Yorkshire Dales Walks
Gordale Scar & Malham Cove
Date: 2nd April 2014
Distance: 8.5 miles
Ascent: 1463 feet
Time: 5 hours 40 mins
Start Grid Ref: SD900626
A visit to Malham with my friend Matthew to re-enact our first ever walk together in the Yorkshire Dales just over ten years before.
Route Summary: Malham - Wedber Wood - Janet's Foss - Gordale Scar - Street Gate - Malham Tarn - Water Sinks - Watlowes - Malham Cove - Malham
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: On the 27th March 2004 my friend Matt and I did our first walk together in the Yorkshire Dales, the classic Malham round incorporating Gordale Scar, Malham Tarn and Malham Cove. It was the begining of my love affair with the hills and the starting point of every walk I've done since. Indeed such a life changing day was it for us both that we wanted to mark the 10th anniversary by doing the same walk together. Unfortunately we couldn't quite manage to walk it on the exact anniversary but by delaying until the 2nd April we turned it in to a double celebration as it was also Matt's birthday.
It was a very foggy day over Harrogate when we set off but further west it was merely overcast and cloudy making conditions very similar to that first walk. Setting off from Malham we followed the familiar path from Malham Beck to Gordale Beck and then into Wedber Wood. Shortly afterwards we spotted two dippers. They are usually too quick to get a photo of but on this occasion they seemed remarkably unperturbed by our presence on the other bank of the stream allowing us to spend a bit of time taking photos of them.
A little bit further along the path we diverged for the first time from the route of our original walk when we spotted a steep path leading up to what looked like a cave. The path proved to be quite slippery and the 'cave' turned out to an archway in the rock which we could pass under by crouching down. The descent from this little detour proved to be particularly tricky as it was difficult to get a grip on the smooth clay like surface of the path.
Back on the main path we continued on through Wedber Wood to Janet's Foss, a lovely waterfall and one of the highlights of the route. Shortly after Janet's Foss we exited the wood and followed the road to join the path into Gordale. The walk down into Gordale is always a wonderful experience as anticipation of the scramble alongside the waterfall mounts with every step. Unfortunately on this occasion there was a lot of water and it was difficult to even get to the start of the scramble due to the volume of water. Whilst the scramble appeared doable it also looked very wet and slippery. In the end we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and so retraced our steps to access an alternative route that Matt had used before but was new to me.
Re-crossing Gordale Bridge we briefly followed the right of way to access a path, much clearer now than the first time Matt used it, that climbs steeply up to New Close Knotts high above the western flanks of Gordale. The path then contoured above the steep sides of the valley to eventually join up with the path climbing up from the waterfalls of Gordale Scar. Along the way we made a couple of detours from the path for some stunning views into Gordale which provided ample compensation for the fact that we hadn't scrambled up the waterfall.
Apart from reliving our original walk we also wanted to re-enact some of the photos we'd taken of each other ten years ago. Therefore we dropped down the path to take some pictures just below the upper waterfalls as well as on the steep stone stairway that I'd found so difficult on my first visit. After taking the required pictures we then found a sheltered spot overlooking Gordale Beck to enjoy our lunch.
The next mile or so of the walk was on a wonderful green path close to some fine examples of limestone pavement. Upon reaching Street Gate we took the most direct route to Malham Tarn which looked quite atmospheric in the cloudy conditions. Next we followed the outflow of the tarn to Water Sinks and then down the small dry valley where I sent Matt off to pose for a photo in the mouth of a small cave. Our next photo spot was above the dry waterfall looking down into Watlowes, one of the best viewpoints of the walk.
Having walked south along Watlowes we dropped down a bit to gain the very edge of Malham Cove and the magnificent view straight down to Malham Beck. After drinking in the scenery for a while we crossed the limestone pavement atop the Cove and descended the steps to the beck. While taking some photos of the beck at the foot of the Cove we were lucky enough to look up in time to see one of the resident peregrine falcons fly into its nest in the very face of the Cove.
On the way back to Malham we stopped to chat for a while about the birds we'd seen with a very enthusiastic RSPB officer who was there to watch the peregrines. In one final change to our original route we missed out the main path from the Cove back to Malham and instead crossed the small clapper bridge to return above the east bank of Malham Beck.
It is always a pleasure visiting Malham but this occasion was made even more special as it provided me with a welcome opportunity to not only catch up with Matt but also to reminisce about our first visit to Malham and the many walking adventures we had together in the years after.