Day 1: June 6th
What a week it’s been! Initially feeling very tired on the 6th, 1 day after our exams, I don’t think many of us were particularly energetic about the upcoming trip. But it was fantastic! Such a beautiful part of the country, and the weather was gorgeous when we first arrived by coach at Malham Village. The 7km hike past Malham Cove, up along towards the Tarn and the field centre was truly blissful after a hard 3 months of solid studying! This small village is in the Pennines, at the southern base of the Yorkshire Dales. It’s a pretty place, surrounded by limestone dry-stone walls, and with crystal clear stream running right through the middle of the village. We all took in the stunning quintessentially British landscape and ate lunch near the stream, with a rather greedy duck. The resident Labrador dog seemed to enjoy our company, and a student who happened to have a sausage sandwich. The beautiful yew trees look like Ents on their little isolated islands as you walk towards the amphitheatre-like rock face of Malham cove. Mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Malgun’, Malham has been a settlement for at least a thousand years. Traces of Iron age boundaries are still visible today. One hundred years ago, Malham was a place of mills and mines. Nowadays, hill farms and tourism are the main activities, and on our last day thousands of school children were in town! It must be said our navigational skills were somewhat challenged, as we steered left down the wrong way! It really was special traversing over the infamous Limestone Pavements.
The area contains 33 of the 50 botanically richest pavements in the UK. The limestone pavements range from those where grazing is completely excluded to areas within intensively grazed land. Where grazing is light, the pavements support a rich and diverse flora including a range of scarce species such as limestone fern, baneberry, lily of the valley and the rigid buckler fern. We kept on imagining Daniel and Emma running down them from the Harry Potter scene.
We eventually got to the field centre after 2 hours 19 minutes, a rather embarrassing time. That evening I explored the landscape, and down by the tarn I was so lucky to see my first Roe Deer! It stood there, quietly watching us and then darted off into the forest. I had left my memory card in my room…so no photo I’m afraid! We also made our way down to the Fen, a really diverse habitat Malham Tarn Fen is an outstanding example of an alkaline fen habitat which was in danger of being overwhelmed by invasive scrub and the oddly named meadowsweet. The Limestone Country Project funded the purchase of a small herd of Dexter cattle and a new building to provide winter housing for one of the National Trust’s tenant farmers to enable the grazing of 6.5 hectares of the fen. We all eventually went to bed pretty late in our rather quaint converted guest rooms.