Washed Out In T'Dales..

17th August 2011
Another trip to another location scuppered by rather inclement weather - I'm starting to think that perhaps Mother Nature has something against me!

This time i was set for a week in the Yorkshire Dales, exploring it's huge wide open spaces intersected with dramatic Limestone gorges and pavements, ancient drystone walls and winding, babbling becks (streams) and waterfalls.

Above: The view into Gordale Scar.

I spent the first night camping at Gordale Scar, a dramatic cleft in the hills just east of Malham Cove. Formed from countless years of water scouring through the Limestone, it is now a yawning mouth of a waterway that spews it's contents down a series of waterfalls to flow out eventually through a campsite and onwards to the south, ultimately becomeing Gordale Beck. The over hanging walls of the enclosed surrounding cliff faces feel as if they may topple inwards at any moment and the noise of the cascading cold water reverberating off them is almost deafening. It is a truly magnificant place and well worth the journey to get there. The campsite is wonderfully basic and the setting and peacefulness fantastic.

Above: Looking north up to the limestone cliff face of Malham Cove

The next day dawned chilly but bright, with a clear blue sky peppered with small cotton wool clouds. After an early breakfast and a short drive back west over the hill to the small picturesque village of Malham, i found myself stood atop the Carboniferous Limestone pavement of Malham Cove in glorious early morning sunshine, a dramatic spot if ever there was one.
Despite its's misleading name (the area is very much landlocked), Malham Cove can still be heavily associated with the landscape sculpting powers of water. It is infact the ancient remains of a massive waterfall, formed from the run off of huge melting ice sheets after the last Ice Age and Malham Tarn, a large lake to the north.
Now a shallow horseshoe shape cliff measuring some 80m high by 300m wide, it must have been an amazing sight to behold as millions of gallons of water thundered over it's vertiginous edge and gouged out the valley below.
Alas water no longer falls over the edge here, as the holes and deep clefts of the Limestone provide too much drainage to sustain water levels enough to rise and a sufficient flow to form - pity!
The Limestone pavement that lays everywhere around the top of Malham Cove is an iconic geological feature of The Dales. It consists of a fascinating series of deep crevasses and sections of rock, called Grykes and Clints respectively. Down in these 'Grykes' lie little ecosystems, their dank shelter providing micro-climates for rare shade-loving plants, such as Fernwood-sorrel, Harts-tongue, Wood-garlic, Geranium, Anemone, Rue, and the ominously named Enchanter's Nightshade.

Above: Looking south from the top of Malham Cove over the Limestone pavement.

These deep fretts are formed by slightly acidic rain running between the natural joints in the rock and water freezing and expanding in the cracks, creating fissures over the years as the process continues. They're fun to hop across but one careless move could lead to a some nasty limb snappage. I can imagine in the winter it must be lethal..

Directly north from this amazing vantage point lies a part of a long distance path called The Pennine way, running north-south through the equally impressive Craven Fault. This section passes through quite a dramatic setting, surrounded by Limestone crags and winding its ways upwards and northwards to eventally lead to Malham Tarn, a rare large body of water trapped by debris left by the retreating ice sheet and a large conservation area.

Above: The view south down through The Pennine Way.

The day was now getting pretty hot, with more cloud building slowly and i counted myself lucky to be able to explore all in just a T-Shirt, the waterproofs still tucked away in my bag. I headed south west from Malham Tarn and out across Malham Moor on the Settle Brdileway, a faint rought trail across quite a wild patch of ground that offers huge views over the large openness of the Dales to the north. Eventually i made my way back down into Malhamdale, a little weary from the heat but greatly satisfied by the utter silence and huge emptiness i had spent several hours in, barely seeing another person at all.

Above: Lovely isolation on Malham Moor.

The next day, i almost felt like i was paying for all this enjoyment. During the night torrential rain arrived with a bang and it stayed put. Despite the never ending downpour, I continued (perhaps stupidly) with my plans and walked the 5 mile waterfall trail in Ingleton to the north, a very impressive series of thunderous falls and gorges that in better weather would have been an extremely enjoyable route to follow. As it happened, i wasn't able to get my camera out all day and ended up utterly soaked to the bone, cold and a bit miserable - despite my supposedly top of the range outdoor gear.
Thornton Force, a large waterfall at the top of the trail that i had really wanted to capture was very impressive in full spate and it was really galling to have travelled all that way to not be able to even take one shot of it. I waited for some time under the inadequate shelter of a tree for a lull in the wet, but aafter a while the creeping coldness seeping into my very core told me to keep moving - it would always be there for another time. Such is the way of landscape photography...

I got back to Beckhall, the charming 16th century B & B i was staying in at Malham and caught the weather forcast - the rain was due to stay for another 3 days with no let up in sight. On the advice from the B & B owner that the roads were starting to flood, i grudgingly cut my losses and headed home early...

Maybe next time?

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