Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Greatest Glacial Hits of Malham. . .

Malham, a tiny village tucked away in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is a place that lots of walkers mention and love.  So I was delighted when the Liverpud signed up to lead a walk there for our ramblers group.  I convinced him to make a weekend of it and so we booked a lovely hotel and had the time to leisurely recce two different walks.

On the Saturday during a thirteen mile circular walk, we basically covered all the scenic places that Malham is famous for.  This area has been spectacularly shaped by glaciers and glacial retreats thousands of years ago, and the remnants are everywhere to see.  We first set off along the path towards Gordale Scar, a huge ravine, left after the Ice Age.  You first walk through a lovely forest area.

I loved spotting these bee book-nests, hanging from the trees.

Soon you come to Janet's Foss, rumoured to be home to the queen of the local fairies.

Then you head towards the ravine itself.

And here is Gordale Scar in its glory.  You might just be able to glimpse two intrepid hikers near the middle of the bottom waterfall.  The ordinance map actually shows a path going up those rocks to the top of the scar.  This is all limestone however, and it's very slippery when wet.  We definitely didn't fancy trying to climb and we would never lead our group up there, so we retraced our steps.

Fortunately, you can still get to the top of the scar and pick up that path by climbing a neighbouring hill.  Here you get a great glimpse of those dry stone walls so famous in Yorkshire. They can be - and are - built on every type of terrain and they really merge into the contours of the land.

Here we are looking down at Gordale Scar.

Once up on the plateau, the path consists of tufty, springy and occasionally muddy grass, but quite pleasant to walk on.

You then encounter fields of limestone grykes such as this. It's such an awe-inspiring landscape.

And you can see for miles.

We walked up past Malham Tarn and then turned back for the return journey through the nature reserve that is maintained by the National Trust.  Look at this gorgeous spread of snowdrops.

And here is the tarn  - quite huge as tarns go - viewed from the wooden Bird Hide.

This is Malham Tarn from the other side.

We then began the last leg of our walk, following this rocky path downwards into another ravine.

We then emerged on top of the famous limestone ridge at Malham Cove. If you've seen Michael Winterbottom's movie The Trip, this is where Steve Coogan was standing.

It is quite amazing and fun to walk on.  You do need sensible footwear though, as the rocks can be very slippery.

Descending a set of rocky stairs, you come to the bottom of the Cove and can see all the wonderful textures and colours where the limestone has worn away.  The stream actually originates partly from Malham Tarn, several miles away, and flows underground and then under the Cove.  If you peer really closely, you can see a tiny dot of red just above one of the branches of the tree on the right.  That's a brave climber.  Definitely not for me.

On the last bit back to the village, you can look back and see Malham Cove and also more of the dry stone walls.

Back at the hotel it was time for a cuppa.  I loved the sheepy tea cozy on our tea tray.

There is quite a variety of walking to be found in and around Malham.  The paths to both Gordale Scar and Malham Cove are well trod by tourists. They are paved and relatively easy to walk on, although the steps up and down the Cove can get muddy and slippery.  But there are also lots of more traditional footpaths and bridleways for hikers in the surrounding hills.  On our second day, we took a less crowded route that didn't take in Gordale Scar, but traipsed over more empty countryside.  That's Pen-y-ghent, one of the Yorkshire three peaks just poking out behind that hill.

And we approached Malham Tarn from a different direction, before taking the Pennine Way back to Malham Cove.

On this route, you come on to the limestone pavement from above, but it's still a magnificent end to a walk.

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