The last time we stayed at Hall Croft CL we had our old Labrador Dexter travelling with us and because he was unable to walk long distances I spent most of the trip heading out with Crosby whilst Lynnie and Dexter mooched around in Ilkley. So on this trip I am keen to ensure that Lynnie joins me for a walk on Ilkley Moor including a trip to the Cow and Calf rocks. Forty years ago, on our first trip to Yorkshire together, I took Lynnie to the Cow and Calf rocks, it was a spot I had visited frequently as a child.
Leaving the site we turn left and follow the pavement besides the A65 towards Ilkley. As we enter the town we turn right, just after a set of traffic lights, to head up Victoria Avenue. Continuing steadily uphill we stay on this road, which becomes Hollingwood Rise. As the road sweeps to the right by the junction with Parish Ghyll Lane we take a footpath directly in front of us that continues uphill.
The path emerges onto Queens Drive, here we cross the lane and continue on the footpath as it ascends on steps through the edge of Panorama Wood. Emerging from the woods we join a lane and turn right, after passing a couple of properties we take a footpath on the left to reach the edge of the moor at an old metal kissing gate.
On the moor we turn right and follow the directions towards the Swastika Stone and Addingham Moorside. The route is now a clearly defined path as it rises steadily across the moor passing above Panorama Reservoir.
The path continues to rise to reach the fenced Swastika Stone. This ancient carving is thought to date from the Bronze or Neolithic age, although the one visible today is a Victorian replica placed close to the original which was severely eroded.
We continue along the path, which is part of the Dales High Way until we reach a drystone wall, we don’t cross through the wall, but instead take a clear path on the left heading steadily uphill with the wall on our right.
We go through a gap in the wall and continue uphill to reach a boundary stone carved “N ILB 1893” apparently this relates to the Ilkley Local Board acquiring the moor in 1893 and opening it for public access, prior to this it had been in the ownership of William Middleton who in 1842 had sought to enclose the moor. Thanks to the foresight of the Council all those years ago this remains as open access land.
From the boundary stone our route is to the east along the ridge, but first we decide to head west for a few hundred yards to look at another stone we can see. This turns out to be a memorial stone to the crew of a Halifax Bomber DK185 which on 31st January 1944 whilst on a training exercise crashed into the moor. The crew were all young men with all bar one coming from Canada. There were no survivors.
The memory of these brave men should always be kept alive and an inscription on the memorial records them: Pilot Officer Donald G McLeod RCAF, Pilot, aged 21, of Waterford, Ontario, Canada; Sgt Felix Byrne RAFVR, Flight Engineer, aged 20, of Plains, Lanarkshire, Scotland; Warrant Officer Lewis Riggs RCAF, Navigator, aged 20, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Sgt Robert H Rahn RCAF, Bomb Aimer, aged 22, of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; Warrant Officer William G King RCAF, Wireless Op / Air Gunner, aged 27, of Teepers Creek, Alberta, Canada; Sgt George Martin RCAF, Air Gunner, aged 20, of Spanish, Ontario, Canada; and Sgt Albert Lorne Mullen RCAF, Air Gunner, aged 19, of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
From the memorial we turn and back and walk along the path passing the boundary stone and continuing west to reach a gate in a stone wall. Immediately after the gate we cross Black Beck and quickly fork right to follow a clear path heading steadily uphill towards Nob Stone.
After passing the stone we continue on the path to reach a gate in the wall with a very impressive gate post.
Through the gate we continue on the path until we reach a broad track. This is the Keighley Road which runs as a track across the moor between Ilkley and Keighley. We turn right and follow the track as it gradually ascends to the top of the moor. To our right is Cowper’s Cross, thought to date from the 12th century, although the current cross is believed to be a replacement erected in the 18th century. Over the years further renovations have been required when the cross was struck by lightning and then in 2007 vandalised by some idiots. The purpose of the cross is unknown, it may have been a marker post on the drove across the moor that followed the route of the Roman Road or used as a meeting place.
From the cross we continue along the Keighley Road towards Whetsone Gate. Just before reaching the gate we turn left on a path that heads up besides the Whetstone wireless station. The route now follows flagstones across the moor to reach the Thimble Stones, I have passed these stones before but not stopped to look at them.
The map shows there is a boundary stone amongst the rocks. It is not unusual for me to spend ages looking for a small boundary stone in dense undergrowth. But this is one of the biggest boundary stones I have ever seen.
Amongst the stones is also a cracking Ordnance Survey cut benchmark. Over the last two years I have started “bagging” these old survey markings whilst out walking. They proliferate the countryside and there are thought to be well over 500,000 still remaining. They are far less obvious than OS Trig Pillars and because they were often cut into buildings many have been destroyed or are inaccessible. To “bag” one like this on the moor is a real bonus.
Back on the flagstone path we continue across the moor but soon spot carved stones besides the path. These are flagstones inscribed with a poem “Puddle” by Simon Armitage, the current Poet Laureate, and placed on the moor in 2012 as part of a literary project. This is one of six poems that adorn the moors between Marsden and Ilkley linked by a 47 mile route known as the Stanza Trail.
We continue along the flagstone path, prior to its installation walking across this section of moorland must have been very challenging, because despite the dry weather there are still areas of bog either side of the stones. In the distance we can see the top of Rombalds Moor Trig Pillar and Lynnie strides out to get there first. I bagged this trig in 2019, it was my 146th, I have managed to bag a further 120 since then!
We continue heading across the moor on the flagstone path. On 1 December 1987, Phillip Spencer, a retired policeman was walking across the moor prior to sunrise in foggy conditions. He is said to have seen a creature approach him, which he photographed, it signaled to him not to come any further, he then saw a dome topped craft on the hill that soon shot away at speed. I am sceptical of stories about alien sightings but have no doubt that Spencer was convinced about what he saw. The bit that really troubles me in this tale is how the alien knew how to signal stay away, presumably beings from other planets would have developed their own version of sign language which in all probability would be very different from the common signals we use.
Our route now arrives at another boundary stone, this one is known as the Lanshaw Lad and it is marked with the now familiar WM and ILB carvings.
At a junction of paths near to the boundary stone we turn right along a path that soon reaches the Twelve Apostles, this is an ancient stone circle thought to date from at least the bronze age. Despite its name archaeologists believe there were probably at least twenty stones in the circle and about 100 years ago there are records of it being surrounded by a rubble bank. The stones were reset in the mid 20th century and the circle has a diameter close to 16 metres.
Soon after passing the stone ring we reach a junction of tracks, here we turn left to follow the broad track across Burley Moor heading towards stones on the horizon.
The route takes us past Grouse Butts and then on our left is High Lanshaw Dam. On reaching a junction of tracks we intend going left to cross the dam but first decide to walk the short distance to the stones on our right and stop for lunch. Refreshed we return to follow the path across the dam. This is the highest of three small reservoirs, apparently they were originally built for Urban District Council, later operated by the Rombalds Water Board and eventually Yorkshire Water.
We follow the track in a northerly direction towards rocks at Green Crag, once again there is a boundary marking on the stones with WM (William Middleton) 1785 and ILB (Ilkley Local Board) 1893 carved on it.
We now head in a north westerly direction and continue on this route across a faint path to reach a clear stony path where we turn left heading towards the Pancake Stone. This path follows the contour of the hill with the Cow and Calf Hotel below us to the right.
This is a popular area for people to walk and there is a network of paths created through the bracken. We wait until we are nearly above the Cow and Calf rocks before turning right and heading steadily downhill to reach this iconic spot. Before heading down to walk between the Cow and Calf we wander around on top of the stones and pass over the top of a disused quarry.
The stone was quarried here in the 19th century when Ilkley boomed as a spa town. It is interesting wandering around the top looking at all the engravings on the stones. Some are recent whilst others go back a long time. I have never felt the urge to carve my name into a rock or tree, but it does make you wonder about the story behind some of the folk that spent time here leaving their mark.
As we head back along the top of the old quarry we see a chap scaling the side and then as we go down and around the front on the path between the Cow and Calf there is a woman in a Hi-Viz jacket, I enquire what is going on. Apparently they are preparing to film a major Netflix series and the chap is removing the graffiti from the rock face. She is very coy about the production and who the stars are. But given that I watch so little TV I doubt that I would have heard of either.
The path leads between the Cow and Calf. It is well over fifty years since I first visited this spot. We frequently came and played here when we were visiting family friends in the area. Just being here brings back many happy memories, so it was hardly surprising that when I first brought Lynnie to Yorkshire, forty years ago, we came here.
These stones are also known as the Hangingstone Rocks and legend has it that the Cow and Calf were formed when the giant Rombald was fleeing an enemy and stamped on the rocks and the calf split from the cow.
We follow the path and to Lynnie’s dismay it leads us back to the point we were previously at at the top of the stones. Here we turn left and take an attractive route through woodland.
Emerging from the trees the path descends steeply towards Backstone Beck. As we head downhill there are some cracking views.
After crossing a footbridge over the beck we continue along a path to reach The Tarn. An information board provides a history to this attractive spot. Originally known as Craig Dam it was a marshy area feeding working mills towards the centre of Ilkley. In 1873 a group of local gentlemen met and derived a plan to turn the area into a pleasant place to visit. Soon brass bands were playing at the weekend for the entertainment of visitors. Then in 1903 a religious group known as the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon started holding meetings here.
In 1904 a chap called Cooper presented his ‘Pierrot’ performers here, but they were deemed more suitable to seaside entertainment and too vulgar for Ilkley. So I am not sure what the local gentlemen would have made of Mrs. Pankhurst and her ‘Women’s Social and Political Union’ meeting here on 8th June 1908.
Lighting was installed around the Tarn in 1931 and a fountain was installed on the island which was fed by gravity from the moor. Sadly that feature has long gone. However, this remains a peaceful spot and the tarn is surrounded by benches for folk to sit and relax.
We continue on the path heading down towards Ilkley and pass the longest bench I can recall seeing. This was placed here before social distancing became the norm and is in memory of Professor Delia Davin who was a Sinologist. Not sure what a Sinologist is I later look it up to discover she studied Chinese language, literature and history.
In Ilkely we wander into the centre of the town and then turn left to walk along the pavement besides the A65 to lead us back to Hall Croft CL.
To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 297 – Lower Wharfedale & Washburn Valley
9th September 2021
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2021)
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Walking can be hazardous and is done entirely at your own risk. It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.