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A Walk Around Malham Cove

Free Photos, Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire

Article By: Dave Roberts

First Published: 18 April 2011

Depending on how energetic you feel you could spend the whole day in Malham taking in both Malham Cove and Malham Tarn. On this visit I didn't leave home early enough to visit both, and seen as it was such a beautiful clear day, I decided I'd tackle the more rigorous of the two walks of Malham Cove, still leaving the option open to visit Malham Tarn should I complete the Cove with time to spare.

My visit to Malham Cove is long overdue, the last time I visited Malham Cove must have been around 30 years ago. Back then I don't recall there being a designated and well kept trail, but that could be just poor memory, I've burnt out a few brain cells since my early twenties.

I would highly recommend parking in the official car park provided by Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which costs £4 for the whole day. Drop into the visitor centre and buy yourself a copy of their 'Landscape Trail' booklet. Inside there are some interesting facts about the landscape, but more importantly there is a simple map which highlights some of the interesting sights along the route. The map turned out to be invaluable, during my walk I saw people heading in a few directions - it would be easy to assume that they were coming from where I was hoping to be heading. Checking the map at regular intervals kept me on course.

Leaving the visitor centre I turned left out of the door, then down the street with a stream to the right, only a couple of hundred yards, I came to the Blacksmith shop where a narrow bridge crosses the stream. Passing over the bridge I turned right with the stream now to my right and in a matter of only a few yards passed through a kissing gate and into a field. It literally is a couple of minutes from the visitor centre to this point and the effect is immediate, the large car park out of sight, green fields ahead and craggy hills to the left.

The first section to Janet's Foss is about one and a quarter miles of gentle going, but wearing my sturdy walking boots was already proving to be a good decision, although this is a designated walk / footpath, I wouldn't want to be doing it in soft sole shoes. I soon came across a group of farm workers repairing a gate and a dry stone wall, one jokingly asked if I wanted any fire-wood, I told him I'd pick it up on the way back down. In the fields to the right where the wall was being repaired, new spring lambs were leaping around, staying close to their mothers and bleating out their seasonal chorus. Then into the Wedber Wood which eventually leads to Janet's Foss, on entering the woods my nostrils filled with the strong smell of garlic, then I noticed down the hill to my right a large green carpet of wild garlic running along the side of the stream, some of the garlic plants just starting to produce their star shaped white flowers. To the left of the footpath a steep hill rises away at least 100ft high with an abundance of trees and fauna, peppered with lime stone plus the occasional rocky outcrop forming cliff like vistas rising above. Already this official route was much more impressive than anything I remember from years back. Janet's Foss was nothing less than perfect, the temperature I would guess around 20 degree centigrade, this along with the gradual assent through the woods was making matters quite hot for the time of year, so the cooling effect of the waterfall and pool below were a welcome and unexpected treat, until purchasing the 'Trail Booklet' I had never heard of Janet's Foss.

Moving on from the waterfall the route becomes gradually steeper and a bit more demanding, passing through a narrow gap in the rocks I ascended quite quickly into large open landscapes, criss crossed by dry stone walls, the views open up to present outstanding panoramas of the surrounding countryside, the steady incline turning around the hillside offering scenery of the Yorkshire Dales which would behold anyone.

About a mile and a half from Janet's Foss having crossed a small country road, the first glimpse of the giant jigsaw puzzle know as the 'Limestone Pavement' comes into view. The sun was hitting it at about 45 degrees causing the gaps between the limestones to darken and the limestone to appear a silvery / grey almost eerie, fragile, looking like it might all just crumble immediately and disappear down the hill into the valley below.

As I reached the 'Limestone Pavement' the impressive patterns in the rocks created by natural erosion are a wonder, they provide the perfect vantage point from which to take in the view down the valley which was created along the Craven Fault during the Ice Age. It genuinely did take my breath away, either that or I am not nearly as fit as I wish, truth in both perhaps, but none could argue that the view from the top of Malham Cove is nothing short of stunning. On this day there was a slight haze on the horizon, even so - I could see for many miles, it is little wonder that this location has appeared in countless tv shows and movies, including the recent Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - to be precise: Part One of the said movie.

From the Limestone Pavement it was pretty much downhill, descending first down a large number of constructed steps which have been made from the masses of surrounding rock. This section of the trail passes directly through a large scree slope, which I assume is from where most of the rock was used to create the steps. There was a sense of human intervention right there which for a moment or two caused a slight disappointment, it was short lived though as my philosophical side kicked in, and I thought about the impact of millions of pairs of boots treading - unguided through this magnificent land.

The descent into the valley is condensed by the steps and in a matter of a few minutes I found myself in the presence of what has to be one of the most spectacular locations on earth, right here in our very own Yorkshire. This really is the magnificence which is Pure Yorkshire. Now with the sun heading down in the west, casting its shadow over the left side of the cove, yet lighting up the right side in a reddish glow, cirrus cloud starting to form above, any thoughts I might have about visiting Malham Tarn put on hold until another day.

The official trail around Malham Cove is about four and a half miles, although you like me will probably do a bit more, I couldn't resist investigating little nooks and crannies, backtracking here and there. I would highly recommend it to anyone who can negotiate the steep hills and a decent hill hike, I would equally recommend wearing a sturdy pair of boots for your feet too.

Now I can't wait until I make my next journey to Malham when I will definitely be visiting the Tarn.

 

 

 

 

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