The moors are possibly a state of mind as much a geographical location. They all run into one another in the South Pennines, and it’s quite possible I crossed Hawksworth Moor rather than Bingley Moor on the way to Burley Moor. Or that I crossed both. Can’t get enough of them – they’re very moorish…
To get to the starting point, you could get a train to Saltaire, hoof up the side of (or ride on) the Glen tramway and then to the far end of Shipley Glen. Or you could get a bus from Bingley (as I did), bail out in Eldwick near the Birches pub and scoot round the edge of the woods to the far end of Shipley Glen. However you go at it, I started out where Glen Road meets Glovershaw Lane, crossing the latter at the cattle grid and heading north. The footpath handrails the edge of Baildon golf course over some slightly muddy, unimproved pasture. Above me, a bird glides on bowed wings. It is diagonally on to me, obscuring its shape and at first I think it’s a curlew despite the time of year. It turns sideways on and then away, flashing a long, russet, forked tail. It is further away than I realised and it is, of course, a red kite.
The footpath joins what looks like a recently complete gallop – there’s quite a bit of equestrianism round here – and I am momentarily confused by the new track as it is not on the map. This is lazy map-reading – I should be focussing on contours and geography rather than this kind of manmade feature. The gallop loops up into Birch Close Lane, running northeast past some old farmhouse type buildings (you can generally rely in this kind of manmade feature) before turning due north for Weecher Reservoir (and this kind). You could follow the access road that services the reservoir and then turn east along the the road (but see later caveat) or, as I did, cut across the field. As I take a bridge over the reservoir’s overspill, I spy a herd of belted Galloways – my favourite breed of cattle – off to my right (author’s note: cattle are not a reliable navigational feature). The field is pretty wet and there’s a fair bit of skirting round mud. Eventually I emerge on Otley road and cross it the foot path on the far side. Take care with this road – it can be a bit hairy. A generous interpretation would be that the comparative wildness of the landscape has led the drivers here to the conclusion they are in Mad Max. Or perhaps they should all have set off about 15 minutes earlier and there’d be no need to drive like the world is ending.
Once safely onto what may be Bingley or Hawksworth Moor, a well established path leads me north northwest toward a drystone wall. It eventually starts to run parallel to that wall. Another wall runs directly across my path; I cross it and look back for views of Baildon Hill and then carry on north north west. Under a low rise, the track crosses through the wall on a stile and I pause for coffee out of the wind. Before me lies a broad flat area of bog with a track running towards a low, black oblong on the horizon. It’s definitely manmade, but a very serviceable landmark. If the horizon is a bit hazy, the path very rarely strays more than about 20 metres from the fence. If visibility is too low to see the fence, I’d probably just give this one up for the day – this is a walk for the views rather than the challenge. I yomp roughly north northeast across quite a lot of really quite wet peat. I’m not complaining – we need the peat wet – until the path starts to climb toward the low, black oblong. Grouse whirr about me in the heather, making their strange lekking noises. I climb up out of the bog to a low, very solidly built hut on a gravel track. This is the crest of Burley Moor and, I think, the watershed. Behind me, water drains into the Aire, before me, into the Wharfe. There’s a grand view across to Nidderdale AONB, the golf balls of Menwith Hill glowing white in the winter sun.
I pause here for coffee once more. Pro tip – if you want to sit up in the wind so that you have the view and the sunshine, maybe put your belay jacket on before you get up into the wind. After I have mastered my apparel and been suitably refreshed, I hoof due north and downhill, with a row of grouse butts off to the east. I think the moor is owned by Bradford council and leased for grouse shooting. Certainly, the heathers shows signs of active management – it’s been burned in places to promote new growth. The path curves around to the north west but I keep facing north and drop down across some
steeper ground to join the Dales Way. The ground here is drier and bracken stubble is poking up through the grass. Below the Way, the ground drops steeply to Hanginstone Road – I’ve driven along it many times, but never looked down upon from this angle. I follow the way to the (and I hesitate to use this adjective) iconic Cow and Calf rocks. If climbing greasy gritstone on routes polished smooth by decades of feet is your thing, this is the arena for you. From here, you can take any number of routes down into Ilkley, whence there are trains to all corners of England (well, Bradford and Leeds). I drop down through some mixed (and I’m reasonably sure planted by the Victorians) woodland, past an artificial tarn to Wells Road and thence straight downhill to the station.
In my pack (a Macpac Amp 25): Paramo Torres belay jacket, OL Sheet 297, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, Veho Pebble phone-charger, coffee. I wore Paramo Velez Adventure Light smock, Paramo Velez Adventure trousers, some old Berghaus long sleeve base layer, Five Ten Camp Four GTX approach shoes, Montane Vortex gaiters, Marmot XT gloves. Yes, I do seem to have gone all Paramo – I’ll see about a review soon.