Malham: Parson’s Pulpit

8.6 miles (14 kilometres) height 538 metres. August, heavy cloud clearing, hot. With family and silly dog. Peak and trig bagged

TL;DR a special wild walk in the hills

There is no one at Malham Tarn except us and in the far, far distance a solo hiker with full pack. It’s an extraordinary place which we have to ourselves and needless to say Shovell wishes to jump in it.

None of us are getting in the Tarn, it’s such a rare habitat it needs to be protected from swimmers and paddlers, and Shovells. It’s one of only eight upland alkaline lakes in Europe, known as a marl lake, and the source of the River Aire which rises near my cottage at Aire Head. There are all manner of flora and fauna here that need looking after.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii, common spotted orchid

It sits high on Malham Moor, a proper glacial mountain lake and today it is brooding with bruiser clouds above it.

The tarn is angrily foaming at the mouth. But today we are walking away from it, we’re trig bagging and heading out on a wild walk. We’ll be well away from any popular spots; it’s a very special walk. We walk along the tarn as far as the trees, scoffing wild raspberries as we go and then as we turn away from the Tarn and up towards the pastures the clouds begin to clear, as though we are leaving behind something hidden under a blanket and a little grumpy.

We walk up in sight of the farm buildings and onto high ground. There’s five minutes of panic for one of us who is afraid of cows (he read about the cows who attacked a dog walker a couple of years back) so I go first, shooshing them out of the way and detouring to avoid the stubborn ones. Soon we are rewarded for our bravery by the most gorgeous views.

The photos, of course, doesn’t do justice to the scale of the view and the sense of isolation. We could be trampled by cows and no one would know. We’re on the Monks’ Road now, which carries on to Arncliffe and beyond.

We circle the scar as far as Dew Bottoms (heehee) and without crossing, make our way along the wall up to Parson’s Pulpit. Lovely son runs ahead, I take the steep hill rather more steadily, as is my usual way. I envy his vitality.

There’s a trig plate here and a benchmark (that’s where the usual meaning of our word comes from, this surveyors mark for measuring altitudes), and I introduce lovely son to the concept of peak and trig bagging. As it involves tech and ticking things off he is immediately hooked on the idea of climbing hills. It’s possible I’ve unleashed a monster. Shovell waits impatiently for the picnic to come out. He loves Frazzles. There’s not even anyone to woof at which invariably happens when food is brought out of the bag.

Coming down the other side we headed toward a sheepfold which the route appeared to go through. Don’t. It’s waist high thistles and nettles, just climb over the gate to the right of it, it’s not worth the skin on your legs and Shovell had to be carried. No one wants to carry a hot sticky dog smelling of Frazzles.

At the junction of the tracks near Clapham High Mark there’s an excellent Rabbit Rock which sits up and scans the horizon, presumably scouting for carrots. Personally I think it looks more like Dangermouse.

The walk down the hills is a joy with panoramic views and a gentle downhill slope, who doesn’t love a gentle downhill slope. We took a left turn over the wall stile to walk through the wildflowers to explore the Roman Camp, which I also recommend. There’s a much needed dog paddling stop in the beck and then over the hill you can make out the camp fortifications. If you listen hard you can hear the clanging of Roman shields and the march of footsteps. It seems a wild place to put a camp and I wish I could roll back time and see it, what a superpower to have and I’d give much for it.

And finally back to the start, over the stream and past the licorice allsorts cows, which fortunately don’t seem the murderous type.

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Walk info

I based the beginning of the walk on one I had read on (walk id: ny172) which gives detailed instructions to Parsons Pulpit and Procter High Mark, but if you chose to follow that avoid section 5 and the sheepfold. Go4aWalk is a paid site but it isn’t expensive. My GPX is here. For a traditional paper map look for Ordnance Survey OL2

3 responses to “Malham: Parson’s Pulpit”

  1. That Rabbit Rock does look quite a bit like Danger Mouse. And yes, I also agree those cows do not look like the murdering kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trouble is Shovell is a bit of an idiot and confuses even the most docile of beasts.

      Liked by 1 person

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