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“What’s amazing is that this landscape, right in the heart of Britain, was once found south of the equator.” Bear Grylls
In this brand-new three-part series for ITV, adventurer Bear Grylls heads out on an epic journey of discovery across England, Scotland and Wales to experience the British Isles at their most spectacular.
The second episode sees Bear exploring one of England’s most iconic landscapes, the Yorkshire Dales, going on an extraordinary adventure through this spectacular terrain.
From the giddy heights of its craggy peaks to its tumbling torrents, Bear meets some remarkable creatures and races the fastest bird on the planet, before a squeeze through its underbelly leads to a living nightmare.
Bear’s adventure starts at one of the most impressive limestone formations in the world, the magnificent amphitheatre of Malham Cove.
He meets geographer Dr Lynda Yorke who tells Bear that, 350-millions years ago, the high limestone pavement they are standing on was in fact under a tropical ocean, that was pushed upwards by volcanic eruptions and north by plate tectonics.
She explains that as the sea creatures died, they dropped to the bottom of the ocean where over time they became compacted as more and more creatures died, and eventually they formed the rock on which Bear is standing.
Bear goes on to discover that what really shaped the current landscape was the power of ice and water, as 20,000-years ago during the last Ice Age vast glaciers carved their way through the Dales.
When these glaciers melted raging rivers ripped the limestone apart creating the valleys and mighty scars of the stunning terrain.
The crowning glory sits on top of Malham Cove, where the lunar landscape is a fantastic example of a limestone pavement.
Dr Yorke explains: “Back in the ice age, all of this area was covered in ice, and as the ice moved across and through this valley it scraped off all the surface soil, revealing the limestone.”
The thousands of years of rainfall turned fractures in the rock into deep crevices, called grykes. As Bear discovers, this creates a micro-climate which is home to a hidden world of woodland fauna.
Bear heads off on the next part of his adventure, as he gets up close and personal with the cliff-face and abseils down the 250-foot drop of Malham Cove. As he starts his anxious descent, Bear explains how to turn his nerves to his advantage:
“You let that fear sharpen your senses.”
The awesome cliff face is the result of 10-million years of rock formation and Bear likens the descent to travelling back in time. On his way down he meets professional rock climber and Yorkshireman Steve McClure, going in the opposite direction, up the sheer cliff-face.
Bear says: “Abseiling down is pretty hairy, climbing up takes true grit.”
Amazed at the skills Steve demonstrates in ascending the rock-face, Bear challenges him to a dual - a finger-holding competition to see who can cling onto the rock for the longest.
Back on terra firma, Bear discovers that it’s not just technical climbers who call Malham Cove home. In the summer months a very special type of bird makes their nest high up on the cliff faces - the peregrine falcon, one of the fastest, most impressive hunters on the planet.
50-years ago the remarkable bird was close to extinction in Britain, but since it became a protected species their numbers have grown. Bear is invited to meet one up close, three-year-old Moses.
Moses’ trainer Lloyd Buck tells Bear that the peregrine falcon is capable of speeds of up to 180-mph when in a dive, while special cones on its nostrils allows the bird to breath, similar airflow technology is used in the jet engine. Bear decides to put Moses through his paces by testing out his speed, saying: “I’m pretty fast on a bike.” Can Bear out-ride the speedy falcon?
Also this week, Bear hikes across Gordale Scar to see an extremely rare algae called Rivularia, a remarkable organism that breathed life into the planet over three billion years ago.
He also visits a waterfall where the mighty salmon jump up against the current in their 75-mile marathon up river to reach their breeding pools. The salmon arrive in Yorkshire’s rivers every year and most manage to beat the rapids.
Bear also goes off on a rescue mission to try and save a native species on the brink of extinction, the white-clawed crayfish, who are embroiled in a ‘claw war’ with the American signal crayfish, a large and aggressive predator known to eat their own young.
Finally, Bear discovers that the real power of the water to shape the limestone is found deep underground, beneath the surface of the Dales, where Britain’s biggest and most dangerous cave networks lies. Yorkshire has 250-miles of claustrophobic underground passages and Bear heads down into one at the Long Churn caves.
Due to non-stop rain for nearly 24-hours, weather conditions are far from ideal and Bear and the camera crew are up against the rising water level as they make their way through the slippery, algae-covered limestone tunnels. The caves can be a very dangerous place, with numerous fatalities over the years, and due to the heavy rainfall there is a serious risk of flooding.
Someone who knows his way around the network of caves is Dr Phil Murphy and to get to him, Bear must make his way along a tight horizontal crawl between to rocks, which at times is only nine-inches in height.
Bear says: “I’m not a natural born caver. The thought of being trapped down here is terrifying.”
Reaching Dr Murphy down in the dark caves, conditions deteriorate rapidly with the water level in the caves rapidly rising they are forced to make a premature departure. Pointing to one of the adjoining tunnels, Dr Murphy says:
“When they fill up, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you shoot down something like that, you’re never going to get out.”