Thursday, July 15, 2010

West Yorkshire In Ten Squares : Square 2 - The Thimble Stones

This project attempts to provide a flavour of what is typical in my home county of West Yorkshire by focusing on ten randomly selected squares from throughout the County. Each of the 500 square metre areas has been chosen by a random number generator and here I explore each of them in images and words.


Square two of my ten square odyssey and serendipity still seems to be granting me her favours. After being directed to one of the most iconic industrial quarters of the county last week (Square One : Little Germany), the random number generator now sends me into the very heart of one of the most remote areas of natural beauty - Ilkley Moor. Leaving my car at the small car park near the Whetstone Gate radio masts, whistling "On Ilkley Moor 'Bart Hat", I set out on foot across the moor in search of my allotted 500 metre square. The map had been sparing in detail about the square (my own fault for choosing a road atlas for my odyssey) and I had been slightly worried that it might be entirely enclosed private land. But luck was with me, a footpath dissected my square and mother nature had thrown in some ancient standing stones for good measure.

Looking north-west from the Thimble Stones in the direction of Skipton
Someone once put a comment on one of my blogs saying that they had never quite understood what moors were. Growing up in an area where the moors are always your near neighbour, I had at first been surprised by the comment. It was only later that I realised that hereabouts we take these majestic borders of civilisation for granted, these uncultivated blankets of bracken, gorse and peat.

The moors, a sheep and Wharfedale
High on the top of Ilkley Moor you can look down on civilisation like some Yorkshire God. To the south is the Aire valley and the towns of Keighley, Bingley and Shipley. Just a little further south-east and you can see a hint of Bradford with its urban outskirts clinging to the valley. In the distance you can spot Emley Moor mast signalling the southern confines of the Metropolitan County.  

Looking south to Airedale and beyond.
To the north the view is just as spectacular. Wharfedale cuts an east-west path through the hills giving shelter to the towns of Ilkley and Otley. Lest you think that you have strayed into some rural idyll isolated from the outside world, you can catch a glimpse of the ominous white golf ball structures at Menwith Hills - one of the largest electronic monitoring and missile defense sites in the world.


Yorkshire dry stone walls
My chosen square was rich in views but what did it possess in itself? Well, there was a wall, the occasional sheep, some stone flags for a footpath across the boggy ground - and there were the Thimble Stones. These massive lumps of millstone grit had been abandoned by some long vanished glacier with all the carelessness of a toddler throwing away his toys. Over the aeons, the wind and the rain had smoothed them, ridged them, and shaped them so that now they resemble outcrops of bone sticking out through the skin of some ancient monster. I am told that they might have been used as altars by the prehistoric inhabitants of the moors, but during my visit the only supplicant was a grazing sheep.

The Thimble Stones, Ilkley Moor
So far my odyssey has shown me two sides of West Yorkshire and also two interpretations of beauty. The beauty of Little Germany was a beauty shaped by industrial man, the beauty of the Thimble Stones was the ancient beauty of nature itself. I am not sure where square three will take us - I have yet to ask the random number generator to work its magic - but wherever it may be, I will go, and I will report back to you on what I find.

To read other installments of the West Yorkshire In Ten Squares series click here.

23 comments:

  1. Ever since I first read The Hound of the Baskervilles I've had my heart set on visiting moors. Even though Sherlock Holmes was wandering Dartmoor, the Yorkshire Moors are just as tempting. You just made them all the more tempting!

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  2. A great idea to provide an overview of a district this way. I, too, have learned more about moors with this post to complement my reading of literature.

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  3. I think I see Cathy and Heathcliff wandering there in the distance! So idyllic. Your neck of the woods is so much more interesting than mine. Hey, did you know I attended Whetstone High School in Columbus, Ohio?

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  4. Even though you are less than ten miles from the city centre when you are on top of Ilkley Moor, you do get the feeling that it is a wild and forgotten place. The fact that such places are within a few miles of large urban settlements is one of the great things about West Yorkshire

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  5. A little piece of God's Own Country.

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  6. This is another gem of an idea of yours, Alan. A wonderful weekly treat, informative, engaging and I'm looking forward to reading more.

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  7. I must say Alan, that the scenery you have provided is much what I dream about your area looking like in my mind's eye. So very lovely!

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  8. We certainly don't have any lovely moors or bogs here in Ohio, USA. :) I love the sheep, too! ;)

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  9. In one sense this couldn't be more different from Bradford's Little Germany and yet I feel there is a strong link. The cities are somehow shaped by the surrounding moorland. There is obviously a direct link, in that many of Bradford's buildings are built with local stone. But Bradford wouldn't feel the same if it was in a pretty-pretty gentle meadows part of the country. It's grit we're talking about, Yorkshire grit!

    Ha, my WV is 'bleark' - some people think the moors are just that.

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  10. Now this is the West Yorkshire (and I must admit much of Lancashire) that I remember. My second cousin lived in Ilkley before emigrating a couple of years ago and I can't think of the place without hearing my father singing that dreadful song! And yes, I know all the words. Shameful for a Lancashire Lass.

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  11. Alan,
    Thanks for tour #2. Meet you on the Moors before going and have some ale and hot steamy sheperd's pie in one of your pubs!
    :) The Bach

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  12. Bach : Now funny you should mention the pub. I think I know just the place!

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  13. oh thanks for taking us to the moors as like roy i have always wondered...nice. and missle defense? hmm....

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  14. Only the second entry, and here I am thinking you could create a fourth AB Blog dedicated to this.

    Rather enjoyable, these.

    And I see I don't need to truncate my comments here so they look cool in the recent comment widget! ;)

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  15. What a brilliant idea. I've just followed through to you from JennyFreckles and I'm hooked!

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  16. What a lovely idea! I read James Herriot's books as a young person and have loved Yorkshire since.

    It is wonderful to see that country through your eyes.

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  17. Remarkable photos--& I'm with Roy & Willow--The Hound of the Baskervilles & Wuthering Heights (et al) really make the moors alluring in this Yank's imagination!

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  18. But the real question is, were you wearing a ha - or are the worms salivating?....

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  19. hat.... bother my typing skills (or lack of them...)

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  20. Ah, the moors! I've tramped them around Haworth (staying at historic Ponden Hall) and north of Skipton. Wonderfully bleak!

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  21. I found the placement of the dry stones to be very interesting, the view is stunning..I thought the moors would be more hilly..perhaps smaller hills and more of them. Great series Alan:)

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  22. Really lovely post. Thanks

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  23. I loved the Yorkshire moors when I was lucky enough to go wiht a school holiday when I was about 12 or 13. It stayed with me as incredibly moving.

    You know, it is true, if you asked most people aroudn here, I can guarantee you they have no idea what a 'moor" is. People think it is a park perhaps. Then again,I also find many people mistakingly refer to England as the entire Island in which is Scotland and Ireland "Wales" which actuallyno one has ever heard of for the most part. Oh dear me. How did I end up here again? LOL.

    Alternatively, many things of each place as independent wholly wish isn't quite the case either. I lvoe to tell people what moors are or what is the diff between "Britain" GB" and "UK" , let alone "Brittany" or counties like Devon, Yorkshire, Norfolk, etc.

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