Picture Post: Waterfall near Malham woven into folklore

THE ribbons of water dancing like cotton over the moss-hewn rocks have beguiled visitors here for centuries.

Gordale Beck cascades over Janet's Foss.  (Picture Tony Johnson)
Gordale Beck cascades over Janet's Foss. (Picture Tony Johnson)

This wondrous sight will be familiar to those who know Malham well, and if you’re among those who do then you will probably recognise the fast-flowing stream as Gordale Beck.

After travelling through the limestone gorge, otherwise known as Gordale Scar, the stream cascades over the meandering landscape before joining Malham Beck a couple of miles downstream.

This stretch of Malhamdale is one of the natural wonders of Yorkshire and at its heart is Janet’s Foss - a small but stunning waterfall and pool nestled next to a luscious, some say magical, wood.

I say “magical” because according to local legend the name Janet (sometimes Jennet) is thought to be a folk tale reference to a fairy queen who lived in a cave beside the waterfall.

To visit Janet’s Foss, you can follow a well-worn footpath from Malham. The beckside path, close to one of the two feeders of the River Aire, leads to a fan-shaped waterfall characterised by its tufa and moss.

The footpath starts from Malham Smithy and leads to a small clapper bridge and then right along the side of the beck, through a few fields and kissing gates and into the wood.

At its peak Janet’s Foss spews white with fury as it plunges into the icy pool below. Part of its allure is the rich woodland setting and the atmospheric, and noisy, cawing of rooks.

The damp atmosphere is ideal for mosses and ferns and in springtime the woodland floor is ripe with the smell of wild garlic.

On the footpath to Janet’s Foss a couple of tree stumps have become home to hundred’s of lucky pennies and today people still throw in a coin and make a wish to the queen of the fairies.

During summer the rich, verdant foliage helps create a heady cocktail that assaults the senses. In the winter its character changes once more, although the stark earthiness of the Foss still retains an air of magical mystery that is no less enchanting.

Technical details Fujifilm X-Pro1, 1second @f20 100ASA.