Today we visited Malham Cove a 260 foot limestone cliff in the Yorkshire Dales. We climbed somewhere in the region of 400 natural steps to get to the top of the cliff face. Sam, Alice and I were much slower than the others, but then we tend to talk more too. One of the best things about hiking from my point of view is the opportunity it affords to actually speak to each other. There is no television and there are no Xboxes or DSis or PCs to interrupt and distract people; talking is the best and only form of entertainment. As we walked today I remembered some of the songs my dad used to sing with us in the car when I was little. There was the one about one man who went to mow a meadow. He took his dog, Spot and a bottle of pop with him and also gradually invited several other men to help with the job. There was another about a tiny house by a tiny stream where a lovely lass had a lovely dream, but I lost the tune somewhere much to everyone's amusement. The children had learned some songs on scout camps and school holidays which they in turn remembered and we walked along the limestone pavement at the top of the cliff singing a song about Tarzan being hit by a rubber band. I needed some sort of a distraction from the drop to the right of us and by trooping along like a platoon of soldiers the children avoided any panicked stay away from the edge shrieks from me.
It’s easy to imagine a huge waterfall cascading over the cliff, but the last time water was recorded flowing over the fall was in the early nineteenth century after a period of heavy rain. Nowadays the underlying cave systems have a large enough capacity to swallow any flood water before it reaches the fall. Divers have only explored about 1.6km of the cave network. There is a lovely story about a nineteenth century 'Spooky Parson' who claimed to have had 'visions' of the nature of the unexplored cave behind the Cove. He wrote down his predictions in a famous sealed letter, which was to be opened once the cave behind the Cove was discovered. The letter was actually opened by the Chairman of Malham Parish at a meeting in 1997, but most of the contents were undecipherable. Here is a site which describes some of the exploration which has taken place to date.
For me there is something magical about standing on structures that are thousands of years old and wondering who may have been there before. I tried to express this as we walked away from the waterfall at Gordale Scar, but everyone was busy chewing mentos and the words weren’t enough anyway, so the photographs will just have to speak for themselves.