Every year, East Cheshire Ramblers organises one or two weekends away and in June they went to the delightful Yorkshire spa town of Ilkley. Thirty seven people took part, with the majority staying in Craiglands Hotel next to Ilkley Moor. There were 6 walks of various lengths over the weekend. On Saturday, they were 3 walks in the Bolton Abbey area. The short walk (7 miles) stayed within the Bolton Abbey estate, which is privately owned by the Duke of Devonshire. They enjoyed a leisurely walk along the river, admiring the curlews and marvelling at the sand martins racing across the river and disappearing into small holes in the riverbank. They stopped for lunch at Bolton Priory ruins, which was perfect timing to watch a wedding party coming out of the adjoining 12th century church. On their return they came across a full size toy tractor which most of them couldn’t resist having a play on.
The medium (9 miles) and long walkers (13 miles) set off separately through the Valley of Desolation and across Barden Fell to Simon’s Seat. While the medium walkers dropped down to the Valley of the River Wharfe and walked back along the river, the long walkers covered Howgill Lane, High Skyreholme, Parceval Hall, Trollers Gill, Harrington and Appletreewick, returning along the Dales Way past Barden Tower and The Strid back to Bolton Abbey.
On Sunday all the walks started from the hotel and climbed up to Ilkley Moor. It was quite a humid day and having had a late cloudburst on the previous day, it was interesting to see how each rambler interpreted the weather forecast and outfits ranged from shorts and short-sleeves to full waterproof gear! In the event, the weather was wonderful.
All the walks passed Ilkley Tarn, which was previously lit with a fountain and the scene of band concerts but is now a peaceful wildlife haven. They went on to White Wells, a former spa bath, which now has a small café. The bath was outdoors when built in the 18th century but is now enclosed with interesting interpretation boards on the history of Ilkley as a spa town. At this point the walks went their separate ways.
The short walkers headed east towards the famous hanging stone, known as the Cow and Calf. Legend has it that the calf was split from the cow when the legendary giant Rombald was fleeing an enemy and stamped on the rock as he leapt across the valley. Ilkley Moor was originally known as Rombalds Moor, but thanks to the famous song “On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at” it is always known as Ilkley Moor. As the short walkers continued their walk, they passed the Little Skirtful of stones and the Great Skirtful of stones: stones apparently carried by the Giant’s wife in her skirt and dropped as she was pursuing him across the moor. Yes, you guessed it, she was the enemy! Ilkley Moor is well known for its archaeology and the short walkers also passed the Twelve Apostles, a ring of Bronze Age standing stones near the meeting of 2 ancient routes. The medium and long walkers followed the millennium way to the Swastika stone with its engraving of a swastika shape. There is debate as to whether it dates from the Bronze, Neolithic or Roman ages. The medium walkers followed the Dales High Way to Addingham and then back along the River Wharfe to Ilkley. The long walkers walked along the northern edge of the moor with spectacular views extending over Silsden as they turned south and descended through the Glen to reach Sunnydale Reservoir built in the 19th century for the local area but now part of Yorkshire Water. Returning over the moor they had extensive views of Keighley, Bradford, Leeds and the intervening settlements before they reached the summit of the moor and the northern aspect returned with clear views of the Menwith Hill early warning system. They returned via the Cow and Calf Rocks.