Janet's Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove
A last minute plan, basically decided to go the night before. Its a place Ive wanted to visit for a while now, but never got round to it. So I told the boy I would be getting him up early and got the gear ready. Went to bed, set my alarm for 7:30am, and promptly overslept. Woke up at 8:45, 15 minutes after I had planned to leave the house. We finally left the house at 9:30, and after a stop off at Greggs for breakfast, we headed for the Yorkshire Dales.
After a bum twitching drive down the Postman Pat lanes that were still frozen, we finally arrived in Malham at 11:30, and discovered that half of England had had the same idea. The National Park car park was over flowing, and the road entering Malham was full of parked cars. So we turned round and parked at Kirkby Top in the kindergarten school. We changed our shoes, packed the bag and set off down the hill into Malham, and picked up the footpath to Janets Foss.
As soon as we reached the footpath, I understood why it was so busy. The weather was perfect, just above freezing, no wind, the sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky. The path to Janets Foss, which I imagine can be boggy in wet weather was frozen, and crunchy to walk along, with ground frost still lurking in the shadows, hiding from the sunshine. It wasn't long until we reached the first waterfall we would visit on our walk.
An idyllic place, and while we waited for our turn to walk out on the stones to take some pictures, I remembered something that I read on Wikipedia about the pool being used for sheep dipping, and that it was turned into a festival for the people from Malham and surrounding areas. It would certainly be a good party surrounding the falling water.
After taking our pictures, and having a quick drink of water, we continued on our way up the path towards Gordale Bridge. Stepping out on to the road, I had forgotten how cold it was, and stood on a patch of ice, causing me to slip, not enough to fall over, but enough for me to pull my bum forward and windmill my arms quite violently, much to the delight of the chap behind us who started sniggering at my acrobatics. I quickly found the edge of the road, and with more grip underfoot we quickly arrived at Gordale Bridge, and saw the unexpected sight of a buttyvan, and even more surprisingly, the boy, who is known for being a bottomless pit where food is concerned, didn't ask for anything, even though it had been a whole 2 hours since his massive bacon and sausage sandwich.
From the bridge, we joined the path that follows Gordale Beck up towards the reason we had left the house that morning, Gordale Scar. Admittedly I had the impression that the walk up the ravine was going to be a steep one, but it has a very shallow gradient, you do soon become a little overawed by how deep the ravine actually is, and how much the limestone cliffs feel like they are beginning to fold over you, it truly is an impressive sight.
As you continue up the path, the walls of the valley begin to close in on you, and it gets narrower and narrower, and you reach a point where it looks like you're walking to a dead end, but as you approach the wall facing you, the path turns right and opens out into the cavern that houses the 2 impressive waterfalls.
What a fantastic area, it feels like its completely enclosed with an obscene water feature at one end. The sound of falling water is amplified as it bounces from the surrounding walls, but it isn't deafening. We found a spot away from the path and sat down for a minute to have a drink and to watch a group of people climbing up the lower waterfall to rejoin the path above. It is possible to follow the path up the waterfall, but without suitable or even a change of clothes incase one of us took a swim, we decided not to try today.
Seeing how nature has formed this crevice in the limestone rock, is very inspiring. I can understand why there is 2 painting of Gordale Scar hanging in the Tate Britain gallery, one by James Ward and the other by J.M.W Turner. It has also been written about by William Wordsworth, in his 'Gordale' sonnet,
At early dawn, or rather when the air
Glimmers with fading light and shadowy eve
Is busiest to confer and to bereave;
Then, pensive votary! let thy feet repair
To Gordale chasm, terrific as the lair
Where the young lions couch; for so, by leave
Of the propitious hour, thou mayst perceive
The local deity, with oozy hair
And mineral crown, beside his jagged urn
Recumbent: him thou mayst behold, who hides
His lineaments by day, yet there presides,
Teaching the docile waters how to turn,
Or, if need be, impediment to spurn,
And force their passage to the salt-sea tides!
Once we have rested, had a drink and taken our photographs, we retrace our steps back down the path running alongside the beck, until we reach the bridge and the butty van.
The familiar words come from the boy, "So where are we going for dinner???" which is a simple code for, I want to spend money at the sandwich van. I disappoint him by explaining its only about 2 and a half hours since he had last eaten, and that there must be something wrong with him, if he is hungry already. The boy must be hollow, 14 years old, almost 6ft tall, and weighs about 12 stone. He is already borrowing my size 12 shoes. He can eat though, my god can he eat, but never ever seems to put any weight on. There is an air of jealousy from me, as Im currently close to 16st, and not happy about it. That butty van smells delicious though.
We don't follow the road back towards Janets Foss and Malham, instead we go through the gate behind the van and join up with the Dales Highway path. Its at this point I realise I am unfit, and the mild incline is causing me to breathe heavy, we pass a younger couple coming the opposite way, and as we pass, the chap slipped on the wet grass, and did the same acrobatics as I had done only an hour before, bum forward, arms swinging. "Nearly" I say, "nearly" his reply smiling.
I actually hadn't planned on walking this part of the route, but we still had plenty of sunlight, and I wasn't planning on going home early. I'm very glad we did though, because after a short walk we came to the top of Malham Cove.
Two things I noticed straight away, the formation of the rock, and the amount of people. I didn't notice that we were stood at the edge of a very high cliff. We stopped for a moment while the boy turned his sock inside out, I took a selfie, and realised just how high we were, and how shear the drop was. I had to compose myself as my vertigo tried to ruin the moment I was having. We carried on through the gate, on to the strange, almost alien rock formation. Apparently it is called a limestone pavement, and is caused by a glacier that once formed here during the last Ice Age. Apparently we were stood on the edge of a waterfall, carved out of the limestone by melting glacial waters.
We made our way along the huge stepping stones, that is really the only way to describe them, as there is a fairly deep crack between them all, with vegetation growing in the tight gaps. It reminded me to a degree of the Devils Causeway in Northern Ireland, just not as symmetrical and neat. The amount of people up there was strange, as we hadn't met that many walkers for the whole duration of our walk to this point. Granted, the surrounding area, and the view, it is a great place for a picnic, except for the woman screaming at her crying child as we reached the footpath. Descending the footpath, it turns into a huge staircase, obviously man made, making the 260ft drop to the bottom much easier on the legs.
About halfway down, I thought to myself "Im glad we came the way we did, this staircase must be a killer on the calfs", thinking back to climbing the stairs in a tower block up to the 13th floor, not something I would repeat happily. Then I remembered at the top, we passed a bloke pushing a pram. How did he get up there????
When we finally reached the bottom of the never ending staircase, we kept left and walked towards the base of the cliff we had been standing on top of 20 minutes prior. Once you get to the pool, you can see how it once was a waterfall, a huge waterfall at that. The face of the cliff is super smooth, in a way only water could shape. There were a group of rock climbers going up the face, I watched as one of them lost his grip and gently swung out on his safety line, beating his thigh with his fist in disappointment, to be honest mate, you have got a lot higher than I would go on a rope. No disgrace there. I absailed 80ft last year near Kendal, and papped myself all the way down.
At the base of the cliffs there is a pool of flowing water, which becomes Malham Beck. Its only after a minute you realise that the water is flowing out of the cliff, not down it, or around it, literally out of it. A subterranean waterway that flows through the limestone for approximately a mile, apparently it is 1 of 2 waterways which cross paths, but don't mix.
After spending a few minutes watching the rock climbers and having a quick drink of water, we made our back into Malham and back up to Kirkby Top to the car. A round trip of 6.2 miles, and almost 3 hours of walking.
All in all a really enjoyable afternoon.