A friend and I decided one day to do the 'classic' walk from the Yorkshire Dales village of Malham up to Gordale Scar and then over to Malham Cove, before heading back to the village. It's a beautiful walk but very popular. Malhamdale is an area best avoided at weekends and holiday times. This was midweek and not the school holidays but even so the large car park in Malham was full and we had difficulty finding somewhere safe to park. Once we set off to walk though, the route wasn't crowded. Maybe everyone else was in the coffee shops?
Initially, it's a very pleasant amble from the village on a good path alongside a stream, through meadows twinkling with buttercups. You then enter a wooded valley, which was sun-dappled and fragrant from wild garlic. It had rather a magical feel.
The path arrives at a waterfall called Janet's Foss, which pours into a clear, circular pool. It's like a fairy glen, very pretty. In fact the name Janet, or Jennet, is said to refer to a fairy queen believed to inhabit a cave behind the waterfall. There wasn't a lot of water coming over the cascade, as May has been a very dry month. (All the little spots in the photo, bottom left, are tiny flies dancing in clouds above the water.)
Climbing up past the falls, the path widens out again for a short while, up a rocky valley towards limestone cliffs that narrow into a gorge that may have been gouged by glacial meltwater or the collapse of an underground cavern. Another waterfall (also very meagre that day) tumbles over a rocky outcrop known as Gordale Scar. It looks nothing in my photo, though you can get some idea of the scale if you spot the small figure above the ribbon of water tumbling over the rocks at the base. I once climbed up that first outcrop into the upper chamber (where there is a much bigger waterfall) and it is steep, treacherous and terrifying! Never again!
Thankfully, by retracing one's steps about half a mile back down the valley, there is another path that climbs up and over the hillside to eventually arrive above Malham Cove. The Cove is one of the most spectacular features of the Craven Fault, an important geological feature across the Pennines, which defines the boundary between the limestone uplands to the north and the gentler pastures to the south and west. The views down to Malham village and beyond are beautiful. The limestone areas of the Yorkshire Dales are so attractive on a sunny day. Blue sky, verdant green foliage and the pale stone outcrops and walls make a very harmonious scene.