Introduction: Malham Cove is one of the best landscape features in Britain. It is popular with walkers, and study groups from high school to university.
For the geographer, Malham offers an ispired insight into karst landforms. For the geologist it offers an opportunity to observe the part played by the Craven Faults in the formation of Malham Cove and Gordale Scar. Also note the influence of glaciers which certainly had a major role to play in the shaping of the landscape.
Limestone: this is the key to understanding much of what goes on at Malham and the Yorkshire Dales in general. The spectacular landscape created by the presence of limestone is known as KARST.
Underground drainage is one of the main features of karst. Due to the chemical properties of limestone (calcium carbonate), rainwater readily dissolves the rock.
Sinkholes mark the areas where the surface water disappears underground leaving valleys dry and streamless. As soils do not form easily on soluble limestone, bare rock, scree slopes (see photo above), crags and pavements are typical of such an area.
Glaciers: About 15 000 years ago the area was covered with ice sheets and glaciers. The ice swept down from the north scouring and modifying the karst landscape. In fact Malham is perhaps better described as a GLACIOKARST landscape. One of the more distinctive features is the limestone pavement at the top of Malham Cove.