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It had been a torrid journey around the dismal Leeds Ring Road, but the road up to the moor from Burley in Wharfedale made up for it due to the suffering it inflicted on Justin. His MG was barely able to make it over the astonishing number of speed bumps on the road, and we had to wait for him for ages at the top.
We parked at a car park at a good viewpoint just south of the Cow and Calf Hotel, and had lunch whilst we waited for Jus & Cat to catch up. Jim and I were raring to go – although we’d bagged 8 county tops already today, this would be our first decent walk of the day. Although the primary aim was to visit the highest point in Leeds Unitary Authority, we planned to extend the walk to take in the Ilkley Moor marilyn. As we strode confidently up the steep edge of the moor, we sang the classic song “On Ilkley Moor Baht ’at” (apparently the “Baht ‘at” means “without a hat”), and also the hilarious Mrs Ackroyd Band variant “Ilkley D’Amour”.
Reaching the top of the edge, we were presented with a fairly standard moor panaroma – wide swathes of flattish heather with a hint of peat bogs inbetween. Along the edge a few rocky outcrops marginally failed to be interesting enough to warrant a diversion. The paths on the map didn’t exactly go where we wanted, and I decided that, following an unprecedentedly dry April, the peat bogs would be dry enough for us to simply use the GPS to head pretty much due south towards our destination.
My guess proved to be right. Whilst the area adjacent to Coldstone Beck was a little damp, it was easily bypassed with dry feet all round, and beyond that it was simply a matter of using any sheep paths through the heather that appeared to be heading in generally the right direction. It wasn’t long before we saw a white flagpole next to a small building that was on approximately the right bearing, and were able to head directly for that. A short walk from the hut down a wide track bought us to a large, flattened cairn, near a new fence. The fence marked the border of Leeds, which lies just below the crest of the hill. By sticking our feet through the fence at the appropriate point we were able to stand on the highest point of the unitary authority without the hassle of having to climb over the nearby stile and back!
We turned back towards the hut and headed towards our next destination, Ilkley Moor, which would also be our first marilyn of the trip. The naming of the moors around here is a little strange. There are a number of named moors in the area – Burley Moor, Hawksworth Moor, Ilkley Moor, etc – which merge indistinguishably into each other. They all seem to come under one overall “master moor” – Rombald Moor, and one wonders why anyone bothered with the component part names – maybe it was just to fill up empty map space...
So... we progressed west-ish from one part of Rombald Moor to a different part of Rombald Moor on a wide, well worn and seemingly long-established track that wasn’t shown on the map (maybe they should have tried putting in accurate paths rather than redundant moor names!). We passed a splendid rocky outcrop that looked like it had been designed for photos of hikers posed on top, and then the most perfect bijou stone circle.
The circle is known as the Twelve Apostles (as it now has just 12 stones), but has also been called the Druidical Dial Circle or Druid’s Chair. Supposedly it once had over twenty stones, and could have been used to measure both the summer and winter solstices, along with certain lunar movements. Still, for a four thousand year-old construct, it was in remarkably sprightly condition – I’m betting that a Barratt’s box home won’t still be 60% complete in 400 years, let alone 4,000! We rested a while and enjoyed the solitude of the stones – unlike it’s larger counterparts at Stonehenge and Avebury, there was not another person in sight (although someone had shamefully (and dangerously, in this dry weather) had a fire at the centre of the circle.
Soon after the circle, the path veered away from the direct route to the summit and so we once again headed off the path and through the heather. I thought this would be a good time to tell Jus about ticks and the horrible diseases they carry. Jus immediately adopted a pose that can only be described as panicked caution. He eventually agreed to continue walking using a peculiar stork-like gait (albeit without the grace) that involved walking on tiptoe and lifting his knees as high as possible, to minimise any contact with the “tick-infested” vegetation. He would later accuse me of trying to kill him “yet again”.
Despite Justin, we were soon at the highest point of the moor, which was crowned with the classic summit comb of trig and cairn. The views were of the classic moorland variety – dominated by foreground and radio masts.
After a brief lovers tiff between Jus and Cat we were able to complete the third side of our triangular walk. As there was a path in the direction we needed, Jus did not have to resume his flamingo-step walking.
Soon though I once again led us off path on a direct bearing. This time the going was a bit trickier, as there was a hint of bog in the ground and at times we resorted to a bit of tussock hopping (Justin’s heron-strides finally coming in useful for him). Fortunately, the bog didn’t at any point threaten the inner sanctum of my boots, and we soon picked up a path again, which led us rapidly into a beautiful area of unexpected cliffs and rocky amphitheatres, facing in random directions – presumably the result of quarrying. We were only using a print of a 1:50,000 scale map, and I was disappointed to discover afterwards from a 1:25,000 scale map that the rocks hereabouts contain many cup-and-ring marks; if I’d have known at the time I’d have had a go at spotting some.
We turned away from the quarry area and headed back towards the road, to discover an even more impressive quarried amphitheatre beside a car park. The quarry sides were swarming with climbers, and the near end of the quarry looked like it had some good scrambling. I wished we’d started our walk here with a scramble, but didn’t want to try it out now in front of all the climbers. I’d feel like an amateur without a rope!
It was a short stroll down to the Cow and Calf Hotel, and a brief bimble back up the road to end a thoroughly enjoyable walk. It was getting too late in the day to do any more tops, and we headed off to our respective accommodations in Haworth (Jus and Cat were in a B&B as they’d refused to stay at the YHA with Jim and I). I had also hoped to do the Bradford top today to take us up to 10 tops, but I knew that had been rather hopeful so I wasn’t too disappointed. It had been a pretty good day anyway.