Walk: Kirkby Malham

Last week I had two letters from readers asking if there were any winter walks in the Malham area.

One asked why Malham has no ancient parish church. This persuaded me to write about Kirkby Malham Church. This is the parish church for the whole area consisting of a network of villages.

Start at the church of St Michael the Archangel which is the parish church for the whole area.There was a church on this site from at least the 9th century but the present building dates from 1199 but with an extensive restoration in 1871. The 70 foot tower was built of solid millstone grit in 1490. Visitors should not miss the interior where there is a memorial to John Lambert (1619-1684) of nearby Calton who became one of Oliver Cromwell’s best generals and was a close personal friend of the Commonwealth Leader. Cromwell attended weddings at Kirkby Malham and he signed the visitors book on two occasions.

A sign in the churchyard points the way to the WATERY GRAVE. Here are buried John Harrison and his wife. He was a sailor and the couple were often separated with oceans between them. With a real sense of humour the two agreed that a little stream should separate the remains of Helen who died in 1890 and John who followed her 10 years later. Thus they were separated by water in both life and death!

Approach the Victoria Hotel on the left, cross the road and follow the narrow cul-de-sac road which leads to Hanlith. The name Hanlith means the hillside slope owned by the Saxon by the name of Hagena. The settlement is still very small and is dominated by Hanlith Hall with a doorway carrying the name of Robert Seregentson. The presence of halberds carved on either side of the porchway shows the family must have been a tough lot. A halberd was a combination of a battle axe and a spear and could only be used as a decoration by those who had actually used the weapon “in a just cause”.

Cross over the River Aire and turn right along the Pennine Way.

Continue to follow the Pennine Way through lush fields. In around one mile cross a bridge over the River Aire. At this point I had my first sighting of a kingfisher in 2013. This is without doubt excellent kingfisher country and whivh is reflected in a kingfisher sculpture which is screwed to a windowsill in the church.

Continue along the Pennine Way across fields and over stiles with Dykelands to the right and Warbler Hill Woodlands to the left. The route is undulating but easy to follow. You should, however, wear waterproof footwear.

At Kirkgate, which was once a footpath leading to the church, the route sweeps gently to the right towards Otterburn.

This literally means the burn (river) where otters are found. Cross a footbridge over Kirk Gill and return to the church and the car park.

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