Yorkshire Dales - the ancient landscape.
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
I arrived to Malham in September on a brilliantly sunny day. The bus left me in the centre of the village, but my impression was that I was suddenly dropped in the middle of the film set. Handsome stone houses, a pub with the manicured lawn right by the river, with an ancient stone bridge and the flower pots everywhere to complete the look (the set dresser thought of everything!) - this village is as close to 'postcard - pretty', as if it has been taken out of some television drama set in the countryside. My suspicions grew when I read the pub's board advertising 'Malham pie - as seen on TV!'
Fortunately, Mahlam is a real place (of course, it is!) and if television crews wander occasionally into the village, most of the year it retains its quiet, unassuming and quaint character.
As much as the leisurely pace and pleasant surroundings of Malham act like a magnet, the spectacular scenery of Yorkshire Dales will drive you away eventually.
The landscape of Yorkshire Dales is sublime in its simplicity. It is a mainly pastoral setting with green fields stretching for miles around, with dry -stone walls and lonely barns as the only markings on the horizon. Farming has shaped the dales for hundreds of years and continues to do so today. The word 'dale' comes from the Norse and means 'valley'; despite some spectacular hills in the area, the valleys dominate the land.
When the morning mist rises, the first rays of sun illuminate the landscape and give it dimensions, bringing out its monochromatic palette - all the shades and tones of green.
However, what makes this land unique, are its geological features. Yorkshire Dales have been shaped by water and ice, successive ice ages and inter glacial periods. The valleys, or dales, were sculpted by the advancing ice, whereas water acted on the limestone as an erosive force or through chemical action. A long series of geological changes left the landscape scarred: numerous caves, coves, gorges, waterfalls make Yorkshire Dales a fascinating place to explore.
A short walk from Malham village through the valley, reveals a massive limestone formation created by waterfall carrying meltwater from the glacier. This is famous Malham Cove. It is an imposing cliff when you are looking up from the bottom of the valley, but the most rewarding is the climb to the top. Not only the view is breathtaking, but you can also explore the limestone pavement.
Its tortured look is the result of the acidic water boring into the rock, creating fissures, called grykes. Limestone pavement appears particularly desolate, but apparently it has created a niche for rare plants that thrive on the layer of soil within the grykes.
If you walk down the valley along the Pennine Way, you will arrive at Malham Tarn, The National Trust Estate with a glacial lake. The lake was created by a moraine, the deposit left by a retreating glacier, that blocked the river valley.
Gordale Scar with its overhanging limestone cliffs and two waterfalls is another geological wonder of the area.
Ancient stone formations abound in the Dales and their fantastic forms and shapes remind us, that rock, soil and water are indeed the elemental forces that sculpt the landscape and bring it to life. Beyond the rolling hills of the countryside, a quiet drama of the Earth's workings is taking place.
Ultimately, it is the balance between the sublime and the pastoral that makes the Yorkshire Dales so popular and endearing.