Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Gordale Scar to Malham Cove....without a scratch

The landscape above Malham has to be, for me, some of the strangest and yet most stunning scenery in the country. And not just Malham Cove. The limestone features really make this area worth walking through. Plus the occasional challenge along the way that just may get your heart beating a little faster. And caused me to break one of my own primary rules......but was worth it.

Parking facilities at Malham are pretty good. It's a £4 charge for the day, but there is a W.C. and an information centre. The Car Park fills up quickly in the Summer, so an early start would be an advantage.

The route initially followed a section of the Pennine Way, so something around a 50 mile walk south would see me nearly home. Instead I took a left at Mires Barn.
The path picks up Gordale Beck and heads north east and then north towards Janet's Foss.

The woodland that surrounds Janet's Foss is just amazing. If you only get to visit one place around here, this ought to be on the list. As I entered the woodland, you could smell it before you see it, a carpet of wild garlic. The smell is much more subtle than regular garlic, and I like it a lot. Reminds me of a woodland walk in Scotland when I was young which had a lot of wild garlic too.

Janet's Foss is a small waterfall. And, apparently, Janet was the queen of the fairies. The second place in the Dales I've walked to with fairies folklore attached to it. Janet is said to live behind the falls. The word Foss, sometimes used as Force, is a Nordic word for waterfall.

The path continues north, and Gordale Scar comes into view. The path here is open and clear, something that shouldn't deceive you about what is to come around the corner.

As you make your way around a right hand bend in the Scar you come to the waterfall there. Yep, you have to climb up it. I think I may have taken a slightly different route to the norm. But the one I chose seemed fairly easy, if a little hair raising. I did a lot of rock climbing as a teenager around the country. I've forgotten much of the technical climbing skills, but the basic climbing skills are still there. Giving me the confidence to have a go, although I did break one of my own rules and climbed on my own. But, as you can see in the photograph, where I have also highlighted my route, there were people about, else climbing may have been a no, no. I would recommend against doing my route in reverse. Climbing down the waterfall would be a far more dangerous undertaking.

The climb up is more than worth it. There is a second waterfall above which comes through a hole in the cliff. This small area is ideal for a rest after the climb and to take in the surroundings.

Onward and upward, the final scramble up to the path above is easier, eventually leading on to some stone steps. Still, care should be taken, a fall backwards would be painful.

At the top you enter a scene that's both strange and stunning, a lost world almost. The limestone pavements are really worth seeing. And if you peer between the rocks there is a multitude of plant life.

Apparently, many of these cracks between the rocks are micro climates and support many rare plants and animals. (Look here for more information:

It looks like the Limestone Pavements aren't the only thing created by wear and tear from glaciers and the environment. It looks like this stone stile is suffering a little too.

From this point, rather than head straight to Malham Tarn, I chose to go around the back of Great Close Hill, heading towards Middle House Farm.

I then picked up the path that roughly follows Monk's Road, west towards Malham Tarn. The countryside that surrounds Malham Tarn is extremely subtle, compared to other reservoirs I've been to. It has a slightly sterile appearance, possibly ideal since it is a National Nature Reserve.

The sky had clouded up slightly, but the sun was strong and it was very warm. So after a short drink stop and change of shirt, which felt nice, I picked up the Pennine Way and headed south in the direction of Malham.The path feeds you through more Limestone landscape, causing me to stop and look, and take photographs, on a regular basis.

Eventually the path arrives at the top of Malham Cove. If you were to continue walking forward,  across the Limestone pavement at the top, you'd go straight off the edge, so watch for the signposts if it is foggy. Malham village can be seen a little in the distance, so not far to go.

The top of Malham Cove is a mass of Limestone pavement, some of the most impressive I saw.

Following the Pennine Way takes you down into the bottom and towards Malham. Remember to look back, Malham Cove is worth a few photographs. I don't think there were as many trees 30 years ago when I was here, so a little further away reveals the Cove more.

This walk was well worth it, for both the challenge, and the rewards. It can't be taken lightly on the waterfall, safety first. I was lucky that the weather was dry, so only a small amount of water was flowing. I can imagine it being a different ball game if there had been some heavy rain the night before. If you're in doubt, then I would leave it for another day. But if you can, it will make you feel good being able to get to the top. The rest of the walk is just amazing.

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