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Sgwarnog: In the Field

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Monday 7 February 2011: Written in Stone

As planned, I managed to get a few hours out on the moors today. It was a walk of two halves - a fierce wind throughout, but sunny to begin with, before driving rain settled in just as I was at the bleakest most remote point.

I chose a route from home across to Ilkley: around Baildon Hill to Dobrudden, down to Glovershaw where I picked up the Dales Way Link, entering the moor proper at Dick Hudson's, heading across Bingley Moor for lunch at the Twelve Apostles stone circle (seen here here on a sunnier visit), before descending down Ilkley Moor.

Along the way I saw lots of rabbits, Red Grouse, a group of six Fieldfare and a huge flock/display of what I think were Golden Plover, given their winter plumage of silver bellies (I've put a small set of aerial display shots here - let me know if you can positively id the birds based on this.)

Today's image is from Eldwick Crag and came from the sunny half of the walk. This was my first visit to this spot, and was in part prompted by a request somebody sent me through Flickr a few months ago. Having seen that I took photos of the moors in the vicinity, they asked if I had a picture of Nicholson Rock, as they'd been asked to do a painting of it by some descendents of the "Airedale Poet" John Nicholson. I hadn't heard of either the rock or the poet, so I dug around a bit on the web and came up a full-text version of Nicholson's Poetical Works which included a sketch of his life.

The following passage is from that sketch:

"During his youth at Eldwick, he often strayed to a romantic glen on the verge of Romald's Moor. This glen at the upper end is contracted into the form of an amphitheatre, and the sides are overhung with wood. On one side there juts forth a gigantic rock, profusely decked with bilberiy bushes, and below runs one of the finest trout streams in Yorkshire. From this rock there is a commanding view of a tract of wild but interesting scenery. Here the poet frequently wandered, plucking the wild flowers as he went along, and, with the woodland birds for his sole companions, mused in poetic mood. On one of these occasions, he carved his name with an old hedging bill upon the face of the rock, and the inscription "John Nicholson" marks to this day the spot which he loved so well; the country people still call the crag, "Nicholson's Rock."

Well I scoured that rock for his name today, but didn't find it. This is the rock of repute, so perhaps I will look again another time. The bold inscription on top of the rock bears no resemblance to his name - consisting of 'Peel' and something that seems close to 'Harold Lom', with a weathered date of 18??

Rock carvings of this nature are common across Rombalds Moor, with Shipley Glen and the Cow and Calf Rocks having a lot of inscriptions. My personal favourite is 'Harold Clegg Cowboy Line Rider', which must have a fascinating back story. These carvings are old enough for us to now think of them as heritage - another phase of the rock art that has adorned these moors for millenia, although more contemporary graffito still jars.

One final reflection on the day - I was very glad that I did the walk south-north and took the train home. I had the wind at my back most of the way, and I would have struggled to find any enjoyment if I'd been walking into it. As it was the ground conditions were very sticky, and I did have a typical moor moment of losing a wellie in a bog.

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