Rock slope failure in the Lake District, NW England: an overview

Peter Wilson, David Jarman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    An inventory of 84 Rock Slope Failures (RSFs) (mean size 0.17 km 2; total area 14.5 km 2) is presented for the Lake District and Howgill Fells, northwest England. Most are developed on Ordovician and Silurian metavolcanics and metasediments, with a minority on Ordovician igneous intrusives. The RSFs are predominantly paraglacial in nature, a few are parafluvial. Rock slope deformations, rockslides, and rock avalanches occur in the proportions 46%/36%/18%. Some RSFs, or components thereof, pre-date the LGM, some are probably of Lateglacial Interstadial age, some may date from the YDS, and others are demonstrably of Holocene age. However, numerical ages are not available. A few RSF deposits have previously been mis-interpreted as lateral moraine, and either ice-cored (glacial) or protalus/talus-foot (periglacial) rock glaciers; some RSF cavities have been mis-interpreted as cirques, although they may be evolving into them. Spatial incidence of RSF is generally sparse; several areas lack evidence, but two clusters account for 56% of the population and 58% of the RSF area. Geological factors have greater influence over mode of failure than over spatial incidence; seismicity is unlikely to have been a prime cause. A Concentrated Erosion of Bedrock model could account for RSF clustering around glacially-breached cols and enlarging trough-heads, if petro-isostatic rebound is locally augmenting generic glacio-isostatic rebound stresses. RSF incidence in the Lake District can be seen as a microcosm of the Scottish Highlands pattern. The contribution of RSFs to landscape evolution and geodiversity in the area has been underplayed: some cases display bold impacts amenable to geo-interpretation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)201-225
    Number of pages25
    JournalGeografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography
    Issue number3
    Early online date12 Oct 2022
    Publication statusPublished online - 12 Oct 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2022 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography.


    • rock slope failure
    • paraglacial
    • concentrated erosion of bedrock
    • Last Glaciation
    • Younger Dryas
    • northwest England
    • Rock slope failure


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