It was in Carboniferous period, about 300 million years ago, that this area of Yorkshire Dales was a shallow tropical sea. Over a time of about 50 million years a series of limestone beds accumulated at the bottom of this sea. The bedrock got composed from shells of marine organisms and chemical precipitates. Once at the bottom of the sea this limestone formation, now eroded due to slightly acidic rainfall, is to be found at the top, capping the landscape around Malham.
Malham village was founded sometimes in the 8th century. People here grew barley and oats until recently but today the land is dotted by sheep and cattle roaming among the extensive length of dry stone walls. According to survey done in the end of 20th century it is estimated that there are over 5000 miles (8 000 km) of dry stone walls in Yorkshire Dales alone. These walls are dominant feature here and the first field systems may have been built during the Iron Age (about 500 BCE) with the purpose to make livestock safer against wolf’s attacks. Most of the walls around Malhamdale however, were built or rebuilt in the Enclosure period (1780-1840) when government act gradually helped to turn communally owned land into private property. Individual landowners abandoned farming in favour of raising sheep and cattle.
Dry stone walling is done without use of mortar and as such is a disappearing skill on British Isles. Today, this unique trade supports only about 40 qualified dry stone wallers in the whole of United Kingdom.