pavilion and the Strid Visitor Centre on the estate.
They are home to a rich variety of plants and animals, but particularly Orthodontium gracile, a rare bryophyte listed as Vulnerable in the Red List (and the reason why the site has been identified as an IPA). This species is a lover of the shaded acid rock ledges that are carved out by the river Wharfe as it flows through the steeply sided Strid Wood.
The oak woodland on the northern side of the river is underlaid with holly, downy birch and hazel and a ground flora including woodrush, bilberry, wavy hairgrass and several species of fern, reflecting the acidic nature of the underlying Millstone Grit. In contrast, where in places where there is underlying carboniferous limestone, the understory consists of wych elm and alder and the ground flora includes species such as opposite-leaved golden saxifrage and mountain melick.
The woodland on the southern side of the river has had more human intervention in the past. Here, beech, sycamore, poplar, larch and douglas fir have been planted amongst the native oak and ash woodland. The soil on this side of the river is less acidic and the ground flora includes bluebells, dog’s mercury, ramsons, woodruff, sanicle and the uncommon yellow star of Bethlehem.
Strid Wood is also one of the best places in the National Park to see woodland mosses, liverworts, fungi and lichens, in particular, on the shaded acid rock ledges, Orthodontium gracile, a rare bryophyte listed as Vulnerable in the Red List.