Britain,  Travel

How To Turn One of Britain’s Best Walks Into An Adventure

I sat at my writing desk yesterday, staring at the snow gathering fast and thick before the eyes, coating the world outside with a thick layer of icing, rather assiduously. But I found myself thinking of Malham Dales. We were there last year around this time. It is a powerful memory, the kinds that stick with every iota of detail lodged into the cells, for our walk there had gathered momentum, assumed a life of its own. Now, this is a walk that has recently been declared by ITV to be amongst the top three in its list of a hundred ‘rambles, scrambles and ambles’ in Britain and North Ireland. But we did not know then of its upcoming celebrity status as one of Britain’s best walks (do watch the link at the end of the post, it is loaded with the most scenic walks in the British countryside).

Malham is a quiet village in the Yorkshire Dales, dotted with stone cottages, warm country pubs and ancient stone bridges traversed by packhorses once. The road to Malham, for us, was paved by 10 random stops because I had decided to change my blog host from WordPress to Siteground. That was all in vain. I ended up making the change this year, and keeping in mind the association, I could not help slipping in that photo of the limestone pavement of Malham in my earlier post.

A strange lunar landscape and a solitary tree sticking out of it. That is the draw of Malham.

But I am not a woman of few words and to let you go just like that would be monstrously unfair on my partiality towards chattering more than I should. Adi bemoans that I take five lines where he makes do with one. Usually that word is ‘nice’. I have naturally developed an antipathy to ‘nice’.

We stopped for a spot of Sunday brunch at a country inn where to the tune of hoppy ale, roast meat and Yorkshire puds, we were subjected to friendly interjections from a bald guy in a leather jacket, his girlfriend, and their hound who sat underfoot, throwing a hissy fit when another of his kind invaded his territory. Adi clammed up as he does when he is feeling particularly unsocial, so it was left upon me to be the picture of amiability. Frequent smiles and aching jaws.

When we got out of that warm pub with its flagstone floors and roaring fireplace, we were greeted by a sharp wind. Cowering into our jackets we set off into the pastures, past the beck that tripped over stones and gurgled its way into pre-historic woodlands where ancient ash trees were sheathed in moss. Upon barbed wires of dry stone walls, fluttered clumps of fleece in the wind — the aftereffects of scabby sheep having enjoyed a real good scratch. *whispers – I have a bit of that wool tucked into my box of souvenirs. Past bee libraries (I am not on crack), which are book nests transformed into dwellings for solitary bees in ash trees, we came in view of a startling sight. Janet’s Foss. The waterfall of Janet, the fairy queen. She is said to dwell in a cave screened by a waterfall which gushes into a pool that glows the colour of magic.

Till then it was a walk, which by its very nature, is suggestive of a slow pace. It stretches your body gently, lets the mind wander as you saunter, coaxes cobwebs out and generally paves the way to a beatific state of mind. Why, it soothed Adi’s frown away.

Soon we found ourselves in the middle of a limestone amphitheatre, along with a herd of grazing sheep. The beck flowed by, a river of honey gold glinting in the soft light of the sun, for it had emerged at some point to dispel the gloom of the day. Our jaws dropped as we turned around and surveyed this sheer display of nature’s power over us, tiny humans. A limestone landscape fashioned by the relentlessness of ice and water during the last Ice Age. We turned a corner and there lay Gordale Scar, a cave system that had collapsed and gouged the cliffs to reveal a gorge, that was at once intimidating and deliciously alluring.

We mused. Should we risk a climb? This is the part where I admit that we were wearing plain old walking shoes. The boulders were slimy, and the water gushing down it did nothing to bolster our confidence. As we walked away from that gorge, I simultaneously started whinging about not doing the one thing I had set out to do: see the limestone pavement. It was up there, you see, above the cliffs.

So my darling boy decided he would take me up. Up cliffs that were fenced off. Vast stretches of the inclines were varnished with jagged, grey limestone. As a reward, at the outset, Adi’s trousers caught at a snag in the fence. They ripped *whispers — at the crotch. But this did not thwart him. Oh no. He carried on and convinced me to follow him.

‘This should be easy,’ I said to myself as we started climbing. I had bypassed Adi when he called me from behind. ‘Look at the view, Nessie,’ he said. I turned, clinging to the long grass. And I froze. ‘This is what it feels when you reach the point of no return then,’ I thought, and a strange form of gut-liquefying panic gripped me. The bed of rocks below taunted me.

I started climbing then, and boy, I did not stop except to ride out the rushes of wind that whipped the grass. Oh that wind, it did not susurrate, it keened. What would have been music to my ears in a field, threatened to make me wilt on the steep inclines. After that there was no stopping. I have never felt more like a nimble goat in my life as I did then.

At one point, I called out to Adi. There was no reply. I would not dare to look down. It was too steep for comfort. My heart beating, with the rat-a-tat of a thousand Hitchcockian birds clamouring against window panes. After a short interval, but what seemed like eternity at that point of time, I heard Adi say faintly from somewhere below, ‘I am trying to climb a boulder.’ My imagination, already ripe with horror, had a whole tableau playing out. Of us desperately waving to speck-like people below for help. Perchance, they would arrange for an air ambulance for the foolish people up there, or would they rather nod their heads in contempt, and opine, ‘Odd folks. What did they think the fence is for? Let them stay up there.’

The relief that washed over me when I spotted my husband’s head pop up. I started back on my single-minded scramble to reach the top, which looked deliciously near. A final heave – thank heavens for my loose pair of trousers – and I was up on the edge of the cliff. I lay there, eyes shut, arms unclenching from clinging on to the grass for dear life, heart beating, legs trembling like jelly, sweat gathering beneath my jacket, the tee shirt demanding a gulp of air. Even today, I cannot believe that we made it to the top. The cliffs had been fenced off for good reason. Later, much later, I read a news story about a father and daughter who were out on a hike in Scotland. They went rogue like us, climbing a fenced mountain. It was a chance loose footing, but the father never made it back.

By this point, you might ask me to bugger off, because hey, you do not want adventures of this kind, do ya? But well, some hare-brained schemes once acted upon lead to spectacular landscapes as limestone pavements, where you too can get your trousers ripped.

Before I quit gabbing, I wanted to leave a note about the other rewards for this harum-scarum deed: It lies in the winding lanes that descend sedately to reveal the surreal beauty of the British countryside, for surreal is what it is and nothing less; in a pint of chilled ale at The Buck Inn; and, in the innocent faces of a dozen calves with yellow ear tags, who come lumbering around the corner to catch a sight of loud humans with ripped trousers.

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Our leathered-up friend was insistent about clicking at least one shot
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Sunday Roast lunch at the pub. Those Yorkshire puds are nothing less than gems.
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Malham Beck. ‘Beck’ and ‘Foss’ are Norse words, letting you know that the Vikings were here.
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Across the stone bridges of Malham
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Drystone walls and farm sheds
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A walk through farm land 
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And into the woods around Malham
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What did I tell you?

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The ancient woodlands around Malham

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Janet’s Foss
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The way to Gordale Scar
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Gordale Scar
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The part where I had climbed and turned back to behold this sheath of rocks
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See those tiny figures atop the cliffs. That is the point where we scrambled up.
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The ancient landscape that is the Malham Dales
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The limestone pavement of Malham, a natural karst landform scoured by glaciers as they receded, leaving behind grykes (fissures) and clints (limestone slabs).
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Award winning shot: Sheep poo and lonely tree
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Malham Dales
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Would you just look at that?
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Baby girls

57 Comments

  • InspiresN

    Oh! man that was quite scary but adventurous Dippy! I guess it was worth all the effort looking at all the scenic photographs .Indeed a lovely place Malham Dales !

    • dippydottygirl

      It is always better to look back upon adventures than when you are in the midst of it Nisha, so I can appreciate it now wholly. xx

    • dippydottygirl

      Hah you would know the joys of tucking into these beauties 🙂 That egg, milk, flour and water can come together in such a divine manner. xx

      • thewonderer86

        My granddad used to make a beauty, in a big tray with curling corners like galleons in full sale. We used to sprinkle brown sugar over it, and then squeeze quartered oranges over that. One of the greatest memories of my childhood!

        • dippydottygirl

          A combination that sounds grand. I have never tried it. Next time I find myself in Blighty, I gotta try it your way. Have you ever tried to recreate it? I end up recreating food memories from childhood which also means that I am developing a nostalgic-laden repertoire.

          • thewonderer86

            That’s a good idea. I might try to make it when I get to somewhere, where it’s possible. It would be great to have such a family heirloom kind of recipe book. And if you try Yorkshire pud the old fashioned way – you eat it as dessert, – but then before the main, meat and veg. course!

          • dippydottygirl

            The old-fashioned way sounds just about heavenly to my years. It would be my main dish! 🙂 I would love to know the results of your effort with some shots to make my tastebuds run amok and then possibly catch a flight to pud land! xx

  • equinoxio21

    What a lovely post, both words and images. (Climbing is always is a difficult exercise… Always ask the locals about the right routes)
    Glad to have caught up with you. Not checking my reader often enough I’m afraid.
    How was the trip home at the end of year?
    🙂

  • dippydottygirl

    Oh it was grand. Came back with bittersweet feelings, heaviness in the heart. Took a while to get back to the mode of life here. You realise how diverse the world is despite how connected it is.
    Working in reverse here — thank you for the lovely words 🙂 It was just foolishness at work there. The locals had told us the roundabout way to reach atop the cliffs. That would have taken us more time. Climbing without the right gear is sheer stupidity, so we have no excuse, and off the charted paths is even worse.
    Am glad to see you here. I have just about changed my blog host, so I would not have been surprised to see bloggers drop off.

    • equinoxio21

      I’d missed your reply entirely. Sorry ’bout that. Glad we are connected back. 🙂
      And yes… despite the “superficial” connection, the world is still very diverse.
      Be good ma’amji.
      😉

    • dippydottygirl

      I know, I risked it all with the torn-trouser imagery! Do not eye the pud. You have it, I do not. Have a heart.

  • josypheen

    This post is amaaaaazing!
    It looks like a gorgeous (if difficult) walk and that yorkshire pud looks perfect! You had lovely looking weather for epic photos.

    p.s. The bee library is SUCH a cool idea!!

    • dippydottygirl

      Thank you Josy 🙂 It is a special memory if only because we outlived foolishness. The pud was the perfect start to it, I think it gave us plenty of fat and carbs to work with. The bee library is rather cute, yes. I cannot imagine someone working for the cause of solitary bees, but then what do you know Gunga Din 🙂 xx

  • lexandneek

    This post was delightful. It brought such a smile to my face as I was reading about the bald man with the leather jacket and his territorial hound who had a hissy fit. The bee library is a great idea! We drive by apiaries sometimes but have never heard of a bee library (yes, the photo definitely proved that you weren’t on crack 😉 ) My loud laughter came about when reading about Adi’s unfortunate encounter with a fence. Lex has had the same experience 😛 Your photos are so lovely! I almost expect to see a Hobbit ambling around in the woodlands of Malham and the granite falls of Gordale Scar – Magical! As for the food – Yorkshire Pudding is a weakness of mine. Sigh! Much better than bacteria – Your amoebic friend – Neek

    • dippydottygirl

      Hahaha I love this amoebic friend and now that she professes a weakness for Yorkshire puds… she is one of a kind and I have none like her in my little black book. Plus we have spouses in common with ripped trousers in strategic locations 😛
      Thank you Neek, I miss our ambles so. The scrambles not so much. But now I would take even that. Oh how you would love those woodlands. They seem charmed and you are imaginative in visualising a hobbit tripping down its ancient paths. It is a most fitting image. xx

  • whatismaria

    Your storytelling never fails to amaze me – even before looking at the photos, I could imagine the landscape and all of its intricacies. And now I want to buy a train ticket and head up to Malham for a day trip asap because I am intrigued by the wonder of this place: it certainly looks and sounds like an adventure worth having, despite its nerve-wracking aspect! Xx

    • dippydottygirl

      Maria, Maria, how have you been? Lovely to hear from you 🙂 Thank you! It is the landscape you see that supplies you with the materials you need. I think you will love Malham, and why just Malham, the entire Yorkshire Dales is a gem. Your train ticket will be made good 🙂 There are so many good hikes there that you will be spoilt for choice. Literally (the American’s most-used word). Have a swell weekend. xx

    • dippydottygirl

      Hi Neha, thank you. Puds are undeniable in their allure. They can have you instead of the other way around! Cheers.

  • TheresaBarker

    Those rocky valleys are a truly amazing sight, Dippy-Dotty Girl! Wow. I loved the contrast of Adi’s red jacket and all the gray and brown of wintry landscape there. Lots of green, like here, in the winter. Thanks!

  • Osyth

    You have such a gift for capturing place with your words (and why waste a moment on one when you can use a whole paragraph filled to brimming – go girl, I love it!) and making me itch to be there right now. To be fair I might do better not to be quite so scrambly-venturous and maybe the lure of the Yorkie Pud is the real draw but I would happily hike that trail and meet those mooks on your advice and that is the wonderful thing about trailing round behind you via your blog! Xx

    • dippydottygirl

      Because you would indulge me with the last thought 🙂
      Thank you my lovely! I am itching to be there all over again. I hope you are having a relaxing weekend. xx

      • Osyth

        I’m off to Bavaria for a few days …. very excited (though The Bean less so as she has gone into kennels – or Pension de Chien as they call them here!!) xx

        • dippydottygirl

          Aww poor baby. He must be a bit used to it by now? Though it must be heartbreaking for him. Bavaria…ahhhh! It will be stunning. Are you doing a road trip? xx

          • Osyth

            We flew actually for reasons of time constraints. She is used to kennels in the US but this is her first time in France – she’ll be fine … treats, cuddles and food plus good walks equal a recipe for a contented Bean!!! xx

          • dippydottygirl

            I know her mummy will make sure that The Bean is in safe hands. Now The Bean and I share those elements for a full life, it seems 😉 xx

    • dippydottygirl

      Why thank you Anabel 🙂 Mighty pleased to have you over. It was quite the day! Hope you have a lovely week ahead.

  • Eunice

    Just popping over from Jo’s Monday Walk. A great adventure with some fab photos, Malham is a lovely place. The last time I went there, several years ago, it was a lovely sunny day in April but there was snow on top of the limestone pavement and round by the tarn.

    • dippydottygirl

      Snow on the pavement…that would have been quite a sight. Thank you, Eunice, for popping by and commenting 🙂 Malham remains a special memory and I want to do it all over again – reach the top by climbing Gordale Scar next time.

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