I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve visited Malham… walking, camping, playing the tourist and even working. But I never tire of it. I was there again early doors on Sunday. I can recommend driving over the old road from Settle to Kirkby Malham. As you head down to the village the whole of Malhamdale opens up like a great outdoor theatre with the cove waiting for the ‘house full’ sign to go up before opening its dramatic curtains.

One or two Yorkshiremen had beaten me there as there were only a couple of free parking spots still available. But hey, even I don’t begrudge paying at Malham. In most other touristy spots there’d be turnstiles and ‘credit cards accepted’ signs at entrances to the cove, Gordale, Janet’s Fosse and the Tarn.

After a short stroll my mission was to follow (in the car) a cycling route I took well over 30 years ago when I was more than a little bit fitter. Having cycled up from the Heavy Woollen District we’d visited Malham and headed on towards Penyghent with the aim of camping at Halton Gill.


It’s a glorious road up above the cove, looking back down on the patchwork of grey and green. On Sunday as I drove by Capon Hall farm above Malham a lonely old horse stood like some city centre statue, gaining as much shelter as it could. Although the sun shone brightly the temperature was zero and the wind added quite a few minuses to the score. The road runs beneath the unwelcoming, soggy mass of Fountain’s Fell before dropping down to join the road from Stainforth to Halton Gill.

All those years ago we’d cycled along here to Dale Head, where the Pennine Way crosses the road, but decided it was getting too dark to risk heading down to Halton Gill so we asked the farmer if we could camp in a field.

We looked around for a bit of flat ground and started to pitch. The farmer watched us stupid townies for a while before offering a word of advice: “Ah wudn’t set it up the’er if Ah were you. Tha’ll end up i’ Ribblesdale toneet.”

He reckoned the wind was picking up and we were planning to pitch right in its path. We moved the tent round the back of a barn, and boy was he right about the wind. Never slept a wink but on opening the tent door in the morning we looked out to see the nose end of Penyghent staring us in the face on a glorious clear morning just like on Sunday.

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