Sunday 24 June 2012

Faults and faces, clints and grykes

This is from the top of Malham Cove, an 80 metre high, curved, limestone formation just north of the village of Malham in Yorkshire.

Millions of years ago, due to a fault line called the Mid Craven Fault, the land dropped, creating a 100 metre high cliff. Over the subsequent years, the limestone face has been worn away, eventually leaving the current curved crag.

This photo is taken from the other end of the curve, near to the top of the steps which descend to the valley floor.

The classic view of the Cove is from the bottom, showing the whole sweep of the curve. Far below me, I could actually see a whole cluster of people pointing cameras at the face. Unfortunately, I could also see the long line of steps and was all too well aware that the location of the car meant that what went down, would then have to come back up! 

I just wasn't that dedicated. Sorry :)

(If you want to see the classic view, click here.)

Looking out from the top, the view was beautiful. Undulating green fields, separated by dry stone walls and dotted with sheep. Malham is just visible left of picture and little pockets of woodland complete the scene. This is typical limestone country; a landscape known as karst (where water has shaped the carbonate bedrock). 

As you can see from the well trodden path running alongside Malham Beck, the Cove is a very popular destination!

The top of Malham Cove is a limestone pavement consisting of clints and grykes. The clints are the blocks and the grykes are the cracks (I have to look that up every time!). 

Limestone has a calcium carbonate chemical base. Because of this, it is readily soluble. Grykes are formed when water runs down the vertical joints of the rock and causes the limestone to dissolve. This process is called carbonation. Over time, the grykes deepen and the clints are left standing proud between them.

Shade loving plants flourish in the damp of the grykes. Some of the ferns and wild plants which grow here are relatively rare. Unfortunately, all I managed to photograph were some nettles!

Saturday 23 June 2012

Limestone dry valley

The outflow from Malham Tarn only remains overground for around 500 metres before it disappears through the permeable limestone, flowing underground for some distance, until it surfaces south of Malham village, becoming the source of the River Aire.

Above ground, it leaves this dry valley; an attractive example of limestone country!

Caves are common and this one reminds me of those in Dovedale, in my native Derbyshire.

The sheep is definitely Yorkshire though; a Swaledale.

Watlowes Valley finally opens out, leading us towards our destination.

Friday 22 June 2012

Looking for the hole punch

In my last post, I asked if anyone could identify this.

Here comes a close up to help you :)

It's an orienteering marker.

Orienteering is a sport in which participants navigate their way around a course using a map and compass. It can be done competitively or just for fun, with people of all ages and abilities enjoying the experience of walking, jogging or running as they find their way around the markers.

At the Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre, a variety of courses are offered for KS2 children, including orienteering around the area of the Tarn. This is one of their markers.

The marker gives various bits of information. The card attached to the pole gives the location is the Cattle Grid and the map grid reference as 8973 6711; also, that the location symbol is a lizard. 

Orienteering competitions mark the orienteers progress with an electronic score card which is punched at each marker. An low-tech alternative is to carry an actual card which is marked by punching holes. As John rightly said, the red object dangling from the piece of string is the punch. As this marker symbol is a lizard, I imagine that the children would need to punch through a picture of a lizard on their card, to show that they had collected this marker. (Or maybe, the hole punch is a lizard shape??)

Having punched their card, the orienteer checks the last piece of information on the marker; the grid reference of the next location. And so the round continues.

Have you ever used a map and compass to navigate your way around a walk or course? 

I was interested to read Louise and Andy's comments about geocaching. It sounds like fun!

Thursday 21 June 2012

A stick with bits attached

On our way back round Malham Tarn, we spotted this.

Any idea what it's for?

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Lady's Slipper

On the shores of Malham Tarn is a Field Studies Centre which is focussed on conservation and education. Amongst other things, this involves monitoring the water quality of the tarn and keeping a careful watch on the plant, bird and animal life around the Malham Estate.

They have also grown this...

At one time, orchids were a relatively common sight, growing as wild flowers around the Northern English countryside. Then came the Victorians; great plant collectors who virtually wiped out the native wild population of some orchids, including this one - The Lady's Slipper orchid.

As you can see, this specimen is being nurtured within a cage to protect it from predators - animal and human but, the long term aim is to re-establish a truly wild population.

Apparently, the last original native specimen of this orchid is on private land in a secret location somewhere else in the Yorkshire Dales (they do like the limestone soil), but in 1983, the Sainsbury Orchid Project was set up in Kew Botanical Gardens and this eventually led to the Kew scientists being able to grow the orchid from seed.

Since that time, small populations have been introduced to sites across Northern England; a joint venture between Natural England and the Wildlife Trusts of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. Maybe, one day, these pretty little flowers will once again be common across the northern limestone counties.

A few interesting facts about the name:

It was named by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778); a famous Swedish scientist who developed the Linnaean Taxonomy - the system of scientific classification now routinely used in biology.

Its Latin name is Cypripedium calceolus. 

Translated literally, Cypripedium means 'Venus's feet' and calceolus means 'little shoe'. As a result, some people still refer to the plant as 'The Little Shoe of Venus'.

In the USA, the plant is apparently known as the Moccasin flower

Saturday 16 June 2012


A short distance north of Malham, in Yorkshire, is Malham Tarn. A small lake with a surface area of 153 acres and a maximum depth of 14 feet, it is unusual for a number of reasons; as a result of which, it has been designated an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), NNR (National Nature Reserve) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation) as well as being listed as a RAMSCAR Site!

The Tarn is owned by the National Trust but, since 1947, has been leased to the Field Studies Council; the reason being that Malham Tarn and the associated wetlands have the greatest diversity of wildlife habitats of any upland lake in the UK.

In fact, at 377m above sea level, it is the highest lake in England.

Another feature which makes Malham Tarn unusual is that it has formed within an area of limestone, a permeable rock. The Tarn actually lies on a small bedrock of slate covered in marl; a calcium based mudstone which contains clay and silt. Because of this bedrock, the water of Malham Tarn has an alkaline pH; one of only eight of its kind in Europe!

The stream which flows out of the Tarn is only visible for about 500 metres, at which point it disappears, following underground channels through the limestone until it eventually emerges some 2 miles further downstream.

We weren't fortunate enough to spot a massive diversity of wildlife (though we did see a tree creeper), but we did have a close encounter with a small group of cows, including some calves, the mothers of whom were not too enthusiastic about our presence (on the footpath) in their field and approached us to do a bit of posturing to make their feelings clear.

After a bit of posturing of our own, they turned aside and we were able to back off and walk quietly on.

As you can see, it was a blustery day and walking by the edge of the water felt almost like being by the sea, the sound of the waves was so distinct :)

Friday 15 June 2012

Starting out on Windgather

Just before the end of May, eldest son Mark and I, plus my Dad, drove up to Windgather Rocks in Cheshire, to meet a friend from Yorkshire. The purpose of the day was for Mark to give that friend a climbing lesson. 

Meet Sacristan, a friend with a very real fear of heights; someone who has been known to freeze up completely when walking close to an edge.

But also, someone determined to lay to rest a few ghosts by completing a climb to the top of a crag.

I'd say he did pretty well, wouldn't you?

I even think I see the hint of a smile!

Four routes climbed in all; gradually increasing in height!

Good job :)

Wednesday 13 June 2012

More interesting stuff in Wirksworth church

The Wirksworth Stone links right back to Saxon times and shows scenes from the life of Christ. It is carved in vertical pairs. The top left clearly shows Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, and next door to that is a cross. For an interpretation of the other carvings, follow this link.

Dated at around 800AD, it is believed to be one of the earliest Christian artefacts in the Peak District. For years, it was hidden beneath a paving stone in front of the altar, but was rediscovered in 1821 during a reordering of the church. It was the lid from the tomb of an important person buried under the church. A full sized skeleton was discovered under the stone, but the remains have not been identified.

This Norman font was restored in 1896. I love the arrangement of red, white and blue in celebration of the Jubilee.

Apparently, during his school days, my uncle won a prize for his drawing of this font.

Rather more up to date, this rather splendid model of the church was created in memory of Doreen Schofield (1939 - 2004)...

and the tiles were painted by Wirksworth children to commemorate the Jubilee. 

Monday 11 June 2012

Wirksworth Church

The church of St Mary the Virgin in Wirksworth dates from the 13th Century; the first vicar being appointed in 1272 by the Dean of Lincoln. It is an impressive building, topped by a tower with a short spire. 

Inside the church are various memorials to significant people, including this tomb chest containing the remains of Anthony Gell of Hopton Hall, who founded a grammar school (1584) and almshouses in Wirksworth. The local secondary school still bears his name.

There is also a dedication to Francis Hurt of Alderwasley, who died January 3rd 1801 (aged 47) and his wife Margaret, d May 7th, 1831 (aged 75). The Hurt family were influential landowners who owned Alderwasley Hall about 3 miles East of Wirksworth. A well known descendent of this family is the actor John Hurt (1940) who has had a distinguished career, including the role of  Ollivander in Harry Potter.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Wirksworth Wells

Some of the other wells dressed for the extended bank holiday weekend...

The Methodists well, looking to the Olympics.
I think the flags are amazing! Apparently, the team worked right through until 1am of display day in order to get this finished!

The Scouts were not alone in choosing a jubilee theme.

Even the youngest children continue the tradition, as can be seen from the Playgroup well.

Wirksworth Junior School chose the theme of Courage and collected donations for the Cystic Fibrosis charity. Their choice was personal, a youngster from the school having died of the condition in October last year. The well was dedicated to him; Liam Brown. 

Inside the church, the well dressing continues the Olympic theme

while, the one outside, was created in support of Christian Aid.

In the Memorial Gardens, the local secondary school, Anthony Gell, was another group to plump for the Diamond Jubilee; their chosen charity being Age UK, to support those who have lived through the 60 glorious years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Finally, the well from the youngest group of all, the Baby and Toddler Group; also on the theme of the Diamond Jubilee.

Saturday 9 June 2012

The Rotary Well

It began in my aunt and uncle's living room with a roughly drawn sketch and ended as a finished Well Dressing; on display near the centre of Wirksworth over the weekend of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. 

A Derbyshire tradition, Well Dressing stems from the desire to give thanks for the precious gift of water. The practice  is believed to have begun in Tissington and spread to neighbouring towns and villages around the county.  

Once the theme and design have been agreed, an artist outlines a full sized drawing in readiness for the pre-display period, when a team of people embark on a solid week of work preparing the Well for display.

First, the tray is made ready. In the case of the Rotary well, the tray has three sections; a triptych. Nails are hammered all over the surface, standing proud to a height of around 3/4". The tray is then covered with puddled clay until it is level with the top of the nails. Once the tray is prepared, the artist's drawing is laid over the clay and the outline is marked out by following the lines and pushing a sharp tool through the paper to create a kind of dot to dot pattern.  

The paper is removed, the outline is traced round with black wool and the 'colouring in' can begin.

Ideally, all of the materials used should be natural and the Rotary Well sticks rigidly to this tradition. My uncle did the work on the centrepiece. The path is made from individual curls of pine cones, hand plucked by my aunt. The layers of the sky include spices and, when I leaned in close enough, I could clearly scent their exotic aroma.

My aunt made the left panel showing the dove of peace. Many, many flower petals have been pushed into the clay. The process begins from the bottom of the picture, the petals being layered like the tiles on a roof to encourage rain water to run off the picture.

It is not necessary for the two sides of the triptych to mirror each other, but it does draw the eyes in towards the centre and give this design a pleasing wholeness.

And the symbol of the Rotary completes the Dressing.

Thursday 7 June 2012

A tale of two routes

Occasionally, someone will look at my photos of various youths shinning up scary looking routes and ask "Do you climb?"

The truthful answer is, sometimes, when I can find an easy enough route and someone willing to hang onto the other end of the rope. Mostly, the crags we visit are above my capability spectrum, but from time to time...

Fortunately, there aren't often people around to take photos. I did, however, take a picture of the two routes I climbed at Higgar Tor.

Routes are named by the climber who claims first ascent. Some route names are ordinary. There are thousands of 'The Prow' or 'Arete Direct', and anything named 'Green Chimney' should be avoided like the plague, but sometimes routes have much more interesting names.

These two were named by Dave Gregory in 1964 (Eastern Grit 2006) and are from Shakespeare. The first route (in yellow, Very Difficult - Don't let the grade fool you) is called Hecate and the second (in red, Severe 4a - much more respectable and equalling my previous hardest grade, but still a walk in the park for my lads) is Greymalkin.

Recognise the play?

Hecate is the queen of witches in Macbeth and appears in order to ask the three witches why they have not included her in their dealings with the king. She predicts that Macbeth will believe himself safe and that this belief will lead to his downfall; which it does.

Greymalkin is named in the opening scene and is a grey cat; the familiar of the first of the three witches. The route to the left (which I didn't do - another V Diff) is called Paddock after the second witches familiar; a toad.

It was Greymalkin and Paddock which caused me to recognise the theme for the route names. As a  teenager, I studied Macbeth and learned the opening scene by heart:

 ACT I  SCENE I A desert place. Thunder and lightning. 
[Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches]

First Witch: When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
Second Witch: When the hurlyburly's done,When the battle's lost and won.
Third Witch: That will be ere the set of sun.
First Witch: Where the place?
Second Witch: Upon the heath.
Third Witch: There to meet with Macbeth.
First Witch: I come, Greymalkin!
Second Witch: Paddock calls.
Third Witch: Anon!
ALL: Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.


Funny how some things stick in the memory :)

I'm linking this post with Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday where today's letter is 'C' for 'Climbing Crags'.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Higgar Tor

We tried a new crag last week; Higgar Tor, near Stanage.

The lads worked a route called 'The Rasp' (E2 5b).

It proved extremely problematic

...especially as the sun moved round and made the whole rock face rather sweaty.

In the end, Ben was the only one to reach the top and the others decided to leave it for a shadier day.

Meanwhile, Mark had found an abandoned sombrero, which spent the day being passed from head to head to head :)