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Ilkley Moor (West Yorkshire)

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Moorland situated between Ilkley and Keighley in West Yorkshire, England

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      09.10.2010 10:35
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      Great place for a walk

      My family spent a few days in Yorkshire recently, and as it wasn't too far away, it was felt that a walk on Ilkley Moor, 'bah't tat' or not, was something we should do whilst there.

      ~About Ilkley Moor~

      Ilkley Moor is in the Southern part of the UK's Yorkshire Dales, up above the town of Ilkley. There are lots of walks to be taken up here, with fantastic views across Yorkshire and beyond. It rises to 402 metres above sea level and is an interesting place on many levels. Heather moorlands are internationally rare, despite being common in Northern Britain. Much of the flora and fauna is protected and it's an especially important place for some bird species. It also has a long social history which has resulted in several important archaeological sites. All of this forms part of the reason the moor has been designated a national Site of Special Scientific Interest. Of course the most famous thing about Ilkley Moor is probably the unoffical Yorkshire anthem; 'On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at', (translation: On Ilkley Moor without a hat).

      ~Our Walk~

      We visited the Northern edge of the moor with the intention of walking to a stone circle known as the twelve apostles. We drove through Ilkley to get there, down the nicely named Cow Pasture Road which brought us to a small car park and a little shop at the foot of the Cow and Calf Rocks. These rocks are part of a gritstone outcrop and are so named because of how they look - a boulder stands near to the larger area of rock, like a calf to a cow. There's a quarry here and it's popular with climbers. Some hand and footholds have been carved into the calf making it easy to climb up to the top. I was quite amused to see my husband trying to climb up via a crack on the opposite side, only to walk around and find this easy route.

      From the car park there are three well marked paths for walkers, as well as a few benches dotted about for people who just want to rest and enjoy the view. One path leads up to the quarry, another leads down to the Calf, and one goes straight up onto the moors. We followed the one to the Calf and then scrambled up some rocks around the side where it's possible to walk on top of the Cow. It was a very easy scramble, my husband had climbed up via the quarry and was ahead of us to lift our daughter up. Although it's high, the rocks are wide and flat and it all felt very safe. If I had thought it was at all risky I wouldn't have let my child go up that way. Once you get up here there are lovely views over Ilkley and the rocks are interesting too, names and dates are carved into them, many dating back to previous centuries.

      The walk took us up some steep steps cut into the moor and was more uphill than it had seemed on the OS map. Our daughter was carried in a backpack for a large part of the way. We were lucky in that the weather was probably ideal; bright and breezy. In general the ground was good for walking on. There are bogs up here and one area of the path we walked had been made into a wooden walkway, although several of the boards had given way and could do with being restored.

      The stone circle itself was situated high up in an exposed area with a fantastic view for miles around. We could make out Leeds University in one direction and the giant 'golf balls' of Menwith Hill in another. The stones are quite small, it's said that there were originally twenty of them and that they were probably some sort ancient observatory. It has been called a druidic circle, but not much is really known about it, although it is thought to be three and a half to four thousand years old.

      Taking a different route back we stopped to examine some interesting rocks. There are many carved stones on the moor that are designated as national Scheduled Ancient Monuments which means they are protected sites. Some people think 'cup and ring' stones, which date from the from the bronze age, are records of some sort. Others think they may have been signposts for travellers. I certainly found it interesting to look at them and wonder how, when and why they were made. I hadn't known of their existence until that day.

      It's not hard to see why there are many legends surrounding the moor; tales of ghosts and demons, UFO activity including a famous alleged alien abduction case involving a police officer. I didn't see any ghosts, but there is certainly something eerie about parts of the moor, even on a bright day, such as the one we were lucky enough to experience. Wandering back down towards the car park we disturbed a few red grouse hiding in the heather, such a shame to my mind that there are grouse shooting rights up here.

      Altogether we walked around seven miles which took us somewhere between three and four hours, we were in no hurry. It's beautiful, and for the local people - what a fantastic place to walk the dog.

      ~and the cat?

      It's not really relevant but I felt it had to be mentioned - On arrival back at the holiday park we discovered that our three year old's favourite toy had gone walkabout. No more will Ginger Cat comfort her at night or accompany her to nursery, no, it seems she has gone feral and decided to sleep under the stars on Ilkley Moor instead. Devastation prevailed, for a little while. Pleas, (from me), to return to Ilkley Moor and search for Ginger in the dark went unheard. It would almost certainly have been a fruitless (catless?) search. I left a message in the the online Ilkley gazette but to no avail. It may have only been a toy, but that little cat almost felt like one of the family. Still, at least it gave me a title for this piece.


      ~Conclusion~

      Anyone with a love of nature will enjoy spending time here. It's picturesque, keeps you fit, great views, interesting rocks, what moor could you want? It's also free of charge.

      (I used the Friends of Ilkley Moor website for a few facts and figures included in this review, it's at www.ilkleymoor.org and is a mine of useful information.)

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