Every spring, rivers and streams swell with the water from melting ice and snow. At the end of the last Ice Age, the same thing happened, albeit on a scale several orders of magnitude above the typical seasonal thaw. The retreating glaciers created roaring meltwater rivers that profoundly altered the face of the Earth. Malham Cove is one result of these monumental forces of nature.
The 80-meter-tall, 300-meter-wide carboniferous limestone cliff was once the site of a torrential cataract, whose voluminous flow eroded the lip of the fall more rapidly than the sides, creating the notable curved shape of the rock formation seen today. Topped by a heavily eroded, craggy limestone pavement that has been likened to a moonscape, Malham Cove is one of the most popular scenic locations in all the Yorkshire Dales. Travel between the breathtaking views at both the top and bottom of the cliff is afforded on the western edge of the landmark by 400 irregular stone steps that are part of the Pennine Way.
Contained within the cliff is a 50,000-year-old complex of caves and tunnels that has scarcely been explored. These caves provide a multitude of avenues for water drainage from to bottom (for example, a stream that disappears at the top of the cliff is not at all connected to a stream that appears at the bottom, thanks to these numerous channels) and account for the lack of a waterfall at the site in the present day. The one remarkable exception happened on December 6, 2015, when the sheer volume of rain from Storm Desmond briefly turned Malham Cove into a waterfall once again.
Malham Cove is not only a sightseeing destination, though, as it is also popular with cave divers and provides several different ascent options to rock climbers of widely varying abilities. The limestone cliff and its environs are also home to peregrine falcons, little owls, martins, and jackdaws. The visually striking site has served as a filming location for a 1992 version of Wuthering Heights, Steve Coogan’s The Trip, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
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