Area: 19.09 hectares.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
This site comprises a series of caves, in a ridge of Devonian Limestone, that are of importance to the study and dating of Pleistocene fossil fauna. Several of the caves are also bat roosts.
The caves (including the famous ‘Tornewton Cave’) represent one of the most important Pleistocene localities in Britain and provide a clear sequence of the fossil fauna representing the Wolstonian Cold Stage/Ipswichian Interglacial/Devensian Cold Stage Cycle.
Equally significant is the occurrence of the remains of species long extinct in Britain and seldom found as fossils in this country. Fossil evidence of the clawless otter Aonyx antigua and steppe lemming Lagurus lagurus is unique to this site, while fossil remains of glutton Gulo gulo and hamsters Cricetus cricetus and Allocricetus bursae are only rarely found elsewhere. The last named species is extinct.
Many of the faunistically older deposits (The Glutton and Bear Strata) remain in situ within the cave deposits. The Devensian horizons, including the Reindeer Stratum which are the youngest deposits, occur extensively in sediments at the front of the cave entrances.
The caves are also used by several species of bat: greater horseshoe Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, lesser horseshoe R. hipposideros and long-eared Plecotus spp. bats have been recorded at this site.