Limestone Pavement Conservation LOGO Limestone Pavement Conservation


Limestone pavement stone, which is also known as water-worn limestone Westmorland stone, Irish water stone or Cumberland stone, has been used in garden rockeries since the last century. In the last forty years damage to this natural habitat where it occurs in the countryside has become more widespread and extensive areas of pavement in the UK and Ireland have been relentlessly stripped with the aid of machinery.

To many gardening enthusiasts, a rockery is still regarded as one of the most desirable features in any garden. Unfortunately, it is this continuing use of water-worn limestone in rockeries which threatens the very existence of limestone pavements and the special plants which live in them. Gardeners are often oblivious to the significance of its origins and the fact that one of the world's finest habitats is being destroyed. For more information about the flora found on limestone pavements, please follow this link (to ecology section)

The famous limestone pavement rock garden at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) garden at Harlow Carr is a good example of a limestone pavement rock garden. The rock was donated to the Society in the 1960s. It was originally a Victorian rock garden in a stately home. The RHS who campaign against the extraction of limestone pavement make a statement in their guide to the garden that “The removal of such stone from its natural position would not be acceptable in today's more environmentally conscious climate where we recognise the need to preserve original landscapes”.

A summary of the RHS’s policy on limestone pavement can be found below. To see the full document, please go to the RHS website by clicking here.

The Royal Horticultural Society policy on the use of limestone in horticulture

In pursuit of rock plant cultivation or landscape design, some garden constructions have, quite often unwittingly, contributed to the destruction of water-worn limestone pavement, which is a scarce natural resource of peculiar beauty in parts of the British countryside.

All such usage is unacceptable, and the RHS strongly advises the choice of alternative materials obtained from approved sources and by quarrying methods which present no threat to the natural environment.

Gardeners, as well as others, should be aware of the threat to the limestone pavement, and the nature of the problem should be given the widest publicity.

More information can be found on the RHS by clicking here.

Summary of RHS policy

1) The Royal Horticultural Society supports the efforts made to protect remaining Limestone Pavements.

2) The Society does not use surface-stripped Limestone Pavement rock in any of its Gardens.

3) The Society does not permit the use of surface-stripped Limestone Pavement rock in exhibits at its Shows. It disapproves of any activities which promote the use of such rock and recommends the use of alternatives.

4) The Society advises the use of other types of natural stone for the building of rock gardens and landscaping work. Wherever possible stone from redundant constructed features should be used.

5) The Society encourages gardeners to be alert to the possibility of damaging effects on the natural environment which may arise from the acquisition of any type of rock.

Alternatives to water-worn limestone

There are many alternatives to limestone pavement which can be used in gardening or landscaping that are readily available - and environmentally more acceptable. These include deep quarried limestone, slate, granite, and sandstone. It is also possible to buy moulded resin rocks which have been cast to look like pieces of limestone pavement. These have a water-worn appearance and would be suitable for use in water features. You can even have a go at making your own rocks. The late Geoff Hamilton who was a a long-time supporter of the Limestone Pavement campaign, provided a recipe for making a home-made alternative to water-worn limestone.
If you see limestone pavement for sale, please contact the Limestone Pavement Action Group to let us know ( We can then contact the retailer and explain how through the sales of water-worn limestone, they are helping to destroy an endangered habitat, and encourage them to sell alternative stone for landscaping purposes.

Advice for retailers and garden centres
Do you sell rockery stone?

Did you know that a globally rare habitat, which took thousands of years to form, is being destroyed to build garden rockeries? Garden Centres can lead the way in protecting this habitat.
Limestone Pavement is unique. It consists of expanses of bare limestone rock criss-crossed with deep fissures called ‘grikes’. The grikes are home to several rare species of plants and animals.
Limestone Pavements are destroyed to provide water worn limestone, which is often sold as Irish Limestone, Weathered Limestone, Cumbrian Stone or Westmorland Stone.
There is no way of telling whether water worn limestone is from a legal or illegal source. There are definitely large amounts of illegally obtained pavement stone on the market in the UK.
Limestone Pavement receives the highest protection status at a European level, and large areas of pavements in the UK and Ireland are legally protected. However, pavement stone is still being removed.

There are plenty of alternatives for use as rockery stone which are not as damaging to the environment, such as deep quarried limestone, granite, slate, reconstituted stone and artificial substitutes made from fibreglass or cement.





Digger removing limestone pavement: Ireland
Digger removing limestone pavement: Ireland

Very large doline
RHS Harlow Carr limestone pavement rockery

Dark red helleborine
Dark red helleborine

Geoff Hamilton's recipe for rocks

2 parts coir
2 parts sharp sand
1 part fresh cement concrete (neutral for best effect)
a sheet of polythene

1.Dig an irregularly shaped hole in the ground to be a mould for your rock.
2.Line it with polythene, or plastic sacks with lots of crinkles to create the fissures in the surface of the rock
3.Mix the ingredients together to a porridgey consistency, pour into the hole. Wait until thoroughly dry - about 3 days, depending on the weather.
4.Lift out the rock and move to desired site.
5.Paint with yoghurt or liquid manure to encourage weathering.

Limestone pavement for sale
Limestone pavement for sale



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