Friday, 15th May 2015 – A Circuit Around Malham


Dear readers, please forgive me for I have sinned… I haven’t updated the blog for about three months. I have no excuses to offer. I haven’t been ill. I have no other mitigating circumstances to lay before the jury – it is just that I haven’t been out walking ‘proper’ in all that time. There has always been something to do at weekends which fills the time available and has prevented me from getting the boots on, and I’m quite certain you don’t want to read in detail about me wandering around the local field for the umpteenth time during my lunch break and trying to clear my head. Nevertheless, several weeks ago, my neighbour David and myself agreed that we must get out on a walk prior to him jetting off on his holidays. Weeks went by and we hadn’t arranged anything as both our work diaries clashed and kept clashing. Fortunately at the last minute we both had Friday free. After some last minute text messaging which sounds ridiculous as he only lives two doors away, we were ‘on’, and I promised to drive too, so it must have been that which ultimately persuaded him to come along.

We set off at 9:45am on the Friday morning and trundled over to Malham, or Malham Tarn to be precise. The journey took just over an hour, which isn’t too bad going really. I’m certainly not a fast driver these days, and the Peugeot 205 GTI boy-racer of my youth has completely vanished – not a ghost of him to be seen anymore.

We pulled into the almost deserted car park near to the outfall for Malham Tarn, and in this exposed spot the wind certainly hit us as we opened the car doors to get out. The sun was shining so that was a bonus for the start. We put our boots on, arranged our rucksacks, zipped up our fleeces and locked the car to set off walking.

Distance: 7.5 mi
Ascent: 1330ft
Sandwiches: Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato / Corned Beef & Piccalilli



Route Profile
OS Route Map
3D Route Map

We went to the outfall of Malham Tarn first, known as Tarn Foot on the OS maps, just to have a look at the water. Malham Tarn house really did look small across the expanse of grey lake. David noticed a boat out on the Tarn with two fishermen in it. I have been to Malham Tarn a number of times, but have never seen anybody fishing there, so that was a first.

Malham Tarn and Tarn Foot
Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre
The current Tarn House was handed over to the National Trust in 1946 by the Morrison family who had built it in the Victorian era from the proceeds of their industrial empire. The National Trust then leased it to the Field Studies Council in 1947, and they have occupied it ever since. After lingering for a short time at Tarn Foot, we turned around 180 degrees and picked up the Pennine Way which would lead us down into Malham village. We crossed the unclassified tarmac road, and walked over the stream coming from the outlet of the Tarn and followed a signpost for the obvious path of the Pennine Way.
 
Do I need to caption this as “Pennine Way signpost”?
The walking along this part of the Way was wonderful; there was springy grass underfoot and it was flat and soft. In equestrian terms it would probably be noted as ‘going: good to firm‘, not that anybody would be placing bets on us completing this circuit in a set time, although we hoped David’s knee would hold out until the finish line – I didn’t fancy shooting him on the final furlong due to a dicky leg.
 
Local resident… all say “Awwww!
The Pennine way – Going: Good to Firm
 
We quickly progressed along our route and headed towards Ing Scar. The sun was shining and was warm to our faces and fluffy white clouds were scudding overhead and casting various shadows onto the surrounding hillsides. A great walking day. We were quite taken aback by the sudden drop at Ing Scar; I have been along here several times previously, but had forgotten about this deep cleft in the earth.
 
Unknown cave at Ing Scar (not marked on map anyway)
Ing Scar
We made our way round the head of Ing Scar, and climbed the wooden stile to take the rocky path down along the valley floor. The going along this path was poor underfoot and you did have to watch were you placed your feet due to the amount of rocks scattered about. The conversation was flowing as we ambled along, and we met a surprising high number of walkers coming the opposite way – It’s Friday! Have they no jobs to go to?!
 
We walked beneath Raven Scar and came across the start of the limestone pavement that forms the top of Malham Cove. It was at this point that we thought it the ideal place to sit on the grass and partake of the comestibles tucked away in our rucksacks. We lay down on the grass in a sheltered spot in the sunshine and drank in the view… and what a view! 
Limestone pavement above the Cove

The view from the top


The view from the edge

We mixed and matched our sandwiches, and drank a bottle of Lucozade each, and both came to the conclusion it that tasted better in the old days when it was bought from dusty chemists’ shops in a clear glass bottle wrapped in yellow cellophane – but only when you were ill. We lingered for about half an hour and watched a school teacher trying to wrangle a group of noisy teenagers across the top of the Cove – it was a close match in volume between the ravens and the teenagers. We finished off our lunch, reluctantly stood up, shouldered our packs and continued on our way. We picked our way over the clints and grikes, making sure we didn’t lose our footing, although David’s walking pole vanished a couple of times.

Looking along the top of the Cove

As we got to the edge of the limestone pavement we were met by a large group of middle aged ladies who sounded to be Scandinavian – it certainly wasn’t English. David said they were French, but it didn’t sound French to me; not that I was expecting them to sound like they had come from the set of “allo, ‘allo”, but French is quite easily distinguishable. A long way to come to see this impressive cliff, but maybe the Tour de Yorkshire had attracted them. Le Tyke Sportif!

We made our way down the well made steps at the side of the limestone cliff and met a large number of other walkers now coming up – it seemed as if we were going against the flow, and whilst we acknowledged the others coming up, not many had Yorkshire accents thus confirming that Malham is a tourist honeypot.

The steps down to the valley bottom and Malham Beck


We were on the right route!


We got to the bottom of the steps and David said he would like to see the base of the cove. We walked back towards the cliff and watched several climbers whilst they pitted themselves against the sheer limestone face. Whilst we stood and watched the climbers we realised were being ‘buzzed’ by a bat that must have been suffering from insomnia. I didn’t realise they came out during the day. It was flitting about, as bats do, and really having a ball eating the insects that were near the surface of the water in Malham Beck and floating around the trees. The bat must have been about 12 inches away from us as it flew around our heads, and the description of it being akin to a mouse with wings seemed quite accurate. It was too fast and unpredictable for me to get a photograph. I wonder if it had been disturbed from its slumber by the climbers on the Cove? It certainly made a change from the wagtails and housemartins which were darting around in the valley.

Malham Cove, looking up


Climbers at play on the cliff face

We continued along the well made path which leads to the Cove and headed back towards Malham village taking in the views of the surrounding ancient field systems which were criss-crossed with drystone walls made from the limestone scattered in the fields. We also passed through a herd of very friendly young cattle – not sure what they were, but they had quite long hair and seemed amiable towards people.

Looking back to Malham Cove
Fields around Malham Cove… Grim up North? Yeah, whatever!
Limestone walls around Malham
Ancient looking barn at Town Head

We got to the start of the path leading to the Cove, an area known as Town Head. We followed Cove Road which lead us into the village. As we progressed, Malham Beck ran parallel to our left side, and I took the opportunity to have a sneak at the delightfully situated Beck Hall Hotel. It is approached over a stone clapper bridge that crosses Malham Beck and is a wonderfully romantic place to retreat to. I have stayed here previously, although it must be about twenty years ago now – hmmmm, I must be due for another visit soon.

Beck Hall Hotel, Malham

We continued past Beck Hall and along Cove Road, and just prior to getting to the road junction in the ‘centre’ of the village we turned left before the red telephone kiosk and adjacent a small wooded area, over another clapper bridge with an ornate wrought iron handrail, and strolled up to the Lister Arms. As the sun was shining it made sense to sit outside on the wooden tables. David very kindly went in and bought a couple of drinks, my choice was cider as the day was warm and I needed something light and refreshing. I really do like the Lister Arms as it is a Thwaites’ pub which sells Lancashire ale in deepest Yorkshire!

Can you guess what I had to drink?
The Lister Arms, Malham
We drained our glasses and left the pub as the crowd of competitive road cyclists meeting up here got larger and louder, and walked down to the village shop in the centre. We crossed the little stone bridge adjacent the shop and after a quick discussion thought it rude to pass by the Buck Inn without stopping for a swift one. We sat outside, in the sun, watching the world go by, drinking our cold lager and eating our “Yorkshire” crisps – as the packet proudly proclaimed. Flat Cap and Whippet flavour I think.. although it didn’t say as such on the packet. Whilst we sat watching the world go by, we did notice quite a large number of Belgian cars passing through the village, many had the sort of stickers on them you see on car rallies (the Monte Carlo rally etc) – maybe it was a Belgian car rally? Who knows, there was no-one to ask, and if I could my Belgian is really limited.
 
Road sign in the village centre
The village shop
We emptied our glasses again and departed the village along the Pennine Way. We turned left immediately after the village smithy to cross Malham Beck. Unfortunately the smithy was closed today, and we just walked past, but it is a wonderful place to get ornamental ironwork and other assorted bits of bespoke metalwork for house and garden, and mesmerising to watch the blacksmith hammering away in the forge. We crossed the stone bridge at the rear of the smithy and continued walking south along the Pennine Way. We pushed our way through another group of school kids and went through delightful meadows coming alive with wildflowers. We got to a dilapidated limestone barn, marked on the OS maps as ‘Mires Barn’, and took a left turn, thus leaving the Pennine Way behind for another day.
Mires Barn, Malham
We continued along the well made path past Mires Barn, and walked alongside the bubbling Goredale Beck. We continued with this flat, easy walking until we got to Mantley Field Laithe and then entered the deciduous woodland beyond.
Mantley Field Laithe
The sun was giving a dappled light through the trees, and the sides of the wood were heavy with wild garlic, the scent of which was wafting through the air. It was like being in a real life Consulate advert.. ..as cool as a mountain stream
 
Wild garlic in the woodland
The walk through the wood was a pleasant change, and the path was well made and easy to navigate and gradually ascended the local topography. The valley sides started to get steeper and soon we were in a deep wooded valley. In the near distance we could see a magical waterfall illuminated by the sun which was shining through the trees. As we approached it we realised it was Janet’s Foss.

Janet’s Foss is a small waterfall formed by Goredale Beck falling over a limestone outcrop that is topped with tufa (a special type of porous limestone) into a deep pool below. Traditionally, the deep pool was used for washing sheep in summer. The name of Janet, (or Jennet), is a folk tale reference to a fairy queen said to inhabit a cave near the waterfall. Foss is a Scandinavian word for waterfall, and is still in use in Scandinavia, although the word appears in several places in England and gives a nod to the historic roots we share with the Viking invaders. It really is an enchanting place, and one can see how the association with fairies came about.

Janet’s Foss
Janet’s Foss – the deep pool
A small crowd had formed by the Foss so we decided to push on towards Goredale Scar. We climbed the steep, stone steps up to the tarmac road, crossed it and walked the short distance to the obvious deep ravine that is Goredale Scar. As we left the tarmac road, and walked along the gravel path, the campsite we passed through had started to get busier with weekend campers. We walked between the enclosing limestone cliffs and headed towards the waterfalls at the head of the ravine.
 
Goredale Scar from the campsite
The waterfalls at Goredale
Goredale Scar is thought to have been formed by a limestone cavern collapse thousands of years ago. The footpath that leads into the gorge goes straight up the waterfalls, and whilst it looks daunting it is an easy scramble with plenty of good foot and hand holds. The gorge is well known nationally, with William Wordsworth writing a sonnet about it, James Ward, painted it around 1815 which is considered a masterpiece of English romantic painting, and finally J.M.W. Turner painted it in 1816. Both his and Ward’s paintings hang in the Tate in London, which is handy when you’re in Yorkshire!
 
The path goes up from here…
After getting to the top of the short scramble, we made our way up the side of the ravine and onto the limestone plateau onto the high tops. The walking here was wonderful with big open skies that gave a complete contrast to the troglodytic experience of Goredale scar. The grass was soft underfoot again, the path was very clear, and the sun was still shining intermittently onto our faces. We made our way through the shattered limestone pavement and came across a solitary tree clinging onto the edge of the limestone. It was the only tree for miles around, and I was surprised to see it thriving as the area must be desolate in the depths of winter. 
 
Solitary tree
We continued past the solitary tree on the soft grass until we came to a set of stone steps over a drystone wall. We climbed these and walked along the tarmac surface of an unclassified road which took us back to the car on the small car park near Tarn Foot. As we took off our rucksacks, eased our bootlaces and climbed into the car, the rain which had looked distant a short while ago, now started splattering onto the windscreen. We could not have timed it any closer, just five minutes later and we would have been soaked to the skin.
 
It is usual practice to have a pint after a walk, but as there was no hostelry in the vicinity, apart from those at Malham which we had already visited, and it was now raining, we decided to make our way straight back home and have a celebratory pint in our village pub. So we started our journey home whilst discussing plans for our next outing when David has got back from his sunny sojourn abroad… watch this space as they say!
 

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