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Starting the climb up Heber's Ghyll to Ilkley Moor
Starting the climb up Heber's Ghyll to Ilkley Moor

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Route No. 322 - Sunday 3 January 2010
Heber's Ghyll, Swastika Stone,
Ilkley Moor, Keighley Road circuit - 7km
Wharfedale . . .

Ordnance Survey route map from Bing maps.

Map: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale & Washburn Valley at 1:25000


Heber's Ghyll Drive at the start of our walk
Heber's Ghyll Drive at the start of our walk

The path up Heber's Ghyll
The path up Heber's Ghyll

At the top of the climb we followed the path out on to the open moor. Once we were out of the trees we turned right to follow the path around the edge of the moor with a steep drop on our right down into Wharfedale. After about 400m we came to some iron railings around a large flat topped rock sticking out from the edge of the moor next to the path. This is the Swastika Stone. The Swastika was used as a bronze age religious symbol long before its use in recent history, and the symbol is carved into the flat top of the rock.

I'm visiting my son this weekend at his home in Ilkley. There was a good covering of snow this morning and we started our walk at Heber's Ghyll at map ref. SE100473 on Heber's Ghyll Drive at the Western side of Ilkley. It's a wide road near a dead end so there's very little traffic and plenty of room for roadside parking. Black Beck flows down Heber's Ghyll and next to the beck is a path leading up the hillside through some woodland from the road. The route follows the beck crossing a series of footbridges over the beck as the path zig-zags up the hill.

The path up Heber's Ghyll
The path up Heber's Ghyll

Looking down Heber's Ghyll
Looking down Heber's Ghyll

Iron railings around the Swastika Stone
Iron railings around the Swastika Stone

The view across Wharfedale from our path around the edge of Ilkley Moor
The view across Wharfedale from our path around the edge of Ilkley Moor

Wintry sun ahead of another short snow flurry
Wintry sun ahead of another short snow flurry

WW2 memorial stone by the path
WW2 memorial stone by the path

The bomber crashed here on a WW2 training flight in 1944 killing everyone on board. A little further on is a boundary stone marker on one side of the path about 150m before we reached a path coming up from Wharfedale and crossing our path along the edge.

From the path past the Swastika Stone there is a great view across Wharfedale from here. A little further on there is a memorial stone to the crew of a Halifax bomber.

WW2 memorial stone by the path
WW2 memorial stone by the path

Boundary stone by the path near our turning
Boundary stone by the path near our turning

A tiny shrew on a rock by the path
A tiny shrew on a rock by the path

The shrew disappeared down this hole in the snow
The shrew disappeared down this hole in the snow

As we crossed the moor heading towards the Keighley Road (an old trackway) there was a small sudden movement in the snow by the path and we stopped to see what it was. There, darting about on top of the snow was a tiny shrew. It stayed above ground making rapid, short dashes to nowhere in particular for a couple of minutes, then it jumped about 40cm onto a rock and then darted to a tiny hole in the snow and disappeared. It's amazing that such a tiny creature can survive up here in these freezing conditions.

This was about 1.5km from the top of Heber's Ghyll and here we turned left onto the path from the valley and followed it away from the edge of the moor. Ilkley Moor is a very popular walking venue and there are informal paths everywhere, and not all marked on the map so navigating can be a bit of a nightmare. After about 250m along this public footpath we kept to our left along an informal path that climbed up a slope in the moor to the edge of a plateau at map ref. SE087466. From here we followed a path around the edge of the plateau.

A tiny shrew on a rock by the path
A tiny shrew on a rock by the path

Our path heading for the Keighley Road trackway
Our path heading for the Keighley Road trackway

Looking West across Ilkley Moor
Looking West across Ilkley Moor

Looking down to the Nebstone from the path
Looking down to the Nebstone from the path

No one really knows what these cup & ring marks were for, but there are many of them carved on the gritstone rocks of Ilkley Moor. When we reached the Keighley Road at map ref. SE106462, we turned left to walk down the hillside along this ancient trackway across the moor between Keighley and Ilkley.

A little further on we passed the Nebstone, often described as being like the top of a grand piano. There are a few cup and ring marks on it which date from the beginning of the Bronze age around 3000 years ago.

Radio masts at Whetstone Gate
Radio masts at Whetstone Gate

Looking SW along the Keighley Road trackway
Looking SW along the Keighley Road trackway

Following the Keighley Road trackway down the hillside
Following the Keighley Road trackway down the hillside

Heading down Heber's Ghyll to the end of our walk
Heading down Heber's Ghyll to the end of our walk

We joined another track lower down the hillside, above an old reservoir. After about 600m we crossed Black Beck at the top of Heber's Ghyll and retraced our steps along the path down through the woods to our starting point. The whole walk had been just 7km and it had taken us about two and a half hours to walk.

We followed this trackway for about 400m to map ref. SE107466 where we turned left onto an access track leading to a large stone built house. About 150m before we reached the house we turned right off the access track to drop down a field boundary

An old reservoir below us as we dropped down the hillside
An old reservoir below us as we dropped down the hillside

Looking back uo Heber's Ghyll
Looking back up Heber's Ghyll

Looking down Heber's Ghyll as neared the end of our walk
Looking down Heber's Ghyll as neared the end of our walk

Background Notes:
It's in the Warfedale spa town of Ilkley where this walk starts, and the Dales Way begins. That's a walk of 125km from Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District. Our walk today is a bit shorter. It's a 7km circuit, almost 5 miles, starting at the Western end of Ilkley at a place called Heber's Ghyll. This is a pretty wooded gully with a path zig-zagging up it, criss-crossing the beck. It's a short but steep climb to the top of the woodland where there used to be a well of iron rich water believed to have healing properties like the spa in the town centre. The stone trough of the well is still there, stained orange by the iron, but the water flow is just a trickle now. Our route emerges from the top of the wood onto a path around the edge of the moor with a steep drop away to the right down into Wharfedale. After just a few hundred metres we reach a large flat rock jutting out from the hillside with some iron railings round it. This is the Swastika Stone. The original design is still there but rather feint and a replica has been carved nearby to show the design in its original sharp relief. The swastika is an ancient religious symbol dating back around 3000 years in Britain to the end of the Neolithic period and the start of the Bronze Age, and it was used much earlier in India. Our route continues along the edge of the moor overlooking Wharfedale and a little further on we come to a memorial stone by the path that commemorates the crash of a Halifax bomber at this spot in 1944, killing everyone on board. They were on a night-flying training exercise from Dishforth airfield and crashed in fog. Next we pass a boundary stone by the path just before reaching a path coming up the hillside from Wharfedale and crossing our path along the edge of the moor. At this junction we turn away from the edge of the moor and head towards a short climb onto the next level of the moorland plateau. The navigation here is a bit awkward. The whole of Ilkley Moor is open access land and it's such a popular place covered with prehistoric remains so that there are informal paths everywhere. Often these are not marked on the map and you do need to take care with the route. We follow an informal path around the edge of this higher plateau. The path takes us past the Nebstone. I've seen this described in several places as being shaped like the lid of a huge grand piano. Like many of the gritstone boulders on Ilkley Moor there are a couple of cup and ring carvings on it. Their name says it all really. They consist of a hollow in the rock up to about 10cm in diameter with an outer ring carved round it. No-one knows what they were used for but there are lots of them on Ilkley Moor. Beyond the Nebstone we come to an ancient trackway called The Keighley Road, which unsurprisingly goes from Keighley to Ilkley across the moor. I believe the route dates back to pre-Roman times. We follow the Keighly Road and then another track down the moor for a way and then head back to the top of Heber's Ghyll along a track with and old disused reservloir below the path. At Heber's Ghyll we retrace our steps down the wooded gully to our starting point and the end of the walk for this week.

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