Malham North Yorkshire
Malham in North Yorkshire is one of my favourite places in England. It is a very small village with a population of about 230 (inc Malham Moor) but it is full of character and northern charm. There are two pubs that serve good food and beer, and a cafe. There is usually plenty of parking space at the National Park Information Centre to the south of the village.
I have good memories of Malham, walking the Pennine Way which runs through the middle of the village and a weekend caving with some good friends. So I was quite excited to be going there again with Gideon for a walk around some of the amazing geographical features that surround it.
It was a stunning day when we arrived at the village, the sky was the purest winter blue with the slightest of cloudy whisps curling their patterns across it. There was a covering of snow across the fields below the Cove heading south, and a freshness in the air. The winter sun was reflecting off of the small river running next to the road where we parked adding to the brightness of the day.
As we set off along the Pennine Way path heading south to find Janet’s Foss there was real bounce in our steps of anticipation.
To the east of the village of Malham is Janet’s Foss. This is almost the perfect waterfall cradled in small limestone valley with trees on either side, the white waters tinged with blue fall into a crystal clear pool before flowing south through the valley. The path into this small valley had a magical air which prepared us for the home of the fairy queen.
Foss is a Nordic word for waterfall and folklore says that there is a fairy queen called Janet who lives in the small cave behind the waterfall, which was almost believable as I stood there watching the watery curtain. Years ago the local shepherds came here to do their annual sheep dip, it became quite an annual event with the locals coming along creating a mini festival.
On a summers day it would be an ideal spot to have a picnic and a dip, though a trifle cold. It is the kind of spot where you just want to stay, explore and let time float bye.
Following the path north beside Gordale Beck which flows over Janet’s Floss, we arrived at Gordale Scar.
If the valley and waterfall of janet’s Foss is magical the gorge and waterfalls of Gordal Scar are awesome – literally. Powerful waters crash their way down the broken rocks of the scar. The deep gorge with cliff sides of over 100m high is an intimidating sight, but one that fills you with wonder and awe.
The gorge was created by melt water in the ice age eroding its way through faults in the rock. It is possible to climb up the waterfalls to the top of the gorge, but on our day it was too icy and there was too much water flowing over the frozen landscape.
We did give it a go but decided it was wiser to find an alternative path to the top of the cliffs. Also icicles were falling from the cliffs above us, one only just missed me grazing my hand, if it had landed on my head? We were a bit disappointed not to be climbing but it was better than a broken leg – or worse! Our new route followed a path through sloping fields, not as exciting but safer. I am not really convinced that we chose the best route it did seem the long way round, but it was hard to find one of the many small direct paths in the snow.
We eventually made our way to the top of the gorge and looked down into the cavern caused by the waters. Here seated on a ledge we decided to have our lunch just as it decided to snow. It was a wonderland if not a little cold and bleak. Perhaps the raw weather and surroundings is what made it so stimulating – life on the edge!
We followed the path next to Gordale Beck for a while as it made its way north up to the moors, then it turned westward to lead us to Malham Tarn. Up on the moorland the snow covered the land in a pure white carpet, the wind whistled across our path, here we had found the wildness of winter. We were glad we were wearing our thermal jackets full of goose down.
Malham Tarn is a glacial lake, and when we arrived at it’s shores it looked like one. It was completely iced over and covered in snow. The wind was blowing the snow drift across the tarn and in the late winter sun there was a dark beauty on the icy plain that was mesmerising. We stood there trying to take in our surroundings, an impossible task for two small men in what felt like the vastness of the rawness of winter on the moors.
Gideon braved walking on the Tarn, thankfully the ice was about an inch thick and it had no problem holding him (shame we did not bring our ice skates!) Yet again we had come to a place where you simply wanted to stand and wonder. However we needed to move on, we were starting to feel hungry and the pub was calling, but there was one more place we needed to visit first.
Malham Cove is probably the most well know of the landmarks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. To say that this 80m high limestone cliff face is impressive would be an understatement. Created by glacial melt water thousands of years ago it would have been England’s equivalent of Niagara Falls. Today the waters of Malham Beck emerge from the base of the cliff after travelling through miles of subterranean tunnels and chasms.
Above the cliff face is the equally famous limestone pavement which has appeared in many films (Harry Potter and the deathly Hallow pt2 for examle). This strange rock formation makes a timeless platform for gazing down the Aire Valley and into the distant south.
I was glad that this was the climax to our walk its overwhelming grandeur seemed sum up our day. Nature had demonstrated it’s overwhelming power and beauty and put us mere men back in our place. We are guests to this planet, no matter how great we may think the things we achieve are, when we are stripped back to our naked selves we are incredibly small and vulnerable – we need this reminder at times I think.
Back to Malham
The walk back to the village along Malham Beck was a thoughtful one for me, I was so grateful for the day and all that I had experienced and I felt humbled.
Arriving back at Malham we went to the Buck Inn for some food and a drink. Sitting next to the log fire eating my steak and ale pie I found myself humming “It’s such a perfect day”.