Malham Cove

I’ve always wanted to see a limestone pavement. I don’t know why, but they have always fascinated me; dare I say it, they’ve always seemed romantic – the sort of landscape a poet would go crazy over. They were not quite what I was expecting though.

I expected the pavement to look like a city sidewalk, with tiny little cracks running along the surface, through which the occasional forlorn flower may bloom. It would be irregular but flat. In reality though, these cracks were more like gullies; you could lose a leg between them – a body even. The tops of these great slabs are called ‘clints’ and they are not as stable as you might imagine. As you walk over them they move and wobble and create great booming, grinding sounds. The crevasses between the stones are called ‘grykes’ and they’re caused by natural weathering – water dissolving it, ice bursting, the action of winds, plants and animals. I peered into these grykes, fascinating by these microcosms, these a bubble realities –  minute worlds of wonder. Are the species  here endemic?  Evolving niches so specific a human breath could shift their fate?

Down below, the tiny town of Malham was busy. Cars stalked out parking spaces. From down there you could hike to the top of the cove (up over 400 steps). We instead, drove up the road away from Malham. A sign read: No Parking For One and a Half Miles. But after that,  the road opened up and there was an open verge. We pulled up the car. It was right beside the public footpaths and thankfully uphill of the actual pavements themselves. 

Perched on the pavement, I heard the peregrines nesting all around us – crying out with sharp desperate shrieks. The sound was haunting, but the sun was bright all around us creating a strange cacophony of emotion. 

They filmed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows here – I had to google it to remind myself of the scene. I’m not a Potter-fan anymore. I used to love speculating and predicting what will happen next – but once the last book was published, there was  nothing left. The cove looks spectacular on film – more so than in real life. That’s human memory and imagination for you – it’s greater than reality.

We cut across the side of the cove and headed towards Malham Tarn: a great lake beside a National Trust research centre. There were supposed to be toilets over there, but they were irritatingly out of order. According to one member of my party it was populated entirely by ghosts. 

The tarn itself was poison. Filled to the brim with blue-green algae – although the signs were so tiny that you may never know it; it seemed apparent most didn’t or didnt care. The internet says that it is especially toxic to dogs and young children. I thought about that afterwards as I remembered watching a dog whining and picking up rocks from the lake and putting them on the shore. The mum was drying off her children with a towel after their swim. I hoped they were okay. 

Kassie paddled her feet in the water. Afterwards, I told her she probably had only 72 hours left to live and should really make the most of her time. I think she just spent it watching re-runs of glee.  


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