Mental space on Ilkley Moor

On Sunday I went up Ilkley Moor, alone. I brought with me my headphones, a laminated map, a smartphone (with a waning battery – eek! ), water and some dark chocolate. I was in search of something, a feeling, a deep whole body breath, maybe something I can’t put into words. I needed nature and to walk. I needed air in my face.

Until that point I’d had a strange weekend, hadn’t slept too well the night before, I instinctively felt I needed to move and ‘get out of the flat’. En route, I popped into Booth’s café, Ilkley’s posh supermarket, for a cuppa, a map read, and a pause. I was feeling slightly apprehensive, as I was going to be walking alone and I don’t have the greatest sense of direction and of course, I was lacking Zzz’s from the night before, but, still, I was enthusiastic.

I parked at the Cow and Calf, which are the rocks on Ilkley Moor, there is a free carpark here. The Calf rock is a stand-alone boulder next to the larger formation, and I knew I needed to walk to the right of that. The thing is I walked WAY to the right of that. Before I knew it, I was lost. I wasn’t too anxious as at this point it was only early afternoon, I had plenty of hours to go before I needed to set off the flares (which I didn’t have) and panic about spending a night on the Moor. Eventually I asked some fellow hikers to point out my location on the map. Somehow I’d walked right over to Keighley Road, which was in the opposite direction of my planned route! At least I now knew where I was, which was a big relief.

It was a beautiful walk from there on, with the anxiety of being lost now clearing from my mind, I started to really appreciate my surroundings. I walked alongside purple heather, with birds flying around, dipping in and out of the flora, under a big cloudy and blue sky. Hardly anyone there, just me, and the odd person running.

I arrived at the 12 Apostles, the remains of a stone circle, and took a breather. It was refreshing and the huge space seemed to help soothe something inside of me, and also give me a feeling of mental space, I felt peaceful and at one with something. It felt like a big refreshing cleansing breath.

I realised that perhaps, now, it wasn’t too sensible to continue on with the original route, I had lost time by taking the ‘detour’ which meant there was less time to complete it. I was alone, had little mobile battery, and couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t get lost again and it was nearing 6pm. So I headed back to the carpark and arrived safely.

We are lucky in Leeds, we have many places to walk nearby. I can’t rely on my sense of direction, but I factor this into my decision-making, I know my weaknesses. If you have a map and set off early enough with some safety supplies the risks should be minimal. It’s empowering to walk alone but it’s also nice to have company, and if you have a dog, well that’s a no-brainer! 🙂

I’m really glad I went.