Yorkshire Dales guide to the Malham area
The classic limestone scenery of cliffs, crags, and scars, the unusual and valuable wildlife resource of lime-rich Malham Tarn, and the farming landscape of miles of ancient dry-stone walls, field barns, meadows and pockets of woodland create a special beauty in the Malham area.
Several leading conservation agencies are actively involved in managing this valuable natural resource. Much of the dramatic scenery in the area has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, under statutory protection. The National Trust also owns a large area of land, including the Tarn, which is managed as a National Nature Reserve for wildlife. Together with the Yorkshire Dales National Park, these agencies are working to balance the needs of conservation and recreation. The National Park Centre in Malham provides useful information about the area.
Malham Beck emerges from the foot of Malham Cove and flows through the centre of Malham, crossed by clapper bridges and a former packhorse bridge. Trees flourish in this sheltered village of characteristic Dales stone village houses, many dating back to the 18th-century.
Above the village, Malham Cove is a great limestone ampitheatre formed through ice and water erosion during the last million years. A section of the Pennine Way leads from Malham Village to the Cove, ascending the western grassy side of the 250-feet high cliff. At the top there is a remarkable limestone pavement with its clints (small flat blocks) and grikes (deep crevices between), and a sensational view over the valley. Beyond, the Dry Valley leads northwards towards the Water Sinks and Malham Tarn.
Gordale Scar, a gigantic collapsed cave system forming a twisting gorge between limestone cliffs, is 1½ miles east of Malham, reached by a field path alongside Gordale Beck and passing Janet’s Foss, a little waterfall set in an area of old natural woodland.
The roads north from Malham join near Malham Tarn, and the Pennine Way passes close to its eastern edge. The Tarn lies on a bedrock of slates in a depression scoured out by glacier ice in the Ice Age, and is the highest lime-rich lake in the country - fed by springs bringing in dissolved limestone from the surrounding hills. The Tarn and the estate are let to the Field Studies Council.