Malham Hiking Weekend,

Malham village, Yorkshire Dales

[1] 13th - 15th September 2002

   Malhambunkhse.gif (16636 bytes)

The rooms in the hostel had been pre-allocated as follows:
11: John Adams, Steve Burt, Bob Gaskell, James Longman, Peter Matthews,
Phil Newton, Bob Smith, Dale Whitaker and John Wyncoll
8: Mark Hicken, Martin Lighten, Jenny van der Meijden, Angelica Platten,
Chris Platten, Vanda Ralevska
6: Anna Askels, Manling Ren, Jane Sherry, Nina Thurgar, Anne Young
3: John Gibbs, Peter Karran, Peter Groves
2: Eva Hulley, Lisa Jones
2: Gerry Gross, Adam Gross 

Though there was only a single shower each in the ladies and men's in addition to one downstairs, I managed to get to in without a hitch after getting up at 7h30 on the Saturday morning. I wandered into the kitchen. It was a beehive of activity. Eva was in the process of organising bacon and egg sandwiches, having also made sandwiches for the walk. I packed in some fruit, my cameras just in time to join a group heading off at 9h00. The crowd generally split off into several hiking groups, as they choose. I was part of the so-called ‘A’ Team (‘A’ for arthritic, apparently!). We had within our midst an experienced and avid hiker, Peter Mathews, who had brought along his GPS compass. Despite having this and the Ordinance Survey map, we had no sooner started, than we took a wrong turning, which cost us an additional 4 miles. Later Peter naturally had his leg pulled mercilessly.

Friday - Arrival in Malham

This was my maiden hike with the Xerox Hiking club. It was just as well that I was able to travel up with Eva as navigator on the Friday evening after work, at about 17h45. Most of the journey on the M1 from Luton all the way up past Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, then onto the M62 south of Leeds, was pretty straightforward. It was negotiating our way through Bradford on the A650 and beyond in the direction of Skipton, where her assistance was invaluable. I was strange to be travelling past cities and towns I had come to know after following British football over the years. The northern towns tend to use a grey stone for building homes, which I do find appealing, as opposed to red brick in the south (as in Hertfordshire). Many of the homes are built with bay windows. Eva had made some awesome sandwiches, which we munched on the way up. She brought along a CD player that plugged into the car tape system and happily DJ'd and played what she wanted to. In the process I was able to listen to some German pop music by artists I had never heard of. Using a web-based computer-generated route has its disadvantages, as we discovered, being directed all over the place. Malham is located on a meandering single lane country road, bordered by tall hedges.

The route finder will take you on a wild goose chase that circumvents the town instead of taking the obvious and shortest route, as the crow flies. We did not pick this up, as we were both tired, after being on the road for over 5 hours. We eventually arrived in Malham. I popped into the Buck Inn to ask for directions. One of the locals volunteered to show us the way. We arrived at the bunkhouse and unpacked our stuff at about 23h30! All the folk were still up and in the recreation room having a right royal party. Jenny, club secretary, showed us to our rooms. I had warned her that I might need to be allocated to a special group with a specific encumbrance (she assured me there were others) without running the risk of being thrown out. According to the name list pinned to the door, word has it that Jennifer Lopez was now officially a member of the Xerox Hiking Club and she snores! After being graciously offered a beer by someone, which I accepted, I was off to my bunk.

Though many of the hiking routes in the UK may run through National Parks, they generally allow hikers to cross private farmland as well. The Kinder Plateau in the Peak district of Derbyshire was the target of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout on 24th April, 1932, a notable act of wilful trespass by ramblers, to highlight weaknesses in English Law of the time, which resulted in a UK-wide rethink of access to the countryside. This denied walkers in England or Wales access to areas of open country, and to public footpaths which, in previous ages (and today), formed public rights of way. Eventually, in 2003, the "right to roam" on uncultivated land was enshrined into law.  So it is no surprise that one will invariably encounter sheep or cows en route. This explains why so much of the hiking was declared out of bounds during the foot and mouth epidemic. Neatly piled stone walls, which one invariably crosses by stiles, break up the landscape. The countryside is truly beautiful. Once we had corrected our course, we no sooner found ourselves at Janet’s Foss, a beautiful waterfall located in forested area, just before reaching the daunting Gordale Scar, which in turn required some serious clamouring over slippery rocks to reach the dales beyond. Indeed, John Adams and his Border Collie were forced to turn back.  

Dry Valley Gorge (courtesy of Phil Newton)


The Scar is in fact a deep and narrow cutting in the landscape, one side formed by a sheer precipice, a challenge to the most serious of rock climbers with rope only, as we discovered. This route led us over open pastureland that sloped down into the valleys, with numerous yet interesting groups of small cairns scattering the landscape, until we found ourselves overlooking the quaint Yorkshire village of Arncliffe, a truly stunning sight. Jenny had previously made enquiries for lunch at the pub in town. The owner turned out to be such a snotty character, insisting that we remove our boots before entering the premises to order drinks. Some wandered off to the nearby tearoom for lunch whilst the rest of us spread out on the lawn and soaked up the sunshine. Peter, keen to press on and cover the remaining distance before nightfall, summoned the weary mob that was the ‘A’ team and we were on our way. The route out of this charming little village, located in the valley, led us past a beautiful stone church and then alongside a stream, before we swung to the right towards a road leading into the village. From here onwards the walk required a huge seemingly endless slog up the hillside.


I found so many folk with interesting stories to tell. This made it easy to find oneself preoccupied in conversation with someone en route and then another a few miles on. Bob Smith spoke of the freedom he has enjoyed since being made redundant by Xerox. Judging from his fancy sports car, he wasn’t doing too badly. I got chatting to the intriguing yet sincere Vanda, of Czech origin and Hungarian surname. Extremely talented, she also shared a love for serious photography and boasts a truly awesome website. Nina, a colleague of Vanda’s (neither worked for Xerox), was on her first hike ever but was off on the Inca Trail in a week’s time. She could hardly have picked a more challenging hike, now could she? As amicable as ever, John Wyncoll from St.Albans chatted on regardless. The normally shy Eva engaged herself in conversation with others. It was good getting to know ex–Xerox colleague Mark Hicken, whom I hardly knew, in more relaxed surroundings. Jane Sherry, with whom I had a conversation in the kitchen the next day, worked half day at Xerox in marketing role and was currently studying art. She reminds me so much of a former neighbour and dear friend from Ebony Road, Tokai, in Cape Town, namely Christl. Peter Karran, an incessant chatter-box yet complete hoot of a character, seeming, almost deliberately, to play up the eccentric nature of his personality and never short of a witty comment, "trolled" on (as contained in the song he was singing, presumably derived from Billy Goat's Gruff nursery rhyme).


Though we were hiking in separate groups, we were in constant radio contact. Once over the summit of the hillside, we made our way towards Malham Tarn. On the roadside just before this, however, we had been asked to meet up with Manling Ren after being called on the radio by one of the other groups. Of Chinese origin, Manling, who sits next to me at Xerox, had injured her leg. Fortunately she had arranged a lift back to the village courtesy of a passer-by, saving us the ignominious task of possibly having to carry her back, perish the thought. We skirted Malham Tarn ("lake"). It was overcast now. The last stretch before approaching the final descent back into Malham village, afforded us a stunning view of a long narrow gorge known as Dry Valley Gorge, bathed in the setting sun, which runs almost due North-South and ends at the eastern end of Malham Cove.

We just made it before sunset, around 19h00. This allowed us a quick shower before rushing in to the Buck Inn in time to order dinner before it was too late. Halfway through my shower, I suddenly found myself without heating. This was only because of a fault, requiring a minor adjustment. Unfortunately the person who made use of the showers after me had not discovered the magic combination, his choice yet colourful language baring testimony to the discomfort he was now being forced to endure. Mark Hicken and John Wyncoll ended up in the ladies’ shower, which hardly charmed Jane, who was in no mood to share the shower with any Xerox male, I guess!

The pub was in full swing when we got there, with locals and tourists creating an appealing ambience. In fact the whole town seemed to be a popular destination. News came through of Leeds win against Manchester United. The conversations continued, turning more jovial by the glassful for some, whilst others were beginning to show the fatigue brought on by the day’s long walk. Of Glaswegian origin, Anne Young maintained that a funeral in Glasgow was livelier than a wedding in Edinburgh! A true party animal, she was in her element. To prove the point, this vivacious lass roped a resilient few into a game of Charades back at the bunkhouse.



I was up around 8h00 the next morning. After a shower and breakfast, bills were settled with Jenny. The cost for the weekend was a mere 25 per person, which we settled on the prior to embarking on a half-day walk. Those who had driven received an additional 10 subsidy. The short walk took us up the same route to Gordale Scar and from there to Street Gate, through which we had passed through twice the previous day, on outward and inward bound sections of the walk. This was where we had arranged to meet Manling the previous day. We returned to Malham village by walking directly down the tarred road rather than via Malham Tarn. Once again a walk in the country brought on the hunger pangs and we settled for lunch outside the Buck Inn. When Eva and Vanda accepted a lift from Phil Newton in his Cabriolet down to the pub, it proved the notion that a guy with a fancy sports car has all the luck! I had offered John Wyncoll a lift back to Hertfordshire with Eva and I in my 700 H-registration knockabout. We bad our farewells in the early afternoon and decided to travel further across and pick up the A1 south instead of using the M1, a slower route with roundabouts en route to contend with. John picked up his car at Xerox and after dropping Eva off, I was off to my humble abode and dreamland.

Much was owed for the success of this trip to Jenny van der Meijden, who organised the trip with great efficiency and enthusiasm. Praise has been heaped on her subsequently for her efforts. I felt satisfied that I had made great strides in establishing new friendships and I look forward to the next outing of the club.



[A Gordale Scar - Malham Cove Day Walk - 2008]

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