Yorkshire Dales Walks
Date: 18th Dec 2011
Distance: 7.0 miles
Ascent: 1081 feet
Time: 3 hours 40 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD900626
A fine winter walk from Malham up on to the excellent viewpoint of Weets Top also visiting Aire Head and Gordale Scar.
Route Summary: Malham - Aire Head - Scalegill Mill - Hanlith Bridge - Windy Pike Lane Hetton Common Head - Weets Top - Hawthorns Lane - Gordale Scar - Gordale Bridge - Malham Tarn - Janet's Foss - New Laithe - Malham
1. Aire Head where the young river emerges from underground
2. Mill pond at Scalegill Mill
3. The path alongside the River Aire
4. The view of Malham backed by the Cove from Windy Pike Lane
5. Looking back down Windy Pike Lane towards Kirkby Fell
6. Weets Top from Hetton Common Head
7. Hetton Common Head from Weets Top
8. By the trig point on Weets Top
9. Weets Cross
10. The extremely slippery Hawthorns Lane
11. Gordale Scar
12. Another view of Gordale Scar
13. The lower falls of Gordale Scar
14. Gordale Beck and Wedber Woods
Walk Detail: There are a wonderful variety of walks one can do from Malham and I really enjoyed exploring the area when I first got into hillwalking. Incredibly though, before this walk, it had been almost 4½ years since I'd last set foot in Malham so this visit was long overdue.
The main aim of this walk was to visit two spots that, despite my previous walks in the area, I'd not yet been to. The first of these was Aire Head, the spring just south of Malham where the Aire emerges having disappeared underground a few miles north at Water Sinks. The second was the trig point on Weets Top, one of the few trig points in the Yorkshire Dales National Park that I hadn't 'bagged'.
Somewhat surprisingly, especially considering the wonderfully bright and clear day, the main car park was virtually empty when I arrived even though it was well into the morning. Perhaps everyone was doing their Christmas shopping or perhaps they were wary of the icy roads. Luckily for me the road from Gargrave to Malham had been gritted though the same could not be said for the car park which was a bit slippy in places.
The walk itself was excellent, just what I needed after a fairly rotten couple of weeks when I'd suffered from a tiresome cough. For some reason I worried that I'd miss Aire Head but in truth it was impossible to miss as the path is virtually right next to it. It was nice to finally see this spot after having visited Water Sinks on numerous occasions.
The walk south from Aire Head to Hanlith Bridge was quite pleasant with some nice river scenery as well as passing the old mill ponds of Scalegill Mill. From Hanlith Bridge I climbed up on to Hanlith Moor via Windy Pike Lane. The view of Malhamdale from the latter was superb though underfoot care had to be taken as it was quite icy.
After crossing Hanlith Moor I took a short detour up on to Hetton Common Head before moving on to the trig point on Weets Top. The view was as extensive as I'd hoped and the superb visibility meant that I could see as far as Totridge in the Bowland Fells. Most impressive though was the view across the snow covered limestone pastures to the likes of Fountains Fell and Great Whernside.
From Weets Top I had to negotiate the steep and treacherously slippy Hawthorns Lane which was almost completely covered in ice before arriving at the entrance to Gordale Scar. The afternoon winter sunshine made what is perhaps the Yorkshire Dales finest natural feature look even more stunning. After a brief lunch stop near the waterfall I retraced my steps before returning to Malham via Janet's Foss and New Laithe.
This was a hugely enjoyable walk and one that I'd recommend to anyone who wants a slightly different perspective on Malhamdale.