Malham to Gordale Scar

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 08.23.44So, we’re in the car heading towards Malham and talking about archery. Pete was an archer so if we meet any Norman’s on our walk today we’ll get Pete to blow the dust off his longbow and we should be OK.

The weather is kind again, we have what is now so descriptively referred to as a Simpson sky, a huge tract of blue with only the hint of some high cirrus painted over the blue with an almost dry brush and a few cotton balls of cumulus.

Dave is in the lead car and he’s taking us to Malham via a route that could be described as pretty and involves the use of a single track road where we meet various sizes of 4×4 including an Evoke that makes ‘big’ look trivial.

We turn into the car park and fork out the £4.50 for the day, I thought it a bit top-endish until I realise there are toilets and an information centre all part of the deal.

After a stampede to the facilities, we gather ready for the walk. Bri is eating again and this sets off a chain reaction with the rest of us. Having topped ourselves up we make our way, Dave in the lead through the very picturesque village of Malham. The cafe is identified as a stopping place on the way back and there’s some degree of magnetism as we pass the pub. The mile or so to Malham Cove is easy, the sun is shining, there are signs that encourage us to look out for falcon and there are Jersey Cows in the field that leads us to the Cove. Jersey Cows are an instant summer fix for me, no idea why, they just remind me of summer when I was a kid! They’re quiet, large-eyed and easily likeable and when you couple that with a gentle disposition, what is there not to like about them?

The path meanders through the field of dandelions, buttercups and lush meadow grass and draws our eyes to the Cove which is impressive in the distance. Photographs are created and we step enthusiastically forward.

At the Cove we bear left and begin a slow climb up the steps that are well maintained but still require some care as they vary in both height and depth. Someone spots a climber on the face and it’s only when you have a reference object that you realise just how huge it really is. I’ve never been one for heights and my toes hurt when I see the climber and the drop below him. I look away and concentrate on the steps.

At the top we take time to catch our breath and clamber about on the Limestone Pavement that many people will remember when Harry and Hermione set up camp in The Deathly Hallows. It’s fascinating and very easy to imagine the river of ice that created them 15,000 years ago.

There’s a number of other people jumping between the limestone rocks and we persuade one of them to take a photo of us all as a group.

We skip the walk up to the Tarn in favour of a visit to Gordale Scar and head east. The views across the Cove are spectacular and seeing other people climbing the steps adds scale to the sight.

The path over the moors is easily identified but not paved like the one to the Cove. The contrast between the craggy limestone and the heather moor is pleasing. We’re walking on soft grass that frames the heather and hugs the dry stone walls. These walls stitch the whole thing together like a single frame in a Postman Pat video.

The going is easy and there’s no need for a map. People are walking the route in the opposite direction and everyone has a cheery smile and a few words as we pass. Halfway down we stop for food in a field that has strange circular indentations with large limestone boulders scattered around them. They don’t look random and as we’re packing up following our lunch break two National Park volunteers who are picking litter from the moor make an appearance and tell us about an ancient Iron Age settlement that was known to have been here. The holes are only about 3 feet deep by 20 feet in circumference and the stones are the remnants of the houses in which the primitive men and women lived. It’s all fascinating and we spend some time with imaginations running wild at the shape and size of the settlement.

We continue down through the meadows with dandelions and nettles near the walls. There are sheep scattered about the field grazing with only an occasional glance towards us. They’re obviously used to human presence and ignore us.

At the bottom of the field, we’re disappointed to learn that the ice cream hut is not in attendance today and wheel-barrows are necessary to carry our bottom lips until we get over it.

Gordale Scar is a ravine created about the same time as the Cove and is really quite dramatic. It has overhanging cliffs and a double waterfall at our level and another not easily accessed above. Wainwright suggests that it’s a scramble to get to the upper levels and the track to the Tarn but I would argue that it’s a climb and we don’t do it!

We spend some time in the Scar making photographs and generally taking in the drama.

There’s a group of school kids with notebooks and pencil poised to record details of the geography and I envy their outdoor lessons and remember our class being taken on nature walks from the Applegarth School with Miss Wise during the spring or summer. As we walk back towards Malham I’m awash with memories of those walks across Castle Hills with Miss Wise identifying flowers and trees for us but only after giving us the opportunity to identify them ourselves. Buttercups, daisies, dandelions, blackthorn, hawthorn, willow; I’m really astonished at what that lovely teacher taught us beyond reading, writing and adding up. I’m still thinking of the sun shining through the school windows and catching the dust in the air to create beams of light that danced unsupported in the atmosphere. I remember her ability to recognise when you were struggling and the way she helped, but not too much, it was important to figure things out for yourself but she never let you become desperate or give up. They were all wonderful teachers at the Applegarth and I owe them a lot but Miss Wise, well she was very special!

“…to the left down Jannet’s Foss”, it was Dave directing us through a gate and I’m back in the here and now and there couldn’t be a better place or better company to be here and now with! (OK, so the construction of that last sentence wasn’t good but you know what I mean).

We rejoin Goredale Beck which will join Malham Beck within a couple of miles and become the Aire. It’s rocky and there are numerous small but spectacular falls and the river twists and dances around the boulders that litter the bed. The smell is quite intense and it becomes obvious why, there are huge numbers of wild garlic plants and they’re just beginning to flower.

There are trees that have been blown across the beck and they’re covered in green lichen that make for some great photographs and we take full advantage.

As we leave the cutting and emerge onto what looks like a flood plane we spot falcons and herons. The final mile into Malham is through meadows and is easy walking.

In Malham we stop at the Old Barn Cafe identified on the way out. Two people move to another table so that we could all sit together. That’s really nice and we thank them.

The waiter and waitress are really pleasant, the ice cream is sublime, latte (sadly) only very poor but still worth stopping, just avoid the latte. Recommended.

The walk is about 5 miles. Really quite tough between mile 1 and 2 (on the steps at Malham Cove) but beyond that it’s easy. Exceptional scenery. It took us about four and half hours but we stop and talk a lot.

Enjoy the snaps…G..x

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