Words & Photos Ian Battersby
Distance: 17 miles/27km
Time: 8-10 hours
Start/finish: Threshfield (GR: SD 989637)
Maps: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 98 (Wensleydale & Upper Wharfedale); OS 1:25,000 Explorer sheet OL2 (Yorkshire Dales – Southern & Western areas)
Information: Grassington, 01756 752774
Travel: Trains to Skipton, occasional buses to Threshfield. Information from Traveline: 0871 2002233, www.traveline.org
The secluded moors of Threshfield and Malham tender an appealing blend of harsh heather, dissolving brooks and limestone delights. Pockets of mixed woodland house heaps of tiny songbirds, enough to make any twitcher tremble, but from April to the end of July the RSPB’s presence at Malham Cove is the main attraction, for it is here that the world’s fastest creature puts on a show.
I began by walking from Threshfield to get some miles under my belt.
The path ambles through the delightful dell at Wood Nook, before vaguely following Rowley Beck beneath the oak and ash of Cow Close Wood, which matures beneath a fascinating limestone outcrop, now designated as open access. I climbed up, wandering around the limestone pavements, and absorbing the view over Wharfedale. On the western edge I peeped into the double arched Height Cave, where evidence of Bronze and Iron Age occupation has been uncovered. Open access ends here, so you have to backtrack to the path. If you find a rattled farmer make sure you have your access map to support your case. Continuing to Mastiles Lane, historians will also be delighted to discover the remains of a Roman camp, through which the old drove road passes, before reaching the outflow of Malham Tarn. A short section of the Pennine Way drops to Malham Cove’s fantastic outlook over Airedale and the southern Pennines beyond. Far below I spotted a tent. It turned out to be an outpost of the RSPB, there to watch over the peregrines which nest on the Cove. Three high-powered telescopes were trained on the plethora of activity that was going on. Mum was in a bare tree high on the cliff, one of the juveniles was finishing off a crow, and dad was in the grass tucking into a fat pigeon. These were the most magnificent views of such a magnificent bird, which, in a dive, can reach 180mph. My thanks to the RSPB which mans 24 peregrine sights in the Dales.
Next I was off to follow Gordale Beck to Janet’s Foss through garlic scented woods, before heading off for the wide and vast panorama seen from Weets Top, where I spotted a fourth peregrine falcon in the air, possibly the second of the successfully reared juveniles for this year.
Gentle green slopes, unblemished by limestone outcrops, led me down to Bordley Beck, which was rushing with the summer’s rain. A quiet lane climbs on to Boss Moor, from where a choice of track or invisible path returns through heather and disused mine works to Threshfield.
Path W to Skirethorns. Lane W to Wood Lane. Lane N then path W through Wood Nook to Cow Close Wood. Explore limestone knoll above wood. Cave in western edge. Return to path. Paths W through Height Lathe and Bordley to Mastiles Lane. W to Water Sinks. Pennine Way S through Malham to Mires Barn. NE to Janet’s Foss. Lane E then track to Weets Top. Return N 200m then path ESE through Park Ho, Know Bank to Lainger House. Lane SSE to Boss Moor then indistinct path ENE, or bridleway N then E to Threshfield.Tweet