They’re funny old things, the moors between Airedale and Wharfedale; where does one stop and the other start? Looking on the map, I definitely crossed Bingley Moor and Ilkley Moor and went past the 402m trig point that sits to the west of the Twelve Apostles Stone Circle.
Let’s pretend I’m going from Bingley train station instead of my house (oh, go on, let’s). I turn right out of the main entrance and up on to Park Road, where I turn right once more. This is actually going to be the steepest bit of the walk and it’s a hot, airless day. If I weren’t pretending this bit and actually doing it, I’d just get the Eldwick bus, since I’ve got a Metro card. The road hits a big hairpin, sweeps out to the right and I cut through Prince of Wales Park for some cool shade. At the mini roundabout just past the park, I turn left up Heights Lane. There’s no pavement here, so take care. At the second footpath on the right (east northeast), I leave the road.
This track cuts through semi-improved pasture and its verges are thick with thistles; little tortoiseshell butterflies totter from flower to flower, seemingly nectar-drunk. After a sharp bend to the east, I take a track north northeast toward Compensation Reservoir. Continuing past the blue green algae warning sign dumps me out on the road from Eldwick up to Dick Hudson’s pub. Once more taking care for the lack of pavement, I scurry up to a short public right of way that takes me east to join the Dales Way Link. More semi-improved pasture here as I turn uphill though a tricolour of buttercup, clover and thistle to find myself on the road once more (last time this trip, I promise). I turn due west and, at Dick Hudson’s, cross the road onto Bingley Moor.
Heading due north up a little, walled path, my vista suddenly opens out onto moorland. The heather isn’t yet in bloom, but some stands of cotton grass bob luminously in the still air. Without meaning to overshare, my shirt and trousers are stuck to me with sweat. All the ventilation that can be opened is opened, and still I perspire.
The track here is broad, relatively straight and navigationally easy to follow. It’s fairly well cut about by the weather though – I wouldn’t like to be following it in wet conditions (in fact I have – it’s awful). Following last year’s injuries, my right leg is still getting on its feet (so to speak) and this is just the right side of challenging. There’s a long, gradual incline here; there’s wall near the 340m contour,which I cross and follow northwest. A swathe has been cut through the heather here (presumably for grouse shooting), but the going is still quite rough and my right calf is soon starting to ache. Red grouse sporadically rise out of the foliage to whir into the distance.
A flicker in the undergrowth catches my eye. Peering down, I see the sinuous, terracotta mosaic of a common lizard scurrying through the grass. I had no idea they could be found here, so that’s a local first for me.
Where the wall meets Ashlar Chair (I’ve no idea about name. Anyone?), I turn due north for the flagged track that runs east to west across the moor. Turning west, I see a crowd of about 20 walkers traipsing toward me from the east. I just don’t see the attraction in hoofing about in such a big herd but each to their own. I pick up the pace of my hobble to stay ahead of the throng. The flagging is fast going but hard on my right knee and ankle. At the trig point I pause for some photography and then scoot on before I’m swamped by the horde. Yes, yes I am overplaying that a bit.
I take a narrow path northwards and halt at a flat rock on the 350m contour for a cup of coffee and a sit down. The clouds roll in, the temperature drops and I actually have to put on my belay jacket. Across Wharfedale lies the southern fringe of Nidderdale AONB and off to the northwest, I see the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. If I squint, I can just make out the nub of Simon’s Seat squatting just under the horizon. Turning my gaze northeast, I find the modern triptych of RAF Menwith Hill, Knabs Ridge wind farm and the radio mast at (I think) Holen House.
I push myself to my feet to discover that I have stiffened during my rest and all of the joints are aching. Curving northeast(ish), I head downhill on protesting legs. The clouds have lifted and the heat presses me down into the moorland. I skirt the edge of some fir trees and plunge down the increasingly steep slope towards White Wells. This edge of the moor is thick with bracken and I am suddenly paranoid about ticks. I shall thoroughly check myself when I get home. I pause once more at White Wells for a cold drink from the cafe. From here it as short stroll down to the not-as-posh-as-it-thinks-it-is Ilkley (it hasn’t even got 4G) whence I get a train back to Bingley.
In my pack (a Macpac Amp 25): Rab Demand pullover, Rab Bergan pants, Montane Flux jacket,Klättermusen Vidblåin smock, OL Sheet 297, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Julbo sunglasses, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, Veho Pebble phone-charger, coffee. I wore Garmont Vetta Mnt boots, Montane Terra pants, Mountain Hardwear Canyon shirt, a lovely cap from Blurr – I can’t remember the model and I don’t think they do it anymore.