Friday, 9 January 2015

Gordale Scar, Kilnsey Moor & The Weets

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Route: Malham, Mires Barn, New Laithe, Webder Wood, Janet's Foss. Gordale Bridge, Gordale Scar, Gordale Bridge, New Close Knotts, New Close, Street Gate, Roman Camp, Mastiles Lane, Mastiles Gate, Kilnsey Moor, Bordley, Bark Side Laithe, Bordley Hall, Low Laithe, Park House, Weets Top, Hanlith Moor, Windy Pike Lane, Hanlith, Scalegill Mill, Kirkby Top, Malham

Date: 12/01/2015
From: Malham

Parking: Roadside parking in Malham
Start Point: Malham
Region: Yorkshire Dales

Route length: 14.2 miles (22.8 km)
Time taken: 05:04
Average speed: 2.8 mph
Ascent: 787m
Descent: 790m

Summits on this walk: Kilnsey Moor (450m), The Weets (414m)

Other points of interest: Janet's Foss, Gordale Scar, Mastiles Lane, Roman Camp, Weets Cross

Having technically been at work over Christmas, I had a few days of leave that needed taking up which made for an ideal opportunity to get some decent walks in. I had my sights set on the Lake District, the first trip of the year, but the weather was looking very much anti-fell climbing so I cast my eyes south, back to the Yorkshire Dales.

Gordale Scar is one of the most popular and impressive locations in the Yorkshire Dales and makes for one of the best circular walks going - Gordale and Malham Cove. I, however, decided that I'd have a look at the much less frequented area to the east of Gordale and Malham, Malham Moor. A few high points had caught my eye and I'd devised this route to visit a couple of them, Malham Moor itself and the high point of The Weets; Weets Top. It was an added bonus to include a climb up Gordale Scar as well.

The weather forecasters had their predictions spot on with the heavy rain that accompanied me from Wakefield subsiding by the time I had the car settled in Malham. It's odd to be the first to arrive in a place that's often full, and it wasn't particularly early by any means. A cold and breezy but ultimately dry day in the Dales lay ahead of me.

I left Malham along the Pennine Way, heading south before taking the path alongside the fledgling River Aire to Wedber Wood, home to Janet's Foss. Janet's Foss is a pretty waterfall, carrying Gordale Beck over a limestone outcrop. The name Janet (sometimes Jennet) is thought to be a folk tale reference to a fairy queen held to inhabit a cave at the rear of the fall. I've seen the falls a number of times but never with the water flowing with such ferocity. While impressive, this didn't bode well for an ascent of Gordale Scar.
A small stone bridge crosses Gordale Beck in Malham
Gordale Beck looking pretty full
Some abandoned farm machinery near Webder Wood
The entrance to Webder Wood
Gordale Beck running through Webder Wood
Gordale Beck with Janet's Foss in the distance
A raging Janet's Foss
A close up of the falls
I climbed out of the woods and onto Gordale Lane which once formed a key route between Malham and Kilnsey but now serves as access to some significant upland farms. Here, the route passes through a campsite and into the jaws of Gordale Scar, arguably one of the Yorkshire Dales' most impressive sights.
The entrance to Gordale Scar
The falls hide around the corner
As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I love it when something isn't revealed until the very last minute; the big reveal I like to call it. Gordale Scar is one of those. You don't get the full spectacle of the scar until you round the final bend and are right in its midst. The Romantics travellers who came here were awestruck by this place. The poet Thomas Gray said he could only bear to stay here for a quarter of an hour, but 'not without shuddering', it's a dark and menacingly beautiful place. The considerable overhang of the limestone walls also suggests that the ravine was once a cavern, like many others found across the area. Gordale Scar contains two waterfalls, one evident to all visitors at the end of the first valley and a second hidden away in the mid reaches. It is at this second waterfall that further evidence of the cavern roof can be seen.
Gordale Scar
Gordale Scar
One look at the falls was all I needed to confirm that I wouldn't be climbing them today. It seemed a challenge just to get to them let alone climb the rock partition in the middle, it would have to wait for another day. I retraced my steps back to the lane before taking the footpath signposted for Malham. A detour of Gordale Scar is accessible from this path, one that heads straight up the hillside to the west of the scar onto New Close Knotts and this is the route I took.
The falls in Gordale Scar
True enough today
Gordale Scar once again
New Close Knotts and the path that bypasses Gordale Scar
This isn't a route I've used before and, while not as exciting as Gordale Scar itself, it provides a stunning overlook down into the valley itself shortly before joining the main path once again. This route, as you may guess, is suitable all year round and presents little difficulties aside from the steepness of the hill.
Hawthorns Lane stretching past Cross Field Knotts
Gordale Scar from above
Gordale Scar and Gordale Beck
Gordale Beck prior to its disappearance into the scar
The footpath at New Close
The path, wide and easy to follow, leads to Malham Tarn and forms part of the classic Gordale and Malham Cove circuit. I however, would be going a different way, a route that is often overlooked by many who pass by. A number of routes can be taken at Street Gate, a prominent meeting point of several paths, one of which is Mastiles Lane.
Great Close Hill
Mastiles Lane is believed to have been part of an important long distance monastic route linking the estates of Fountains Abbey in the northern Lake District with the main or mother house beyond Pateley Bridge. The section now called Mastiles Lane was once known as ‘Strete Gate’ and it connected Fountains’ monastic grange at Kilnsey with sheep pastures on Malham Moor. Mastiles Lane would take me as far as the high point of Kilnsey Moor.
Mastiles Lane
A short distance after Street Gate, the lane passes through an ancient Roman Marching Camp. Building marching camps was all part of the day’s work for a Roman soldier on the move. Soldiers carried trenching tools, baskets for moving the earth and two wooden stakes as part of their kit. As soon as the army came to a halt at the end of the day’s march, men would dig a rectangular ditch all around the area chosen, and throw up a bank inside it with the wooden stakes placed on top to form a palisade.
Possibly not the safest option today
The alternative is only marginally better
The old Roman Camp boundary with Middle House Hill and Height beyond
The site is marked with an information board
The camp at Mastiles Lane was probably built during the second half of the 1st century AD, when the Roman governor of Britain, Petillius Cerialis was forced to put down a rebellion among the Brigantes, the tribe which ruled over most of the north of England at that time. The camp lies on a high plateau and the flat open area would have made it perfect for marshalling and manoeuvring a large force of soldiers.
Remnants in the Roman Camp
For two miles, the walled lane continues on, ultimately reaching Mastiles Gate and its highest point between two prominences on Kilnsey Moor. The highest of these two, the 450m high mark of Kilnsey Moor, would be my next destination.
Mastiles Lane
Mastiles Lane
Proctor High Mark
Kilnsey Moor
Great Whernside
I hopped over a fence onto open countryside and made my way up the grass covered slopes. It was only now that it became especially windy, enough to be a bit uncomfortable at times and certainly make taking a steady photo a challenge. Still, I made it to the trig pillar, took some customary snaps and returned to the shelter of the hillside.
Approaching the summit of Kilnsey Moor
The trig pillar with Great Whernside beyond

Detail on the trig pillar
Looking towards Fountains Fell
My next port of call would be Bordley, a tiny hamlet of 23 souls that is more farm than anything else. Indeed, I felt a bit wary making my way between the farm buildings under the watchful eye of the farmer and the farmers wife. Not the time or place to make any navigational errors.

I escaped the farm unscathed and with my pride intact, heading along the lane towards Bordley Hall, another prominent farm complex. An awkward fence-cum-bridge crossing was required to ford on the many becks that had flooded the traditional crossing point. In fact, clambering along the wall was probably the most challenging thing I did all day.
Kealcup Hill overlooks Bordley
The Weets and Bordley Hall
The lane drops purposefully down the hillside and past Bordley Hall where it crosses Heber Beck, another stream in full spate. Fortunately, there are a series of well built stone footbridges that allow a safe crossing.
More rivers to cross
Some pretty swift flowing water in Heber Beck
A swift climb awaits you after crossing Heber Beck, up the slopes of the sprawling Winterburn Moor and made all the more difficult by the wet, slippery mud.I had to pause numerous times on the climb - it was like walking through sand, a true example of one step forwards two steps back. I do exaggerate, if it was really that bad I would have ended up back in Bordley rather than Park House, a Grade II listed property dating from 1685. It also marks the point where managed farmland turns suddenly back into untamed moor and the final climb to the top of Winterburn Moor; The Weets.

The fingerpost marking the way to The Weets
A look back to the valley of Heber Beck with High Moss beyond
Some more abandoned farm machinery
Leaving the tamed pastures
More rugged moorland approaching the summit of The Weets
The High Marks
The Weets (or Weets Top) is the highest point of Winterburn Moor and provides a fine view all round. A trig pillar marks the summit though is it somewhat hidden behind a large drystone wall. In addition the the trig, the Weets Cross stands a short distance away.
The trig pillar at Weets Top
A summit portrait
Weets Cross marks the remains of a medieval monastic wayside cross, which was restored in 1955 (only the base is original). The base stands near the junction of five townships so may have been important as a boundary stone as well as a route marker to and from the Fountains Abbey estates on Malham Moor.
Weets Cross
Footpath across Hanlith Moor
Sunset over the Yorkshire Dales
Rye Loaf Hill
A sunny haze
The beginnings of Windy Pike Lane
From Weets Tops a long, indistinct track leads to Windy Pike Lane and down to Hanlith in the valley below. The route back to Malham passes Scalegill Mill, which was originally the site of a manorial corn mill which dating back to before 1279. It is now a series of houses or holiday homes. A short time later, after crossing a few waterlogged fields, I reached the car in Malham.
Windy Pike Lane
Malham Cove
A fiery evening sky
It was a shame not to be able to scramble up Gordale Scar again, it's one of my favourite activities in the Yorkshire Dales and one that I strongly encourage you to consider. Gordale really is the highlight of this walk and I suppose the tramp along Mastiles Lane can be a bit tedious. Still, there's plenty of interest at Kilnsey Moor and The Weets to prevent the walk petering out after the excitement of the mighty Gordale Scar.