Malham is a very small village in North Yorkshire. The village has a population of around 150 and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book so has been inexistence for hundreds of years. The village lies within the Yorkshire Dales and is probably better know for being on the Pennine Way, the walk passes through the village, and the walk I was about to undertake, the Malham Cove, Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar starts and finishes there too.
As Malham is over 2oo miles from my home I decided to drive down the day before and stayed in a local hotel that night and do the walk the next day. The next morning I was up early and of to Malham. In fact I was so early that when I got to the village I was the only car in the car park.
It was a beautiful sunny morning and I was sure that soon the area would be teaming with walkers. As mentioned earlier the walk starts and finishes in the village and you couldn’t ask for a nicer start than crossing the stream that runs through the village and out into the countryside. The bridge looked like it was hundreds of years old and probably was.
Once across the stream the walk follows a well laid out path made from local flagstones into the countryside. Passing through fields of sheep not one sheep gave me as much as a second glance as I marched along the path.
My first port of call would be Janet’s Foss, named after the fairy queen who, it is said, lives in a cave behind the waterfall. Foss is a Nordic word meaning waterfall.
After leaving the sheep behind I entered a woodland where birds were singing and the smell of wild garlic filled the air.
As I walked along the path I couldn’t help but notice unusual shaped items hanging from the trees. These booklike objects seemed to be everywhere and had me puzzled as to their purpose. However further into the woodland I came across an information board that explained they were for solitary bees to live in and they are actually called bee libraries and hang from ash trees and only ash trees. The choice of ash trees was in recognition of Ash Die Back Disease.
As I followed the path I was soon able to hear the sound of water cascading and very soon the waterfall came into view. The benefit of setting off early meant that when I got to the foss I was the only person there and the birds didn’t seem to mind me being in their territory. If you look closely at the top on the waterfall you can see a dipper. I sat for a while watching the bird dip under the water looking for food. These birds are known to walk into waterfalls in search of food.
Soon it was time to move on to the next stop, Gordale Scar. This is said to be one of the jewels in the crown of the Yorkshire Dales. This huge ravine of overhanging limestone cliffs is more than 300 feet high and, in my opinion, is more akin to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. If you’re not a Lord of the Rings fan you probably don’t know what I’m meaning.
The gorge was made by water from melting glaciers during the last ice age. Today water still flows over two waterfalls forming the stream known as Gordale Beck which then flows over Janet’s Foss.
The photo above doesn’t convey the height of the cliffs, as mentioned earlier they are more than 300 feet high. It is said that if you are very lucky while in the Scar you might spot a Peregrine Falcon or two but sadly all I saw was crows.
The Scar has featured in TV programmes such as The Witcher and the movie The Dark Chrystal neither of which I have seen. I should have also mentioned earlier that Janet’s Foss was featured regularly in the credits of the soap opera Emmerdale.
After having your fill of the Scar you have two options, climb the rocks to the left of the waterfalls or retrace your steps back towards Janet’s Foss then up over the dales towards the next stop, Malham Cove.
As I was on my own and there was no one else in the Scar I decided not to risk climbing the waterfall but to retrace my steps and head over the dales to Malham Cove.
By heading up over the dales I would come down onto top of the cove which, I believe is the best way to do the walk as it is easier to walk down 400 steps than walk up them!
Also, by doing the walk in reverse I missed all the crowds and had the satisfaction of the solitude.
The views from the summit are beautiful especially on a lovely sunny day. The view from the bottom is also good.
The amazing thing about the cove is that there is still a small stream that flows from under the rock and down to Malham village.
On completing the walk I headed back to Malham village carpark and while walking through the village I was struck by how lovely the village is.
While walking through the village I heard the sound of a hammer hitting an anvil and was intrigued enough to stop and look around to find out where it was coming from. Just then I saw a small workshop and the door was open wide so I decided I’d have a look in and I was amazed and pleased to see it was the village blacksmiths. Not only was the ancient craft of blacksmithing being passed from one generation to the next but it was being passed from mother to daughter.
As far as walks goes this may not have been the longest or the highest or the hardest but it was certainly one of the loveliest walks I have ever done and I would recommend it to you.