Day trip to Malham Cove - and limestone flooring
On my hands and knees inspecting limestone tiles
England is home to a great number of intriguing and sometimes breathtaking sites of geological interest. The largest county in England is Yorkshire which has some of the UK's most spectacular limestone formations, ranging from caverns and potholes to alien-like karstic limestone pavements. After recently visiting some of the sites in and around the Yorkshire Dales on day trips, I learned about the history and formation of the different stone structures. After arriving back home from some of my excursions, I often found myself on my hands and knees inspecting the limestone tiles in my kitchen for fossils and other fascinating markings.
Malham Village - Parking and Ducks
Malham is a quaint little village in the Pennines, not far from Skipton ('the gateway to dales'). Much like most of the countryside around the Dales, Malham is surrounded by a characteristic web of limestone dry stone walls. There is a also a pretty stream that runs through the village where children can play, and feed the greedy ducks (who probably get more than their fill of bread from tourists).
The village of Malham has been there for over a thousand years, there are still traces of buildings from the Iron Age. Malhamdale countryside and Malham estate is looked after jointly by The National Trust and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. There are plenty of Car Parks around the outskirts of the village, and Malham Cove is around a 30 minutes walk.
The approach to Malham Cove
As you approach the Cove itself you immediately begin to realise how special this place is, and as you walk with your eyes transfixed on the huge curving amphitheatre shaped cliff of limestone, it’s easy to catch your foot in one of the hundreds of rabbit holes or random stones along the pathway.
When you reach the bottom of the cove, there is a clear natural stream full of scattered boulders which would have fallen from cliff over thousands of years. The water, which emerges from a small submerged cave at the very bottom of the cover has shaped and eroded the boulders into wonderful rounded shapes. Jumping from rock to rock through the stream is a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t have been too bothered if my foot had gone in the water as it looked sparkling and clean (good enough to drink perhaps).
There were actually some rock climbers near the bottom of the cover who had recently begun their ascent up the cliff face, which really did look to be a huge challenge to reach the top, as there are numerous stone overhangs and crags half way up. The easiest way to the top is via a stepped pathway to the left hand side of the cove which is slightly tricky and tiring itself.
Limestone Pavement - Alien Landscape
The landscape at the top of Malham cover is completely different to anything I have ever seen. Standing and looking across the flat topography of unique ‘limestone pavement’ was absolutely worth all of the hiking and the climbing. The flat expanse of limestone was formed millions of years ago when the land was covered by ocean. As the sea level resided, the layer of stone was buried by soil, and woodland; years passed as the soil and woodland was cleared leaving the limestone once again exposed to the battering of the North Yorkshire weather.
The ‘Clints’ (the blocks of limestone) and ‘Grykes’ (the gaps) and sinkholes were all formed by slightly acidic water which eroded away the limestone leaving it as it is today. Some of the gaps in the limestone are in fact quite deep to look down (maybe 5-6 feet), and make a unique wildlife habitat for rare flowers and ferns which remain there since the times when the area was covered in woodland.
Shopping for limestone tiles
So there it is, my day out to Malham Cove gave me great exercise, and a first hand experience of standing on the huge limestone Plateau that actually featured in the Harry Potter film ‘Deathly Hallows part 1’ – Now when I stand in my kitchen drinking my first cup of coffee of the morning, I often think of my trip to Malham Cove. I will shortly be shopping for tiles for my conservatory and will definitely be buying limestone flooring again from the same tile store. One other thing I will say is that if you ever visit Malham cove, be sure to take good footwear, a raincoat, and a flask of tea.