|Early September 2003
I made my escape to Yorkshire to seek comfort in the the Dales. Last time I was here, we failed in our quest to find Appletreewick and ran out of time to see the Twelve Apostles of Ilkley Moor and Yockenthwaite cairn circle. This needed to be rectified.
I'm not a walker. If distance needs to be covered, then for me it's a car or a horse, thanks. However, I was willing to temporarily suspend my loathing in order to get to the Twelve Apostles. So we parked at the Cow and Calf, a dramatic rocky outcrop on the edge of the moor. But by the time we got our foul-weather gear on, the mizzle had turned to steady rain and we were forced to turn back. Ne'er mind, the sky looked clearer over towards Appletreewick.....
Last time, we had marched around in the blazing heat to try to find it but failed to locate it. This time we were luckier, and the rain held off, too.
The rain cleared so we returned to the Cow and Calf to tackle to the walk up to the Twelve Apostles. Knowing my dislike for long walks and given that I was completely exhausted, Moth had been searching for a straighter route up to the top which cunningly would avoid the steep initial climb. It was still tough going for a soft southern namby-pamby girl such as I. We stopped briefly at Pancake Rock, a natural outcrop at the top of the climb up onto to moor proper.
A small circle of six stones, not tear-jerkingly cute in a Doll Tor
way, and not dramatic or breathtaking either, it's just there, comfortable with itself and it's rather nice. Cracking views of dales all around, this little survivor is absolutely worth a peep. When we saw it there were patches of blue dye all over them, all at a certain height. Immediately I thought 'bloody graffiti vandal bastard-types!' but then I realised that the sheep, sprayed with blue identification dyes cuddled up against the stones as they sought shelter from the wind, which fortunately wasn't howling the day we went.
A gratifying short walk from the car, this is highly suitable for people who find walking either difficult or rather tedious.
It is covered with a fine collection of ancient cupmarks and marks created by more modern tossers who had decided to add their names to the collection, including Christine, Dave and 1984. May they rot in hell. Then it occurred to me that perhaps, before the advent of writing, the cupmarks themselves were little more than neolithic tribal graffiti, which would mean that Christine, Dave and 1984 were actually no different to the cupmark makers. Or maybe not. As we walked on Moth realised that we had missed the path he thought we should be taking. He had been here frequently enough to know that the Apostles stood somewhere up there on the distant ridge. We waded though the heather following sheep tracks, disturbing black grouse and sunbathing lizards until Moth assured me, as I stumbled in my exhausted stupor, we would meet a raised wooden path. I was too tired not to believe him. And he was right. Within ten minutes, we were at the ridge top, the sun shone and the Twelve Apostles came into view! I had wondered if I would ever make it to see this place, so to have finally reached it seemed to symbolise something so much more than a short hike over the moor to see a bunch of creaky old rocks.
Oooo.... but this is nice! This pretty stone circle has been badly damaged over the years, but such is the feeling for it that people continually re-erect the stones, propping them up with whatever they can find. Next day with limited time, Moth insisted on taking me to Yockenthwaite to see the remains of a cairn circle and assured me that no walking was necessary. Great! I had no objections. As we entered Wharfedale it was as if we had become caught up in a remake of 'The Italian Job'. We were on the route for the Dales rally for Minis! Brought back lots of memories - I learned to drive in a mini, my first car was a mini, and I live in the city where most of them were built. Indeed, I used to work in a building on 'Alec Issigonis Way, Oxford'... But I digress.
I was breathtaken by it and not just cos I'm unfit: bright, lofty 'John Constable' skyscapes and a 270 degree view! The Twelve Apostles sit in a green clearing amid the purple heather and sing to the heavens! Flopping down absolutely shattered I opened my flask, lit a fag and thought I had died and gone to heaven. Sadly, I was too pooped to paint anything at the time.* Next time, then!
*though I did make a little study when I got home.
Following the line of the Wharfe, we parked up in the most delightful spot and glory of glories we could see the circle from where we had parked, just across the river. Taking off my shoes I half waded/half stepping-stoned my way across , intrigued by the beautiful abstract shapes that the fast flowing water had made in the rock of the river bed and the way the light fell at the edges of the shapes. It was like visual haiku for the whole of time.
And there it was - Yockenthwaite - enchanting this glorious dale.
What appears to be a teeny weeny stone circle at Yockenthwaite is in fact the retaining kerbstones of all that remains of a once-impressive cairn. What a great place to just be. Today I had the energy to paint, but not enough time so I only made a really rough sketch. The circle nestles at the bottom of the valley right next the river (just over the wall) and is quite lovely in a ruinous way.And as I sat enjoying this place, in the early autumn sunshine, I realised I had really escaped and felt as free as a bird!
Posted by Jane
29th September 2003ce
Edited 25th November 2005ce
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