The Dales Way Link – 1C – Otley to Ilkley

 

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For over 150 years ‘Jenny’s Cottage was a popular destination for visitors to The Chevin. Situated of Chevin Ridge at Surprise View it was also known as Top House or Farm, Jenny Hill Farm or Beacon House. The building was demolished in 1976 although part of the original foundations can still be seen.

 

With a slightly childish enthusiasm, I named this final stretch of this link, The Niggler, the reason being, it was permanently on my mind, I felt as though my season in the outdoors couldn’t commence until I’d put this one to bed, so, on this mid April Wednesday morning, that’s exactly what I did, minus my son or his dog, who, were caravanning at Nether Wasdale in the Lake District, this, the third and final stretch of the Leeds section of the Dales Way Link, come hell or high water, was to be completed.

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The problem with single route walks are the transport to and away from them, especially if they are in obscure locations. The starting point for this was both, it was at a point clearly named and marked on the route as ‘surprise view’, situated on the marvellously name  road  ‘York Gate’, over looking the Chevin at  the Chevin Forest Park, reasonable close to where I completed the previous section of the walk. An extremely popular location for walkers, runners, tourists and day trippers, not to mention the blonde, Discovery driving, green wax jacketed female  brigade of trendy dog walkers who, always seem to appear at these locations, another occasion where I wasn’t to be disappointed. “Tiddlypoops, Tiddlypoops, please darling, don’t go where I can’t see you, ok Yah, we’re meeting the girls at Betty’s soon and then I need my nails doing, what what what!”.

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The route I was taking being the designated DWL (Dales Way Link) footpath, basically followed a North Westerly direction, from my starting point, descending into the village of Menston prior to ascending, via Burley Moor onto Ilkley Moor, prior to descending again into the town of Ilkley. I did forget my hat but my fleece and waterproof jacket both have hoods and, as I don’t consider myself Bear Grylls, I had no intention of eating any worms or ducks. It was roughly about 6 miles in distance and I had no idea how long it was going to take me, I don’t look at my watch on these trips, if it takes me all day to walk 2 miles, I don’t mind, it means I’ve been enjoying myself and absorbing my location, I’m definitely not there to race anything or anybody.

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Descending into Menston

Being April in the north of the England, weather wise, it’s healthy to expect the unexpected, shorts and T shirts in the valley basin and fleece and waterproofs on the snow capped hills, but the conditions can switch at any moment, so, like the good old boy scout I was and still using my original (extended) leather boy scout belt, but not the trousers, and carrying the necessary  equipment, the most recent little excursion commenced. Overall, the outdoor clothing and equipment has improved to such an extent over the last 30 years, it’s almost untrue, lightweight goretex clothing, almost instant cooking equipment, packaged and sealed food, it’s fantastic, in a relatively small rucksack, the 25 litre one as I use for day trips contains all the necessary equipment, food, clothing and emergency kit, including some extras, superb. It still amuses me to see the kids doing the Duke of Edinburgh awards and carrying rucksacks containing everything including the kitchen sink, it always puts a smile on my face.

Menston is a village and civil parish in the county of West Yorkshire, England. Along with Burley in Wharfedale, part of Menston is within Wharfedale Ward in the metropolitan borough of the City of Bradford. The remainder of Menston is in the Leeds City Council area. It has a population of 4,660,  reducing to 4,498 at the 2011 Census.

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Footpath beneath Menston Railway Station

Menston’s Anglican parish church is dedicated to St John the Divine, and is part of the Diocese of Bradford. Other notable buildings include the former High Royds Hospital and St. Mary’s Menston Catholic Academy, both of which are in the Leeds part of Menston.

The site of High Royds Hospital, originally the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, which is just inside the City of Leeds metropolitan borough, has been converted to housing called “Highroyds Village”. This is a reflection of Menston’s growing size. In the past 20 years there has been increased demand for much needed housing in the area. It’s population has been steadily increasing. As a result Menston primary school, which was threatened with closure in the 1980s, has increased student numbers.

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Leaving Menston onto Burley Moor

Paul Jewell, a retired footballer and the former manager of Bradford City, Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan Athletic and most recently Ipswich Town, has lived in the village since the 1990s. Smith Wigglesworth, a notable early Pentecostal preacher, was born in Menston in 1859. Annie Margaret Barr, a Unitarian minister and founder of the Kharang Rural Centre in the Khasi Hills, North East India, was born in Menston in 1899. Eric Knight, the author who created the fictional collie Lassie was born in Menston. Three members of the rock band the Kaiser Chiefs, Nick Hodgson, Nick Baines and Simon Rix met whilst attending St. Mary’s Roman Catholic High School there and Dean Windass, the former Bradford City and Hull City footballer lives in the village. Actor, Sam Riley was born in Menston.

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Otley Chevin from the base of Burley Moor

Having stumbled my way through the town, OS maps don’t help too much in towns, I finally found Moor Road and the footpath onto Burley Moor, it wasn’t too difficult, it was west from the railway station and my first ascent on the Moor, so far so good, the weather was holding out, even as the intimidating black rain cloud loomed, threateningly, overhead, it was still to unleash its’ possible potential. It certainly wasn’t the weather for my summer boots, the terrain underfoot, although dry in parts, in others, it remained boggy, drenched and difficult, again, the modern, goretex and canvas boots displayed their priority over the traditional leather ones.

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Footpath crossing approaching Burley Woodhead

After following the footpaths through the town I eventually found the junction of the self explanatory Moor Road and  the entrance to Burley Moor, a wonderful feeling, as much as Menston was a warm and seemingly friendly town, whilst I’m outdoor I try to avoid them, although, on this route, it was essential to venture through its’ centre. Anyway  I’d finally reached of the part of the journey which, in my mind, placed me firmly in the Dales. It was a warm feeling too that I wasn’t too far from the completion of this 18ish mile trek, one, which, on completion, gave me piece of mind to later, pursue, further and deeper into the awaiting hills and mountains.

As I trudged my way up this wonderful moor, my thoughts were on the moor, the whole moor and nothing but the moor, such escapism is highly recommended to anybody, as thousands of others are fully aware, it’s a sheer delight, . As if this wasn’t enough, another love I have are for those amazing and graceful Red Kites, only a few years previously, they were locally reintroduced at Harewood House,  where, since their reintroduction, have successfully bred, being released, and can be seen almost everywhere in the county. Above me, circling around in search of food, a pair of them, like trained snipers, gracefully and diligently viewing the terrain, and,  if it was present, they’d see it, wonderful.

It was whilst I was trudging across the moorland, (apparently on the Millenium Way Footpath, I think the Dales Way, Ebor Way and Millenium all merge into one around here), where, having become a bit of  an anorak in my old age, I transformed into my alter ego, that being the exiled and forlorn ancient lost Norse adventurer. Another huge attraction to this wonderful moor are the abundance of Bronze Age stone carvings which literally do litter the landscape, over 250 of them have so far being discovered. It’s as though, as those ancient people wandered these heavily forested hills, they found the time to leave their mark. Carvings with meaning, symbols of prayer and hope, symbols which, represented their gods and their needs. It’s a shame sections of mankind have since pre-dated them with more recent carvings such as – ‘Gaz wuz ‘ere wiv Tracey, 79’. Have certain elements of modern society reverted to predate the Bronze and Iron Age, it certain cases it would appear so.

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Ilkley Moor

Didn’t somebody once say, “A man who doesn’t know the history of York doesn’t know the history of England”, well, in my opinion, (do I have an opinion?), a man or woman, who has never walked on Ilkley Moor, really should, it’s a wonderful spot!

Ilkley is a spa town and civil parish in the City of Bradford, West Yorkshire, in Northern England. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Ilkley civil parish includes the adjacent village of Ben Rhydding and is a ward within the metropolitan borough of Bradford. Approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of Bradford and 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Leeds, the town lies mainly on the south bank of the River Wharfe in Wharfedale, one of the Yorkshire Dales.

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Ilkley’s spa town heritage and surrounding countryside make tourism an important local industry. The town centre is characterised by Victorian architecture, wide streets and floral displays. Ilkley Moor, to the south of the town, is the subject of a folk song, often described as the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire, “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at“. The song’s words are written in Yorkshire dialect, its title translated as “On Ilkley Moor without a hat.”

The earliest evidence of habitation in the Ilkley area is from flint arrowheads or microliths, dating to the Mesolithic period, from about 11,000 BC onwards. The area around Ilkley has been continuously settled since at least the early Bronze Age, around 1800 BC; more than 250 cup and ring marks, and a curved swastika carving dating to the period have been found on rock outcrops, and archaeological remains of dwellings are found on Ilkley Moor. A druidical stone circle, the Twelve Apostles Stone Circle, was constructed 2,000 years ago. Serious interest in the rock art of Ilkley began after the publication in 1879 of the “Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley” by Romilly Allen in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association.

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The remains of a Roman fort occupy a site near the town centre. Some authorities believe it is Olicana, dating to 79 AD, but the identification is not settled. A number of Roman altars have been discovered from the reigns of Antoninus Pius (138 to 161), and Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla (211 to 217).

Three Anglo-Saxon crosses from the 8th century that stood in the churchyard of All Saints’ Church have been moved inside to prevent erosion. The church site, as a centre for Christian worship, extends to 627 AD, and the present mainly Victorian-era church incorporates medieval elements.

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The Domesday Book, of 1086, records Ilkley (Ilecliue/Illecliue/Illiclei/Illicleia) as being in the possession of William de Percy 1st Baron Percy. The land was acquired by the Middelton family of Myddelton Lodge, from about a century after the time of William the Conqueror. The family lost possession through a series of land sales and mortgage repossessions over a period of about a hundred years from the early 19th century. The agents of William Middelton (1815–1885) were responsible for the design of the new town of Ilkley to replace the village which had stood there before.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the town gained a DSC09929reputation for the efficacy of its water. In the 19th century it became established as a fashionable spa town, with the construction of Ben Rhydding Hydro, a hydropathic establishment at Wheatley, a mile to the east, between 1843 and 1844. Charles Darwin underwent hydropathic treatment at Wells House when his book On the Origin of Species was published on 24 November 1859, whilst staying with his family at North View House (now Hillside Court). Tourists flocked to ‘take the waters’ and bathe in the cold-water spring. Wheatley was renamed Ben Rhydding after the Hydro, which has been demolished.

Now, completed, I had to return to York Gate above Otley Chevin, I was tired, couldn’t be bothered waiting for a bus to Otley and walk up the Chevin, there was no train to Otley, the last option was a taxi, it worked out at £18.50, ouch, but, overall, the day had been worth it, a wonderful day, even if, briefly, the April showers did catch me out, bah t’at.

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Jurgen Tischler

My interests are mountaineering, buschcraft and leathercraft, not necessarily in that order. Being outdoors is the real buzz. I'm not trying to set any records or achieve any real targets, simply taking every opportunity to go out there and see what happens, this, is hopefully, a catalogue of the aforesaid pursuits.

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