Pocket Britain

A tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales that makes a great base to discover the surrounding spectacular scenery

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Malham is a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales. It has only 150 permanent residents, but there are plenty of visitors that liven the place up a bit. Many of them come for regular events like the Malham Show, held every August, which features a bottomless pick-n-mix bag of attractions. Among other things, there's an art display, a show-jumping event, a farmer's market, and a mountain bike race.

A dog at the Malham Show
Photo publicenergy
During the rest of the year this is a very quiet, sleepy place, although it did enjoy a little excitement in 2006, when the villagers discovered a tiny electronic listening device, hidden in the parish hall. The gadget was apparently being used to eavesdrop on the meetings held there, a fact which greatly amused the locals. The police never did discover the culprit.
If you're not worried about hi-tech spies, then despite its size, Malham is still worth a visit. There are plenty of places to stay, whether you prefer to rent a cottage, or to bunk down in a converted barn. The village makes for a great base, from which to investigate the spectacular surrounding scenery. There's a National Park Information Centre, which has details on everything, as well as maps, books, and souvenirs.

The Bridge over Malham Beck
Photo in the public domain
When you're ready to begin exploring, then a good place to start is at Malham Beck, a small stream that flows through the village. If you follow it upstream, you'll come to the breathtaking Malham Cove. This is a vast, curved wall of limestone, 300 metres in length. The 80-metre-high sheer cliff was formed by a waterfall, which used to pour from the top of the cove. Nowadays though, the water has found another path, through an underground cave or tunnel, and it emerges from the foot of the cliff. It's hard to choose the best angle to see it from. If you approach from below, you get to see the full height of the rock. The area is full of green grass and trees, making for a perfect picnic spot. On the other hand, if you make the climb up to the top of Malham Cove, you can enjoy the wide-open views of the villages and the rest of the surrounding dales.

Malham Cove
Photo David Benbennick
Just to the east of here, there's another example of the effect water erosion can have over a period of millions of years. There's a huge wound in the land, as if it's been torn in two. It's called Gordale Scar, and it's hard to imagine its full size until you're actually there, and it's swallowed you up. Rock walls surround you on both sides, and a waterfall tumbles through the centre of the gorge. On rainy days, this becomes quite strong. But when there's better weather, and the flow recedes slightly, you're able to scramble your way past, and climb towards Malham Moor, to the north. Gordale Scar is the subject of a famous painting by J.M.W. Turner, a 19th-century artist who is known as one of the greatest landscape painters in British history.

Gordale Scar
Photo Lupin
The stream at the Scar flows south-west, and over another waterfall called Janet's Foss. Here, rather than the towering, jagged rocks, the water is surrounded by calm, quiet greenery. Janet, who gave her name to the place, is said to be an ancient queen of the fairies. Some people believe that in this mysterious place, if you wait long enough, you can catch sight of the fairies that still live here today.

Janet's Foss
Photo einalem
Another, perhaps more likely way to see some interesting creatures is at Malham Tarn, an upland lake to the north. This is a nature reserve, that's looked after by the National Trust. It's full of elegant waterbirds, and dangerous falcons. The Tarn is renowned for its walking, and fishing. It was the setting for Charles Kingsley's novel "The Water Babies", which became one of the most famous and well known children's stories in 19th century Britain.

Malham Tarn
Photo lynnsta

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