Tales from the Dales (Part 1)

At 736m above sea level there's the highest point in Yorkshire. It’s a hill called Whernside and it’s not far from a famous crease on the landscape known as Malham Cove.

Before we get started, the popular thing to do when writing about trekking, hiking and adventuring is to first recall it in some sort of fantasy world. Then the resultant writing is an awe inspiring tale of a bullshit, far from the truth and meant to be read in some sort of rah-rah tone as if you’re a leading tory back bencher. Well, I promise that what I’ve written below is an accurate recollection of some trekking, hiking and adventuring in the Yorkshire Dales, more-or-less.

So, this is:

Whernside and Malham Cove mid-week in September (part one).

Let’s begin.



Malham Cove is, in comparison to the Whernside trek, nothing I can complain about. Driving from Whitby early on a Thursday gave excuse for stop-offs in Knaresborough (beautiful) for a quiet breakfast and a chance to rename the local attraction as ‘Mother Shitface’s Cave’ and then again in Skipton (surprisingly scenic) to buy an OS map and to chat to multiple women who apparently can easily be wooed if you’re a teacher from Whitby. No lie. After those stops, arrival in Malham was just after midday.

Malham is quite small. There’s no shop, two pubs, a tea room, a national park centre and a big pile of dog shit when you step out of your van. I remembered reading that Bill Bryson once lived in Malham. That was useful to recall. Best get moving.

Malham Cove is about a mile North of Malham and it’s marked on an OS map with a blue star that means it’s a tourist feature. You can prove it’s a tourist feature quite easily for yourself by taking a quick look at the price of a pint in either of the pubs. The local authority have kindly paved most of the path to the cove, so if you use your trusted OS map to avoid that path, then you can avoid the tourists. Our chosen route went past a hostel and along some field boundary lines until coming up to the cove’s stream, which, unexpectedly, was rather rain-swollen at the time, meaning a backtrack to a bridge was needed. At this I should point out that most tourists were actually on their way home and the early afternoon left only DofE-ers and people just getting on with a nice walk.

The trek to and around Malham Cove isn't a difficult one and there's even steps to the top of the cove. There are also plans to make a chair lift to the top, but I can’t remember where I read that. Or if I read it at all. But it’s probably true. Authorities are ridiculously keen to encourage more people to explore the natural world by making it more accessible, however, the said authorities don’t seem to appreciate the preservation of all nature as they seem to have no problem with mutilating the landscape for a big stupid path that’s better made than any high street north of Blythe. The counter argument is that these paths keep trekkers from trudging across the wild environment and causing random damage. It’s a tough call and it reminded me of being in Snowden and walking along a path made of slate so blue it must have been imported, despite Snowden having many slate mines and quarries. (My geology educated hiking buddy at the time even agreed.)

Anyway, back to Malham and at the top of the Cove you get to look out over the scarred landscape and appreciate the unbroken views and silence that the exposed setting gives you. It’s an amazing, mesmerising, meditative moment broken only by your current hiking buddy pointing out that Warner Brothers had to bring all their filming gear up here. I do like films, but that was not on my mind. However, it is a fair point and a number of Land Rovers must have been needed to shoot that 2 minute Harry Potter segment when they camped in the Yorkshire Dales to avoid Death Eaters. Although there’s all the rocky limestone pavement at the top of the cove, there is the odd patch of grass where you could easily pitch a tent with a mudblood. It’s nice up there.

Keep trekking at the top and you’ll get to Malham Tarn where you’ll see a small forest and a huge house on the opposite shoreline. It began to rain and so I stood for a moment to watch the rain stream down and bounce across the tarn surface, whilst I pissed into the wind. I was getting wet anyway. From here there’s a nice way back to Malham that takes you across sheep fields and through NON-ROMAN settlements that maybe (could be?) more stone walls.

So there's two pubs in Malham and I suggest going to the Buck Inn because the other one has things on the menu that are hard to pronounce. Saying that, at the Buck Inn you get little change from a tenner for two pints. I wouldn’t mind but the week earlier I was in a pub near King’s Cross where it was £6.60 for two pints! Bastards. The pie is nice though, as are the staff. At 6pm the only other punters in the pub are three peasants who cycled from Leeds that morning. Their accent is mostly mumbles with a smile. It's hard to understand. Best get moving again.

Back up near the tarn there was a carpark and that’s where the van stayed that night. Originally the plan was to use a tent, but having recently panelled the inside of the van it would’ve been a shame to not sleep in it. Also it turns out that taking the bulkhead out of a Vauxhall Combo means a 6’1” person can lay out flat in it – it’s a nice thing to think about as rain pounds against a metal exterior.

I didn’t fly my flag that day, but there’s always tomorrow.

There’s always part 2.

Stevie Steven