Following the Aire

Starting out from Malham in the Yorkshire Dales, Sarah and I crossed the Aire Janet's cave waterfalland walked along field edges and dry stone walls heading towards Gordale Scar. After a gentle mile, we came to Wedber Woods, rich with mosses and the first bright green leaves of wild garlic. Pausing at Janet’s Cave waterfall, with its deep clear pool that on another day would be inviting for a swim, we left the woods up the rough steps to the road.

Onward to Gordale Scar and the steep limestone cliffs which funnelled us to a second waterfall on Gordale beck. The beck was running high and the limestone wet and slippery so, after snacking on boiled eggs and peanuts, we turned and stomped up the road to Lee Gate. An easy walk over grass cropped short by Swaledale sheep brought us to High Stony Bank. Unsure how clearly marked our intended path would be, we measured the map and paced the distance to find an old sign and we set out across the pathless moor.

Though the sky remained grey the moorland was alive with the dancing Lapwings, serenades of the Skylarks high above us accompanied by Curlews hidden from view. We stopped for lunch on a boulder drinking hot Vimto and eating sausages and home made trail mix. After the obligatory dance pose, we faced the challenge of fording Gordale beck which had turned the bridalway into a wide stream. With a little careful planning and use of walking poles our socks remained dry and we began to head back south. A herd of Belted Galway cows, complete with ring-nosed bull paid us little attention and after another short stomp on tarmac we met the Pennine Way.

It was here, a few metres from its source at Malham Tarn, the river Aire disappears without fuss underground to emerge a mile away at Malham Cove. The polished limestone of Ing Scar demanded concentration as we wound down to the limestone pavement above the cove. Stepping across the stones like chess pieces moving across the board, we made it to the steps. Weary but happy with thoughts of the cake waiting in the car for us, we followed the Aire back to Malham.

Start time 11am, 5 hours 35 minutes, 16.6km with 303m ascent.

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