Thursday, 9 April 2015

Sparkling Gems of Malham

The Pikedaw Caverns and Beyond ...

There's so much to Malham that scores of visits are needed to see everything this famed village and its surroundings have to offer.  Today I wandered along the Mid Craven Fault to the west of the village - up to the Pikedaw Calamine Caverns (sounds fancy doesn't it?) and returned via the inevitable cove.  As you can see - it was a colourful journey!

The Mid Craven Fault is a massive earth fracture that started moving over 300 million years ago.  You can see the line of that fracture as we pick up the day's route.  Pikedaw Hill (limestone) to the right, has been uplifted in relation to Kirkby Fell on the left with its covering of gritstone.  Limestone lies buried hundreds of feet below this grit.  The contrasting colours either side of the fault line can't be missed!

Burns Burn is the first in a line of attractive field barns on the lane to Pikedaw Hill.

Looking back to Malham backed by the Cawden Reef Knoll which once separated shallow and deep water.  It is a great place to find fossils.

It's like a competition between the barns on this route - each having its own charm.

I like Butterlands Barn best.  It sits in a fabulous scene with the two fells and the Craven Fault showing well.  Great name, too.

Butterlands Barn.  The white limestone of Pikedaw Hill contrasting with the forbidding tones of grit on Kirkby Fell.  The pasture beyond was years ago known as 'Slevina' but no-one knows why.

Slevina even has its own waterfall - with a tufa screen, and easily visible from the path.

The fall from above.  Don't try this - it was daft of me!  One hand holding the fence, the other the camera ...

'Welcome to Pikedaw hill.  It's that strange bloke again!'

 The limestone scars of Hoober Edge - where Pikedaw Hill meets the Craven Fault. In the  distance the Mid Craven Fault can be seen extending eastwards to Great Knott and Gordale  Scar.

The dip in the middle represents the line of the Mid Craven Fault.  Grassington Grit here contrasting with the uplifted Great Scar Limestone.  

I sat on that block of gritstone for lunch - and the views across to Weets Top and Simon's Seat were stunning.

This is perhaps the best picture of the Mid Craven Fault.  You could almost imagine the ground still moving here.  There have been local tremors, you know!

As the path reaches the summit we meet the famous Pikedaw Calamine Caverns - natural caves mined for calamine (an ore of zinc used in the brass industry) as well as copper and lead.  The mineral veins lie between the Great Scar Limestone and the lowest limestone layer of the covering Yoredale Beds - which have now been largely eroded away. The mines were most active in the early 19th century.  This is a more recent shaft sunk into the caverns - down which cavers descend.  It is the muddiest place on earth!

If you do lift the lid and peer down, careful you don't trap your fingers when closing it again.  Ouch!

You go down the  ladder and then jump the rest!!  Only kidding - my friend tells me the ladder went all the way down once - but dafties tried descending without lifeline ropes. Presumably this last stretch helps cavers on the last few feet to the surface.  

This cairn marks the position of the original shaft - which is highly dangerous.  Levels were also sunk into the hilldside further down the valley to meet up underground. Malham Tarn is glinting beyond.  This lies on the North Craven Fault, where basement rocks (slates)  have been lifted to the surface and therefore hold the water.  The two faults are here only a mile and a half apart!

If you do take the planks off be extremely careful.  It's largely filled with rubble at the top but you don't want to be falling in ...

This large shakehole, it is believed, was sealed at the base to fill with water for the washing of ore.

The spoil heap glistens with crystals and probing it is highly addictive - be warned!

In just five minutes you can decorate a rock to look like a painter's pallette.

As well as tiny fragments of calamine, I found barytes (white) and the brilliant blue and green ores of copper - azurite and malachite respectively.  A surreal place which glistens in the sun.  

This man-made dam, maybe 200 years old - was built to pool water for the washing of the zinc and copper ores.

The nearby Nappa Cross contains only a base and upright, built into the wall.  Before enclosure it would have been a prominent landmark for monks on their travels, marking the meeting points of the moorland bridleways.

There is evidence of well-weathered decoration in the stonework.

Close up showing the cross built into the wall.

There are many small caves in the area - these are the Twin Bottom Scar Caves - but on the whole Malham is not noted for its extensive caves as the topography lacks the steep Yoredale slopes of the Three Peaks area which funnel water rapidly onto the limestone.  The underworld, however, holds many mysteries still being investigated, particularly by divers.

Arriving at the crossroads - I turned right and then explored an area which has always fascinated me.

This is the Langscar Iron Age Village.  There are many huts and enclosures separated by banks of boulders and turf ..

Picking them out from the surrounding outcrops requires a keen and experienced eye.

This boulder, central in one of the huts, has a notable recess which may well have held a post to support a roof structure.

Another example of a dwelling with a large fallen slab in the foreground.

Love this little hut.  It took some finding but is very distinct once you stumble on it.

I returned to Malham via the famous dry valley of Watlowes.  Massive torrents of meltwater once scurried down here and caused chaos, jumping over a series of falls ...

This is a  good example - complete with a cave which is out of bounds for all but the fanatical!

But nothing compares with the stupendous Malham Cove.  We kid ourselves that the tourism detracts from its splendour really.  It is spectacular on a world scale - and no matter how many times you visit - it still shoots the adrenalin when you near the edge like no place I know of in England.

This is many people's first experience of a limestone pavement.  It's a brilliant example.

The meltwater's flow was more concentrated in the centre, of course, so the cove has been cut back in a horseshoe shape which is not always easy to see when you are standing beneath it.  Up here - well, it's something else.

Enjoy the views, in slightly different light and shadow ....

The bedded Gordale limestone forms the overhang and the bit above it - while the sheer face is formed of (you've guessed it) Cove Limestone.  

The cove has been cut back so much, in fact, that it is a good distance away now from the line of the Mid Craven Fault which created it!

My last picture of the day: the Sheriff Hill Burial Cairn - from which an incense cup and human remains have been found.  It lies (unknown to many) just off the path to the east of the cove.

No comments:

Post a Comment