Brimham Rocks: A forest of pre-historic boulders hidden in the rolling hills of Yorkshire

Jennie Henry has been finding discovering the history of a pre-historic wonder hidden in the rolling hills of Yorkshire for ITVX


Perched high on the valley and peeking into the Yorkshire Dales, is a forest of pre-historic boulders which appear to defy gravity.

Brimham Rocks, ten miles from Harrogate, was formed over 340 million years.

In its infancy, at a time when England was somewhere near the equator, dinosaurs would have been the first recognisable life to explore the moorland rock formations.

Geologist Dr Oliver Wakefield told ITV Tyne Tees one of the rocks is believed it to date back 322 million years.

"We would have had really lush tropical waters and this part would have been on land, but this entire rock was actually deposited in a huge river - a really big gritty river," he said.

"And all of the features we see in it, all these layers, were actually created from this river moving."

Dr Oliver Wakefield explains the history of the rock forms to reporter Jennie Henry. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

For many years, people believed the rocks had the same origin as Stonehenge - that they were built by the druids.

But it was nature that shape-shifted them into position, with water, wind and ice further sculpting them over time.

"There's nothing manmade about this rock," said Alec Boyd, area manager. "This is just nature in all its glory."

Mr Boyd said one of the most popular rocks on the site was the Idol stone.

"It's a huge chunk of rock balanced on something the size of three or four dinner plates," he continued.

"The base of the rock is made out of slightly weaker materials than the things up on the top which is why it's eroded much more.

"What was once a weak layer gets strengthened by that compaction and by the weight on top of it.

"They've moved around a lot, they've been underground, they've been above ground, they've seen things that no other human will ever see."

The Idol stone is said to be one of the most popular of Brimham Rocks. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Like something from another planet, the site of geological and scientific interest has been marvelled at by visitors through the centuries.

Victorians were captured making their pilgrimage to the rocks in their finery, while in more recent times, superstars have been attracted by the ancient formations, which providing the backdrop to the Bee Gees' music video for their 1987 hit You Win Again.

Justin Scully, general manager, said the site as a visitor attraction could be dated back as far as the early 1700s.

He added: "We've found some great posters of people ordering luncheon boxes in Ripon and then they can come up in their carriage and be amazed by the rocks."

Victorians clambered up the paths of the Brimham Rocks site n their finery. Credit: National Trust

A sight to behold, the rocks are also popular among climbers.

The National Trust is in charge of protecting Brimham Rocks for the future.

"We have a fine balance between making sure everybody can come and enjoy this place whenever they want to, and looking after it," said Jen Taylor, from the National Trust.

She added that paths keep visitors away from the rocks, to avoid erosion, while the car park is small enough not to attract too many people in one go.

A conservation team is also on hand to safeguard the site for years to come.


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