Yesterday I went to the picturesque village of Malham in the Yorkshire Dales above Skipton. It was a 50 minute drive and a beautiful one at that, taking me along the A65 which, when not busy, takes visitors through some of the most stunning scenery anywhere.
Ok so I know you’ll say surely the scenery is still stunning even when the road is busy but for one thing, don’t call me surely (old jokes are still funny) and secondly, no one likes to be stuck in a stream of traffic which often happens on that road, especially in the summer.
But yesterday the kiddies were back in school after the Easter hols and so it was a great time to be on the road to Malham; Yorkshire stone walls breaking up the Dales carpet into a patchwork of fields, new born lambs struggling with the dilemma of wanting to play everywhere and yet not stray too far from mummy, sky blue reservoirs breaking up the vista of greenery on all sides and quaint villages with the one essential necessary for civilised life – a pub.
I managed to find a free roadside parking space, something very rare in Malham, and as it was 12:30, I decided to go to the nearby cafe for lunch.
The Old Barn Cafe was delightful and despite being initially overcharged for my meal, the Old Barn Special, I was soon full as an egg and raring to start the walk to Malham Cove, the reason for my visit there.
The cove is a limestone formation just north of the village. The large, curved feature was formed by a waterfall carrying meltwater from glaciers at the end of the last ice age more than 12,000 years ago. Today it’s a well-known beauty spot within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. A large limestone “pavement” is above the cove and this would be my first time up there.
The cove was formed by a large ice-age river that fell at this point as a cataract. The water drop was 80 m (260 ft) high and more than 300 m (980 ft) wide. The colossal amount of water flowing over the waterfall created the curved shape of the cove because the lip was more heavily eroded than the sides.
(thank you Wikipedia and now you know)
There are several walks that lead to both the top and bottom of the cove so I picked the one that would take me to both.
This started off by taking me through the village and given its size, I was out in the countryside in minutes. This is the view looking back the way I came.
I had brought my drone but decided before leaving the car that I wouldn’t take it with me on the walk. There was a fair bit of wind at ground level which I guessed would be stronger at the top of the cove and it doesn’t take much wind to blow my little drone off course and make it very hard to control.
As this sign along the path shows, that was a good decision.
Soon the cove came into view……….
Despite the sign asking visitors to stick to the path, I did go a bit rogue at times to take these photos. Forgive me sign.
At this point the path split and I stayed on the straight (and narrow) to go up the the cove wall as I could see there were some climbers there.
Stunning as it was, I wanted to get to the top and after watching this guy for a while and realising he wasn’t going to fall, I headed back to the split and going right, I was soon at the bottom of the stone steps which led to the top.
Oh yes….those steps. Climbing them almost killed me. I kid you not. There were over 400 of them and the slope angle was about 50 degrees most of the way. !!
I’m old and unfit although I like to lie to myself that I’m neither.
Those fecking steps were a wakeup call and I had to stop every dozen or so just to stop my heart from bursting, Alien like, through my chest.
Half way up I had a longer rest, a drink and took in the view.
A little further on and I needed another rest. At this point, and seeing what was still left to climb, I seriously thought about returning to ground level but the idea of going back down was almost as bad as carrying on.
Why is there never a Sherpa around when you need one ?!
Finally, feeling like Edmund Hillary on Everest, I reached the top and after making use of the emergency oxygen supply for seniors, I explored the amazing limestone pavement that spread out before me.
This zoom photo makes it took like the drop to the people at the bottom wasn’t that great.
Believe me, after climbing those 400 plus steps, I can tell you the drop WAS great.
I wanted to get a photo looking over the edge but with only a nearby branch in sharp focus. I couldn’t use the dSLR so holding the phone in my left hand, I steadied the branch with my right hand and then thought, now what ? Despite having my phone camera set to take photos by voice command, I still had to press the focus area on the screen and I hadn’t brought my third hand with me !
Every time I pressed the focus area and then switched to hold the branch, the focus returned to full screen area. I finally held the branch as steady as I could with my right arm, set the focus to the buds, shouted “smile” as my shutter voice command and was delighted to see this result………
As mentioned before, I didn’t fancy going down those steps as my knees wouldn’t have been happy so I went down the other side of the cove to the village. This was still a steep walk but done initially over grassland and then a narrow road so much easier.
As I went around to the other side, I was able to get one last look at the cove in all its splendour. There were even a few people on the top to give scale.
Back down in Malham, I had time to take a short walk along the small village stream which joins the River Aire which then meanders through the Dales to Leeds and on to empty into the River Ouse and finally the Humber on the East coast.
But at Malham it’s just a beck with a pretty bridge over it…….
And even a small piece of quentessential Yorkshire for sale………
And a view straight from the cover of a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle box.
The last house on that side of the beck was a B&B called Miresfield Farm and with 10 ensuite bedrooms at £32 pp, it would seem to be the place to stay if visiting the area.
Certainly the views would be hard to beat.
And then I was back at the car and ready for the short, scenic drive home.
I’d recommend a visit to the cove but think twice before taking the steps route to the top.
Especially if you’re an unfit, overweight pensioner like wot I am !
P.S. If the limestone pavement looks familiar, then you must be a Harry Potter fan. In 2010’s Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry and Hermione are camping overnight up there and even have time for a little dance.
Here is a still I took from the movie………..I know it’s dark but it was nighttime !
Oh ok, here’s one from a bit earlier.