Carboniferous limestone weathers by the limestone solution process to produce distinctive landforms both above and below ground.
Limestone pavements are flat surfaces of bare rock broken up into separate blocks. The flat surfaces of the blocks are flat surfaces of bare rock broken up into separate blocks. The flat surfaces of bare rock broken up into separate blocks.
The flat surfaces of the blocks are clints and the gaps are grykes. Rivers disappear underground either through small holes in the rock, called sink holes, or down larger holes with a funnel shape above, called swallow holes.
Underground the limestone is full of holes: small passageways, or cave systems, which from time to time open out into large chambers, or caverns.
Stalactites are made of lime hang down from the roofs like long icicles, whilst stalagmites are the thicker columns built up from the floor. In places the two meet to form a pillar of limestone.
Landscape features CONTINUED...
Rivers reappear on the surface once they have passed through the limestone outcrops and reach impereable rocks. In a few places there are surface rivers across the limestone flowing at the bottom of a gorge. When many limestone landforms like those described above occur together in an area, they form karst scenery.
Occasionally the holes that are formed by solution become so large that the roof collapses. When the roof of a long underground passageway falls in, a deep steep-sided valley, or limestone gorge, forms with the river flowing at the bottom of it. A possible example is Gordale where the blocks which may have formed the cavern roof can still be seen as debris on the floor.
Land use and economic uses
Carboniferous limestone lies on close to the ground surface, so the soil is too thin to be used for cultivation, and also dry. However, a turf-like grass covers the surface. This is good for sheep farming because they graze short grass.Population density in limestone areas is low, but the limestone landforms are attractive to visitors. Service sector employment has been boosted in the villages and small towns, while some farmers earn supplementary income from camping and caravan sites and bed and breakfast.
Limestone is of great economic importance. It is widely used as building stone. It is more easily worked than a hard rock such as granite. Limestone has been used in well-known buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and the front of Buckingham Palace. When crushed up it is used for chippings for drives or for making concrete and cement.Farmers spread lime on their fields as fertilizer. Limestone is also used as a cleanser in many industries such as smelting steel, to absorb harmful sulphur dioxide from coal-fired power stations, and to purify water.
With so many varied uses there are many quarries in limestone areas, and some visitors feel that these ruin their scenic beauty.