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Review: Ilkley Moor

City/Town/Region/Island

Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Weer 'as tha bin since ah saw thee?

  • By SilverTraveller pb52

    206 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • Dec 2014
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54 people found this review helpful

In the early 1900's, members of Halifax church choir had a splendid idea. "Let's have a day out and take the air on Ilkley Moor".



The charabanc ride may have been a little bumpy as it ground it's way from the foothills of the Pennines through the mill towns and chimneys of the industrial West Riding of Yorkshire, but their hearts were surely lifted as they entered Wharfedale and began to stroll out amongst the famous purple heather that dominates Ilkley Moor, taking in the razor-sharp breezes.



So inspired were they, that they composed the words of what is seen by many to be Yorkshire's own anthem, On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at.



No doubt inspired by the refreshing winds, this folk song tells the tale of Mary Jane's suitor, who ventures onto the moor without a hat. He caught a cold, died and was buried. The worms then ate him, the ducks ate the worms and the people ate the ducks, thereby ingesting said suitor. Yuk. The song was first published in 1916 and became very popular as a cautionary tale.



The Halifax choir were not the first to visit this beautiful area, as archaeological evidence and finds point to settlements dating from the Stone Age.



Round huts and stone enclosures were first constructed here in what were completely different surroundings to todays features. In those days the area was heavily wooded with outcrops of millstone grit.



Carvings and designs made by the settlers on those rocks can still be seen today.



The Swastika Stone at the northern edge of the moor depicts a four armed swirling pattern with dots and is just one of many similar finds. In fact, this small area has the second highest concentration of carved grooves and cup and ring markings in Europe. There is even a small standing stone monument, the Twelve Apostles, easily found on the moor.



By the late Neolithic and Bronze Age, tree clearing activities produced the scenery we see today. The famous and iconic Cow and Calf rocks however, are said to be the result of the giant Rombald, fleeing from his wife across the valley. His wife, who had been carrying the rocks in her apron to throw at him, dropped them in disgust.



Settlements seem to have been abandoned after the Norman invasion, none remaining after 1069, the valleys proving more attractive than the windswept uplands.



In 1701, a cold plunge pool was built to the rear of White Wells Cottage, high on the moor. This was replaced by two pools in 1791 and this led to Ilkley booming, with many Hydro's being built in the nineteenth century. One plunge pool is still in use today with the New Years Day dip being very popular. Be warned, it is VERY cold and you have to bring your own equipment. Survivors may buy a certificate to prove their foolhardiness. It has free entry for the brave.



By the Victorian era, Ilkley was a prosperous and established Spa town, attracting visitors from afar. Charles Darwin visited the White Wells pools in 1859 to take to the waters. Ilkley became known as 'The Heather Spa'.



In 1893, the Urban Council bought the moor and engineers built small water features, gardens and tarns with walkways on the lower slopes for the promenading of visitors. The open moorland above remained largely untouched and preserved. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest today for rare flora and fauna.



Rising to a height of 1319 feet, the moor is easily accessible and is a great place for walking and running. It has a myriad of footpaths, some preserved by the placing of stone flagging from old mills. The views are spectacular, particularly down the Wharfe valley. Climbers use outcrops and an old stone quarry behind the Cow and Calf rocks to pursue their hobby.



The Friends of Ilkley Moor are a group of volunteers with an interest in the moor and it's preservation.



Much more information as well as a series of Heritage Walks can be found on their website at www.ilkley.org . All the walks are easy going on good tracks with little in the way of steep hills. The site has downloadable maps and walking guides too.



You could take home a bottle of Ilkley Brewery's Mary Jane ale as a memento.



On a cold and crisp December day with air as clear as gin, an outing here is so rewarding, as the accompanying photographs show. You might even find yourself copying the members of the Halifax church choir and bursting into song … On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at, On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at …



Remember to take a hat though, just in case.

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