• James

Malham Cove Wild Camp

August 2020

Pen-y-ghent to Malham Cove. 12 miles


One particular lesson, from many that I learnt on last years Pennine Way, was to slow things down. There were days that finished in mild exhaustion. There was no need to do more than was required, but instead, to slow it all down, enjoy it. Savour it. In this spirit, I decided to spend today slowly walking to Malham Cove. A walk that could be completed by lunchtime, but that, in fact, took all day. The sun was out. the scenery was beautiful and aside from the area around Malham Tarn and until the cove was reached, I barely saw a soul. I enjoyed it.

The tent was unzipped to find a dawn in its infancy, at 5:30. Then, a streak of light across the distant sky. I clambered out and made my way back to the summit, and awaited the arrival of the big old golden ball that, eventually, crept up on the horizon and in an instance, cast the surrounding hills, under a moderately cloudy sky, into a patchwork of shadows, silhouettes and light. Like last nights sunset, not a person was here. Just absolute serenity. No wind, no noise, just perfect.


The descent down Pen-y-ghent wasn’t an enjoyable one. The steep shoulder required hands as well as feet, the only consolation that the bottom is reached in little time at all. Only then can the surrounding views be appreciated. The vista back to the top required extensive bending of the neck; turning around there was Fountains Fell, sitting under an ominously-looking black cloud. The road there, though, via a couple of remote farmhouses under beautiful early morning sunshine. A brief stop off to replenish the water supplies, followed by a slow and laborious climb up the mountain. No rain, but a chilly summit. Two stone statues there, surrounded by now dis-used mine shafts. Up here, it’s advisable to stick to the path.

Downhill all the way to Tennants Gill Farm. A chance to survey the landscape, of rolling hills as far as the eye can see, and, eventually, the first sight of Malham Tarn, glistening in the distance. Every sheep in the county appeared to be in the numerous fields surrounding the farm at the bottom of Fountains Fell. The farm, the only buildings in sight. A lunch break was enjoyed in a sheep-less field above the farm. For an hour I ate, drank and slept. Before a narrowing green path led down to the tarn, and to people.


I joined the people on the easterly path that navigated around the lake to a car park, where, unexpectedly but happily, lay a small caravan that housed a friendly lady selling ice creams. Another break ensued, sitting among the limestone rocky outcrop that make up the Watlowes, a dry valley that curves around at it’s far end to reveal a spectacular view down to Malham Cove. Rather than taking the low route there, I took a high path along the Cove Road, partly to experience a birds eye view of the cove, eventually, but also to have a look for a potential camping spot. Knowing there would be people hanging around even after sunset, a high spot was necessary and one was found, with, on this clear day again, views of the cove below a hundred yards away and panoramic views miles into the southerly distance.

The dusk I quickly realised would be mostly hidden behind the higher westerly hills, but some beautiful orange sky appeared, briefly, before the evening air turned decidedly colder. The calm ambience summed up a calm day. There had been no rush.





Walks and Wild Camps

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