A super walk to the summit of Ilkley Moor visiting popular spots such as Ilkley Tarn and Ilkley Crag and less well known features including two Stanza Stones and the waterfalls of Willy Hall's Spout.
|Parking:||Darwin Gardens Car Park, Wells Road|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
My plan for the weekend had been to take my nephew out for a walk in the Lake District. The wet start to August put paid to that on the Saturday and with Sunday's forecast for Cumbria not much better I looked for a walk closer to home.
In the end I plumped for this walk, mainly because I wanted to visit two of the Stanza Stones that can be found on Ilkley Moor. The Stanza Stones Project originated in 2010 as a collaboration between the Ilkley Literature Festival and imove who commissioned the poet Simon Armitage to create a series of poems inspired by the Pennine landscape. These poems were then carved into a series of rocks by letter carver Pip Hall. The resulting Stanza Stones are spread out between Marsden and Ilkley. For more about the stones please visit the Stanza Stones website. As fairly recent additions to the region I hadn't actually visited any of the stones prior to this walk.
"Circling around the upper edge of the trees I then had to battle my way through another path overgrown with shoulder high bracken to suddenly emerge at a lovely waterfall. A thin path then descended to a wide track where to my left I found another two waterfalls."
I've tended to start walks on Ilkley Moor at the Cow and Calf rocks car park. On this occasion I started from the Darwin Gardens car park at the top of Wells Road in Ilkley. My first objective was the pretty little Ilkley Tarn, just a five minute walk on a good path from the other side of the road to the car park.
At the eastern end of the tarn I took a thinner path heading through bracken before descending to cross a footbridge over Backstone Beck. On the other side of the bridge a thin track began climbing steeply up the side of the beck. After about 30m a Stanza Stones waymarker marks the point where a short detour to the stream leads to The Beck Stone. The poem is carved on to a stone directly in the stream bed. Due to the heavy recent rain the stream was quite full and I couldn't get too close to the stone itself.
Returning to the path I continued climbing up alongside Backstone Beck. After passing above a nice waterfall I came to a flatter section where the path crosses over the stream by hopping over some rocks. On the other side I walked towards Ilkley Crag. Where the little Rocky Valley comes into view I then took a path slanting back up to the left. At a junction I then turned right to walk above the crags to join the Dales High Way.
Turning left I then followed the clear path as it gradually climbed the moor. After a mile or so the path came to another junction just to the left of the Lanshaw Lad boundary stone. Leaving the main path I turned right here to follow a slabbed path that led me all the way up to the Ordnance Survey trig point marking the highest point of the walk.
From the trig point I continued heading west on the path. Between the trig point and the Thimble Stones I found the second Stanza Stone of the walk - The Puddle Stone. This was two carved blocks laid on the peaty ground. To read the poem you have to climb up on to the nearby boulder to look down at the words. After taking a few photos I continued on my way to pass the Thimble Stones. The path was now following a wall westwards to eventually reach a track at a gate.
Turning right I descend the track a short way before making a short detour to visit Cowper's Cross. For a very easy finish to the walk it is a simple case of returning to the track and following it all the way back down to the road. Instead at about grid reference SE106461 I located a thin path heading to the right. This crossed the top of Spicey Gill. I then took a thin path down the opposite side of the gill to arrive at a vantage point overlooking some old quarries in the gill.
Here I took an even thinner path heading eastwards. The next section is difficult to describe as it utilised a number of thin paths, some almost invisible in the bracken, to reach a stand of trees. Circling around the upper edge of the trees I then had to battle my way through another path overgrown with shoulder high bracken to suddenly emerge at a lovely waterfall. A thin path then descended to a wide track where to my left I found another two waterfalls. Either collectively or one of them individually is known as Willy Hall's Spout. Although they lie either side of a wide track and are very accessible I've never seen anyone post photos of either waterfall on the Facebook waterfall groups I'm a member of so assume they are not particularly well known.
From the waterfalls I took the track heading east to climb gently up to the cafe at White Wells. After taking a photo of the Ordnance Survey cut benchmark at the rear corner of the building I took the path climbing down from White Wells. This led me to a small dam and the roadside opposite the car park.
No matter how many times I go walking on Ilkley Moor (and by this I include the whole of Rombald's Moor) I always find new features of interest. This walk was no different. The two Stanza Stones and the waterfalls were knew to me. Route finding on the less popular and bracken filled paths at the end was a bit awkward but added somewhat to the adventure.