Archive for August, 2011

Wheelchair Walks in the Dales

I’ve just been looking at the pictures from our visit to Malham.

Gordale Scar - a limestone Ravine

The hairs on the back of my neck stood and my skin tingled. I have just wiped a little something from my eye…

Gordale Scar - 1.5km NE of Malham

Must be ten years ago since I last went to Gordale Scar. Very little sun (if any) reaches into the gorge and even on a sunny day it always seems cold. There is an eerie feeling, cold, still, harsh and yet so beautiful. It must be something to do with it being 15 million years old; or being on the Craven Fault; or not wearing your balaclava.

One of the two waterfalls at the end of the ravine

I took a party of school children during the winter months. It was blooming freezing! There were twenty-five youngsters and three staff huddled together underneath the towering sides of the scar, all trying to keep warm. We burnt copies of the Ofsted inspection schedule to keep us warm and basked in the warm glow of knowing we were doing something productive… and right.
Whilst we were there and without any warning, there was a deafening crack and a huge icicle plummeted down from the overhang. It shattered on the ground with a resounding boom. It was one of those moments when you feel privileged to be witnessing something but then you get the thoughts that go along of the lines, ‘Glad I wasn’t under that!!!’
We managed about fifteen minutes before the bitter chill that was biting our finger tips beat us into an icy retreat.

Gordale Beck flows through the Scar

I returned there again last Friday.
The nearest car park is in the village of Malham.
We drove closer and parked the car on the roadside just before the gate which leads onto Gordale campsite (GR914645).

Gordale Scar

It isn’t an official parking area; there’s only room for a few cars, but it’s a great place to designate for disabled blue badge parking, if the council could be persuaded. I feel a bout of ‘Shawshank Redemption’ style letter writing coming on – and for those of you who also want to write, here’s the address:

Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 1AH

Once we’d parked up, we met up with JONATHAN (a thoroughly decent chap, who is living the dream… and good on him!!!) Jonathan and I made contact with each other via twitter. Jonathan is a very keen hill walker and has been walking in the Yorkshire Dales for most of his life. He has set up the most wonderful website Where2walk, which provides a wealth of information about walks in the Dales and Lake District. He was keen to know what I was getting up to and I was keen to tap into his knowledge of the Dales, so we agreed to meet at Gordale Scar. The pink carnations, which we all agreed to wear for the purpose of identification ( it was akin to a blind date!) were not required. I recohnised Jonathan from his website;he recognised me from my wheelchair.

Andy, Jonathan and I admiring Gordale Scar

From our parking spot, it’s only a short amble to the campsite and the path leading up to Gordale Scar. It is so clearly marked even we couldn’t lose the route and it follows alongside Gordale Beck, which I am told is home to freshwater cress.
We stood for a while just breathing in the 360 degree scenery.
The sheep graze freely between the camper vans and tents that were pitched in the camp site.
One of the sheep had taken a step onto what it thought was hard ground but landed with a splash in the brook. We stood and watched it splashing around in nervous panic. I wanted to help it. Plan A, B and then C was hatched to rescue the sheep; whatever plan was chosen would involve getting wet!
I was made official photographer, just in case there were any comic moments during the rescue involving either Andy, Dave, Jonathan or all three of them. (Well a video clip of a fall in the stream, if shown on the TV programme ‘You’ve been framed!’ is worth £200 – all proceeds would go towards an all-terrain wheelchair!).  Just as rucksacks had been thrown to the ground, boots were off, socks removed, and trousers rolled up the sheep stepped out, gave us a nod of appreciation for our kind thoughts and then plodded off to do its grazing further away from the beck!

Safe and well - back on safe ground.

The end of the Scar! The route continues up and over the waterfall...or you can turn around and walk back the same way you came.

A lot of work has been done on the path to prevent further erosion and made accessibility into the Scar easier for visitors. It is wide enough for a wheelchair, and my motorised chair had no problems moving over the bumpy ground. However, I don’t think that it would be suitable for a manual chair and it is uneven ground.
I was feeling the bumps in my spine.
Unfortunately, to experience such magnificent views I have to be topped up on pain killers! I suppose some might argue it’s a price worth paying.

Just deciding whether to try taking the chair up the side of the waterfall - NOT!

We did have a little difficulty at a couple of spots as there had been a small landslide of scree, which covered the path. Thanks to my walking partners and a couple of other hikers, the bigger stones were moved to the side so that I could pass them.

Scree on the path from a recent landslide

It is a pretty impressive sight to walk through Gordale Scar, but the magical bit of the whole walk is turning the corner at the end of the scar. The wonderful rock formation is then exposed in full view. Though there were our people there, the end of the scar seems to command the respect of a visitor to a library or art gallery. All that can be heard is muted, softly spoken voices and the sounds of water crashing down onto the rocks and the birds.
Beautiful peaces… save for the screams and yells of those who’ve gone and got themselves stuck trying to climb the waterfall.

Even in July hats and gloves are required!

That is where the path stopped for me, but I was quite happy to sit and watch my friends climb across the rocks to the water fall, and wander through the great limestone boulders that had slid down the scar at some time during the ice age.
A group of walkers were attempting to climb the waterfall. Some approached the climb from the left, the others from the middle. One party walked up to the start of the climb and then came back and joined us to watch the other group’s attempt at the climb. They were not going to do the climb this time – they told us – because of the dog. Wonder how many dogs have been used as an excused not to go that way?

It is £9 each now to go the cinema.
Entry to Gordale Scar is free.
I guess that such wonderful sights as this are priceless.
It was hard to leave.
I could have sat for hours just watching the changing shapes of the clouds, looking for faces in the limestone, and wishing I’d brought my sketch pad and pencils with me. However, the chill crept in, and we had other thing to explore.