Feb 262011

Show me a more photogenic or perfectly set village in the Yorkshire Dales than Malham, and I’ll personally jump with a pair of water wings from the top of Malham Cove.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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This gorgeous sunny morning laid special glory on the neat stone cottages, the bird-haunted gardens and the stone bridges across Malham Beck. I was already entranced as I struck out through the pastures on the paved path to Janet’s Foss. ‘Nice day for a walk,’ said the farmer mending his field wall in outsize flat cap and rubber boots. ‘Lord, didn’t the rain half come last night! We could do with it, mind. Going up Gordale? That’s quite a climb. Lovely day for it, though – wish I was coming with you!’

In a narrow, tree-shaded cleft the waterfall of Janet’s Foss sluiced down a mossy slide in twin tails of white water. Beyond the foss the jaws of Gordale Scar opened – steep slopes rising to sheer crags of jagged pale grey limestone 500 feet tall. The Scar is a vast cave, burrowed out by raging floodwaters at the end of the last Ice Age. The roof collapsed, leaving a giant chasm twisted into the body of the Dales.

‘We’re not sure about the climb,’ ruefully opined a couple, returning crestfallen from the depth of the Scar. But it proved a sheep in lion’s clothing, an upward scramble beside a jutting cataract and through an upper chamber choked with striated boulders where another fall tumbled in lacy folds from a crack in the dark walls overhead. No wonder Gothic painters and poets loved Gordale Scar – in those awe-inspiring depths it’s only natural to picture the Devil creating the chasm with a thunderous stamp of his cloven hoof.

At the top of the gorge I came out into wide, windy uplands striped with stone walls and pale terraces of naked stone, where Malham Tarn lay flat and steely. Here I turned back along the Pennine Way, through the high cleft of Dry Valley to reach the crazed limestone pavement at the rim of Malham Cove. The eerie metallic squeak of a peregrine echoed from the enormous amphitheatre of the Cove, a towering limestone cliff, all that remains of an ancient waterfall higher than Niagara. As a coda for this walk of natural extravagance and superlatives, it couldn’t have been better.

Start & finish: Buck Inn,
Malham, N. Yorks BD23 4DA (OS ref SD 901627).

Getting there:

Train: (www.thetrainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Gargrave (7 miles)
Bus: Dales Bus (http://www.dalesbus.org/malham.html) service 210, 211 from Skipton
Road: Malham is signed off A65 at Gargrave, between Skipton and Settle.

Walk (7½ miles,
moderate/hard, OS Explorer OL2): Leaving Buck Inn, right for 30m,
left by Malham Smithy across beck, right along far bank. In ¼ mile,
left past Mires Barn (902624, ‘Janet’s Foss’) on path by
Mantley Field Laithe and Janet’s Foss (911633). At road, right; in
200m left (913635, ‘Gordale Scar’) to Gordale Scar. At first fall
(915641), climb to left of fall (see note, below). In upper chamber,
climb on left side to top. Ahead to cross wall stile (914643); keep
ahead with wall on right. Pass tree; in 100m, path bears away from
wall for ½ mile to meet road wall (906652). Right along wall for ¼
mile to Street Gate (905656). Left over wall stile; ahead to road
sign; right (National Trust notice: ‘No Cars’) on gravel road for
⅔ mile to gate (898664). Left on Pennine Way/PW (fingerpost) over
ridge to car park (894658). Right along road for 50m; left (PW,
‘Malham Cove’) on path to Comb Hill (892648). Down Dry Valley
(894646 – marked ‘Watlowes’ on OS Explorer); right across
limestone pavement on rim of Malham Cove (897641). At far side,
through wall by kissing gate and down steep steps to foot of cliff
(897639); follow path back to Malham.

NB: Online maps, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk.

Please note: Slippery sections include Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar, Dry Valley, Malham Cove limestone pavement. Many steps down Malham Cove.

Gordale Scar: Moderate rock scramble by fall; plenty of hand and foot holds. NO experience needed – but if in doubt, don’t do it! Climb at your own risk. Signposted detour from road at Gordale Bridge to top of Malham Cove.

Lunch: Buck Inn, Malham (01729-830317; www.buckinnmalham.co.uk)

Accommodation: Buck Hall, Malham (01729-830332; www.beckhallmalham.com)

More info: Skipton and Craven TIC, Coach Street, Skipton (01756-792809); www.yorkshiredalesandharrogate.com;


 Posted by at 00:33

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