Malham is a most unusual place, home to Queen of the Fairies and her magical waterfall, a 300 million-year-old pavement (none of this modern tarmac stuff of today) and a scenic tarn. And then there’s the intimidating Gordale Scar…
I can see why Malham has featured in films such as Harry Potter with its magical setting. We set off from Malham village, directions sending us to the way of Janet’s Foss. A nice and easy walk took us to a wooded glen, complete with waterfall and small pool. A woman was wild swimming and I hoped she didn’t think I was taking a photo of her when I was aiming for the waterfall!
We saw a dipper flying to and from a nest under ivy, high up over the waterfall, and bee nests made of books along the trees. One time I came here I followed Simon over the rocks in the pool to a small cave at the other end. Needless to say, I stumbled into the water and got my shoes and socks soaking wet.
So who is or was Janet? It’s believed Janet (sometimes Jennet) is a fairy queen who lives in a cave at the back of the waterfall. (Maybe she was watching me and laughing when I got my feet wet that time?!) The word Foss means waterfall in Nordic and can also appear as the word ‘Force’ in English. It is such a magical setting that it doesn’t surprise me that a fairy queen lives here…
We continued on our way to the section I was dreading, the limestone ravine that is Gordale Scar. Gordale Scar is a hidden gorge with two waterfalls that hardy hikers scramble over to get to the top. The first time I came here, I climbed this but not without wanting to turn back mid-way. The gaps between the leg holds seemed too vast for my little legs. But then a small 9-year-old girl bravely climbed past me and I thought if she can do it, so can I. But the last time and this time I gazed at it, wishing I could do it but my legs were tired and the lack of people climbing put me off. Yet when there are several people doing it, it feels safer somehow. The rocks were also wet and looked slippery so that’s my excuse!
We left the limestone ravine behind but rather than taking the long way back to Malham Tarn, we walked up a steep hill. It was steep but no scrambling was needed so an improvement on the 330ft high Gordale Scar! Finally at the top, we travelled on the flat, through moorland to Malham Tarn, a beautiful glacial lake. Here we took a short break, eating our sandwiches.
From there, we continued to the famous 70 metre (230ft) Malham Cove. A series of steps took us to the famous 300-million-year-old limestone pavement. Except for its colour and being of a different stone (limestone as opposed to volcanic rock), it’s a little like the Giants Causeway, another geological wonder, although Malham Cove doesn’t have any legendary giants, more’s the pity. Most of the rocks are large and flat but there are gaps between each one. Another thing to be aware of is that it does look very steep – and potentially dangerous – when you venture nearer to the edge. Not a place to venture if you haven’t a head for heights. Poignantly we saw notices for The Samaritans on the way here.
Once you pick your way past all the giant blocks, there’s more steps to climb down and then a long path.
Once back in the village of Malham, we looked for a cafe for a well-earned pot of tea. The first eatery was full but we went back to Beck Hall, a hotel restaurant which we encountered on the way back. In an idyllic setting, overlooking the river, it was the perfect ending for a great walk. And a good place to rest our weary legs!
FACTS OF THE DAY
- Gordale Scar was formed on the Middle Craven Fault. This is a fault line of 22 miles and runs from The Yorkshire Dales to Cumbria.
- According to the Yorkshire Dales National Park website: “The torrents of glacial meltwater that flowed over it cut down through faults in the rock. Successive Ice Ages have carved it deeper and deeper over thousands of years to create the deep gorge we see today.”
- Over millions of years, Malham Cove was eroded by water and ice. It is believed that the site was once covered with massive sheets of ice. The Yorkshire Dales website explains: “As these glaciers ground their way over the landscape they plucked rock from the face of the Cove and carried it away. Each time the glaciers melted, huge floods of water further eroded the face of the Cove.” (https://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk)