Redesdale & Elsdon Parish : Introduction To The Study Area
Survey area 3 lies to the south west of area 2 within the parish of Elsdon. At its northern edge is Darden Pike, which forms the western limit of the Simonside ridge and the boundary of the parishes of Hepple and Elsdon.
The great coniferous plantation called Harwood Forest bounds the eastern side of the survey area, and to the south the limit is the Steng Cross on Battle Hill. On the western side the survey area boundary skirts the eastern edge of the village of Elsdon. The area reaches a maximum altitude of 374m on Darden Pike.
The landscape is characterised by sandstone hills forming a wide arc of high ground. The broad plateau summits undulate in a series of ridges with northwest facing scarp slopes. Sandstone boulders and craggy outcrops break through the surface in many places.
Thin sandy soils support a semi-natural heather moorland and acid grassland with some areas of wet mire. The upper slopes of the hills provide semi-improved grazing, which in place has reverted back to rough pasture, within a pattern of large rectilinear open fields interrupted by shelterbeds of coniferous woodland. Immediately to the east of the survey area is Harwood Forest, a vast area of coniferous plantation.
The lower slopes provide improved grazing with some broadleaf cover, particularly along minor stream courses. The Simonside Hills Site of Special Scientific Interest covers an extensive area with fine examples of heathland vegetation and several rare species. Also important are the damper areas of 'flush' and mires, with purple moorgrass, bog myrtle and sphagnum moss.
The hills are formed of Carboniferous Fell Sandstone, which is a thick sequence deposited in the carboniferous period about 300 million years ago. Within the area, being almost wholly quartz-sandstones, the outcrop forms barren, heathery, moorland hills (Taylor, 1971, 52).
The survey area is defined by three contiguous land holdings: Whiskershiels, which extends to Darden Lough in the north and Eastnook in the east; and Todholes and The Lonnen to the south.