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18 June 2014
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Uplands | Malham

Limestone spectacular

Limestone pavement at Malham Photo courtesy of YDNP

Malham Cove stands north of the mid craven fault. Malham Cove is a curved crag of carboniferous limestone formed after the last ice age. Meltwater, particularly from Malham Tarn, cut back the cove as it fell over the edge as a waterfall. This erosion took place more actively at the lip of the fall, hence the curved shape.

Limestone pavement at Malham

The 1769 sq km of the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been described as wild, expansive, tranquil and at times awesome and bleak.

Malham is one of its most bizarre landscapes, looking almost lunar in places, with its massive slabs of rock and pitted fissures.

The area's classic limestone scenery features cliffs, crags, and scars.

Limestone pavement Photo courtesy of YDNPMalham Cove

Malham Cove is a limestone pavement formed after the last Ice Age by meltwater, largely from Malham Tarn.

The cliffs are 80m high by 300 m across, and this amazing area is amongst the top ten geological wonders of Britain.

The resulting limestone pavement on the surface of the cove is characterised by limestone blocks called clints and fissures called grykes.

Limestone is very susceptible to weathering and this erosion has resulted in the limestone pavement.

Some of the best limestone pavements are a few miles to the north east at the Ingleborough Nature Reserve.

The microclimate of the grykes is more humid and slightly warmer than on the pavement itself resulting in a different range of vegetation.

The grykes are rich in plant life including Ferns, Wood Sorrel, Dog's Mercury, and Anemones.

At the top of the limestone the vegetation changes - look out for the delicate, yellow Rock Rose, and the herbaceous Thyme.

These plants love dry, stony conditions, little soil and limestone. A good place to see this landscape is around Grassington.

Ingleborough c/o Yorkshire Tourist Board Rocky history

The National Park is not a totally natural place - the countryside has been created by the activities of people making a living from the land for thousands of years.

The geology of the Yorkshire Dales is sedimentary rocks from the Carboniferous Age. This appears on the surface as limestone pavement.

The rocks were created under seas and buried by deposits which themselves formed rocks.

Since then the whole area has been lifted above sea level and the overlying rocks worn away by natural processes

The quarrying industry in the Dales dates back hundreds of years. Stone from small local pits was used to create the distinctive Dales landscape of dry-stone walls, field barns, farmsteads and villages.

Herb Robert Photo courtesy of YDNPQuarrying

But quarrying today is a far cry from cottage industry times - it is big business in the Dales.

In 1993 around 4.1 million tonnes of rock were quarried within the National Park area, by 1994 this figure had risen to 4.7 million tonnes.

The origins of the village of Malham can be traced back to the Anglian settlement of the Dales during the 7th and 8th centuries.

The village as seen today was established in the 17th century. Since that time there has been relatively little increase in the built-up area.

Spleenwort Photo courtesy of YDNPFrom mines to tourism

Mining (lead and zinc) and the wool trade have been important in the area's development.

While sheep and cattle rearing continue to be a strong influence, tourism is the most significant economic activity

A carved antler harpoon found in Victoria Cave near Settle believed to be 11,000 years old is the earliest and most reliable evidence of people in the area.

Visitors were drawn to the Dales long before it became a National Park. The area's dramatic landscapes were sought out by writers and artists in the 18th century.

By 1781 there was already a tour guide to the caves in the Ingleborough and Settle area.

As transport improved, so the number of visitors increased. By the late 19th century new railways had been built across the Dales and railway guides recommended local beauty spots accessible from their stations.

 

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