September 25th, 2011 § 1 Comment
I’ve wanted to get out into the countryside for ages, so on Saturday I took myself off to Malham to explore the area round Malham Cove. I’ve been to the cove a couple of times but never any further, so armed with an OS map (just in case) and some quavers I felt ready to have an adventure.
It takes about an hour and a half to get to Malham from Boston Spa, it’s just straight up the A59/A65 and then signposted from Gargrave so pretty easy to find. One thing I like about Malham is that there’s a big car park with loos and a visitor centre and it’s only £4 to park for the day. It was almost empty when I got there at 9.30, but what surprised me was the number of cars parked out on the main road. Do that many people really avoid paying the £4 parking charge…which presumably contributes to the facilities and upkeep that makes Malham a nice place to visit?
Anyway, I went to see the cove first – a really magical place where the stream comes straight out of the base of the cliff and is fed by numerous little springs nearby. I had the whole place to myself so had a bit of quiet reflection. The path isn’t brilliant going up to the cove and at the end it’s easier to walk in the stream (it’s about an inch deep at the edges). This is one of my favourite places in the world.
Coming out I met two older ladies on the last day of their walking holiday. I kind of wished I’d asked their names – they must have been in their 70s but they told me about all the hikes they’d done round and about – one of them climbed Gordale Scar when she was 15, and seemed very impressed that I was out for a solo hike. It made me smile anyway (I hope I’m still hiking at that age) and I left them by the stream while I tackled the climb up to the top of the cove.
It was deserted on the top too – windy, and it started to rain. The limestone pavement is normally good fun for some jumping about but it was super slippery and after almost falling over (and being glad no one saw) I decided to skirt round it. It would be pretty easy to break a leg on that:
The path splits off at the edge of the pavement – you can either go left towards Malham Tarn or straight on towards Gordale. I wasn’t really sure how far the tarn was and since I was relying on my own sense of direction and map-reading skills decided to play it safe and head for Gordale. You walk through a field and eventually come to a road – cross this and the path from here on is surfaced. It’s an easy stroll to Gordale Scar.
You hear Gordale Scar before you see it. There’s a campsite first, next to a wide and shallow stream, and the path goes through this and continues on as hills rise up on either side. At the end of the path there’s a sharp turn which opens out into a natural amphitheatre – way above a flock of birds circled, and the waterfall crashed over some stones at the base of the Scar.
Gordale Scar isn’t just pretty – it’s also a wind tunnel. Apparently you can climb up it, and earlier I’d seen a path that looked like it might go up on top of the cliffs but I’m not quite sure.
Going back through the campsite and out onto the road, Janet’s Foss is signposted almost immediately. There are two paths here, one going up and one going down. I chose the down path as the most likely, and this takes you straight to the bottom of another waterfall. It’s a really enclosed space, with steep hills on either side and trees and mossy stones galore. I couldn’t get a good picture because it was crowded with people and dogs, but Janet’s Foss is prettier (imo) than Gordale Scar. Apparently it was named after Jennet, a fairy queen said to live in a cave behind the falls. It seemed quite apt.
The waterfall is part of Gordale Beck (the same stream as at Gordale Scar) – you follow this through the greenest woods ever away from the falls. There are fallen trees stuffed with coins just like at Malham cove. After a short while the woods end and it’s fields the rest of the way. The path is paved from here – you can see Malham Cove not far away. It’s just a short walk back to Malham village.
I reckon this walk’s about 4 or 5 miles – not long at all but there are plenty of places to dawdle (it took me three hours to get round because I kept stopping to look at things). The main road was packed with cars by early afternoon so if you want a quiet walk it’s best to go early. I’m glad I found all of the places I’d heard about, and next time I’ll have to get up to Malham Tarn. You could easily do them all in one day, at least while the weather’s okay