Malham – 1st September 2019

Strenuous Leader: Malcolm Chamberlain                          Distance: 10.00 miles

We head north west out of Malham on Long Lane and climb up to Fair Sleets Gate and Twin Bottom before picking up the Dales High Way at Nappa Cross. From here we have an undulating walk to Malham Tarn, where we stop for lunch before heading back to Malham via Gordale Bridge and the waterfall at Janet’s Foss. There are no steep climbs on this walk and most of the paths are well drained, but some could be boggy on the higher ground.

Moderate Leader: Pam Chamberlain                                    Distance: 8.00 miles

We will leave the visitors centre car park and head up to Malham Cove and ascend the limestone steps to the crag above. After a scramble down the crag we will climb again via Westlowes and pick up the Pennine Way to Malham Tarn. We will follow the bridleway paths to meet with the Dales High Way to Gordale Bridge for us to follow the riverside.

Leisurely Leader: Dave Hatchard                                      Distance: 6.50 miles

Leave the car park and turn left along the road towards the centre of Malham for about fifty yards past the Wesleyan chapel built in 1865, Malham Methodist Church. Just short of the Buck Inn, turn right off the road over the footbridge. Once over the footbridge turn right along the wide gravelled path, through a wooden gate and continue ahead, now heading to Janet’s Foss We then enter into the beautifully picturesque National Trust owned wooded ravine, which eventually leads up to Janet’s Foss. The smell of the wild garlic, pungent wild ransom, and in spring, bluebells, dominate and carpet large sections of the wood. Foss is the old Scandinavian word for waterfall. According to legend Janet, or Jennet, was the Queen of the local fairies and lived in a cave behind the waterfall.

We take the path that climbs away up to the left of the waterfall to pass out through a kissing gate turning right onto a lane. As the road bends around to the right, follow the footpath sign for Gordale Scar to the left passing along the very broad path, initially passing through the Gordale Scar private campsite. Keep on the path as it draws around the corner to reveal the Scar itself.  After spending some time admiring the scenery, we make are way to Malham Cove then head up Ing Scar. We carry on along Langscar Gate and make our way back to Malham.  A few steep bits.

Easy Leaders: Hazel Anderton & Ruth Melling                     Distance: 5.25 miles

This walk is in three parts. The first part takes us south along the valley of the very youthful River Aire to Hanlith Bridge going through a perennial wildflower meadow on the way while the return, along part of the Pennine Way, has lovely views across the hills with Malham Cove in the distance. Look out for £5 notes of the grassy bank. The second part takes us east up alongside Gordale Beck to the waterfall, Janet’s Foss.  Above, at Gordale Bridge there should be a refreshment van, if the weather is fine, which sells drinks and great ice cream. From here we take a footpath along the side of a hill, again with great views, and going near a Bronze Age area before turning down a lane nearly back to Malham. The third part takes a footpath going towards Malham Cove and returning along another part of the Pennine Way back to Malham. How far we go along this way will depend on the weather and how we feel.

We only came across one or two stiles and it was generally good underfoot apart from two spots where we need to take care, with one being near the waterfall due to the heavy footfall. At Hanlith there is a short steep uphill bit on a little road.

Notes on the area

The exact derivation of the name Malham is not clear, but it may mean a stony or gravelly place, a name which would be in keeping with much of its surrounding area.  In the Domesday Book the name is given as Malgum. In any event there has been a settlement at Malham for well over a thousand years and human habitation in the area for perhaps three thousand. Today it is without doubt the most popular village in the National Park with one million visitors each year. The present bridge which marks the centre of the village is eighteenth century but incorporates much of an earlier packhorse bridge of the seventeenth, while there are three clapper bridges of earlier origin.

The Middle Craven Fault, running roughly east to west just north of Malham, marks the southern limit of the Great Scar Limestone, for the land to the south of it is of a very different character. Malham Cove and the valley in front of it were created when glacial melt waters ran down the steep hillside produced by the fault and eroded back into the edge of the limestone bed. It is a magnificent sight; a great natural amphitheatre with sheer, and in parts overhanging walls tapering back into the hillsides on each side. The depression in the centre of the cliff was originally the lip of a waterfall, about three times higher than any existing fall in the Dales today. Not since the early years of the nineteenth century however has any water been known to flow over it. At the top of the cliff is a limestone pavement. The cracks in it are caused by the action of water eroding the narrow splits which naturally occur in limestone.  Probably the rainwater falls down the cracks and goes down into the rock below, and that is probably why there is no waterfall coming down the face of the Cove these days. 

Malham Tarn, a stretch of open water covering 153 acres, exists in the limestone country because its bed is formed of more ancient impervious rock. The present depth of the tarn, about 14 feet, is maintained by an embankment and sluice gate to the south built by a previous owner, Thomas Lister, in 1791. The Tarn is now owned by the National Trust and managed as a nature reserve by the Field Studies Council.  

Gordale Scar has been described as a collapsed cave but is believed to have been created by a furious rush of water as vast quantities of ice melted at the end of the last glacial period. Within the Gorge, the 160 ft high cliffs protrude at the top, at one point coming within 50 ft of each other. 

Foss is a name used for a waterfall and Janet, or Jennet, is said to be queen of the local fairies. She lived, or lives, in the far from comfortable quarters of a cave behind the waterfall. The fan of white water was created when the limestone bedrock was dissolved and eroded by the action of water, and then redeposited on mosses growing on the lip of the waterfall as a fragile screen of porous limestone known as Tufa.