Baildon Moor Walk

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BAILDON LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY- SUMMER WALK 2008

Baildon Moor

This walk was prepared and conducted by Mike Lawson 5 June 2008 (and at other times)

This evening’s walk is one of many possible walks over Baildon Moor. The moor is part of the 778 acres of land sold by Colonel Maude, the then Lord of the Manor, to Bradford Corporation for £7,000 in 1898. Parts of Brackenhall Green and Baildon Green were included in this. The Bradford Act of1899 confirmed all of these areas as Common Land with various rights attached.

The moor is geologically, an outlier of the South Yorkshire Coalfield. It consists of Millstone Grit (quarried in the past at Baildon Bank, Faweather and Shipley Glen with three thin coal seams sandwiched between layers of clays and shales this is topped by a layer of sandstone, which was quarried at the highest point on the moor.

The shales can be found as spoil on many parts of the moor and also as outcrops near to Hope Gate. When the thin layers are separated marine fossils are often found.

It is important to state that the landscape is not a natural one, it is the very opposite. Everywhere can be seen evidence of man’s occupation and industry. When the cup and ring stones were being carved by our ancestors, there would have been birch and hazel bushes, with no depressions due to mining etc. This evening’s walk starts at the gate near the Golf Club, and following the track soon brings us reminders of the industrial past. The path is partly metalled and then develops into a double stoned track way. The middle of these are worn and it is easy to imagine corves or wagons full of coal rattling down towards the road.

Close to the Seventeenth hole of the golf Club is a heavily quarried area which was the source of ganister, this is hard, fine grained sandstone, high in silica. It was taken to Baildon Green in the late 18, early 19 Centuries and mixed with the clays extracted there. This produced fire bricks which were used in the chimneys of local mills.

Also close to the greens are traces of the rifle range used by the Territorial Army in the first two decades of the twentieth century. They were based at Manningham Barracks, being formed in 1900. The formed the First Company Sixth Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment and held annual training camps on the moor. They were mobilised in August 1914 and entered the war in France in April 1915, later serving at Ypres and The Somme.

Targets were set up on the moor and traces of lead bullets can still be found, particularly after rain.

We can now take any of the winding paths to the summit of Baildon Hill. On the way we come across several bell pits. Mining began, first for iron stone to be smelted locally using the adequate supply of charcoal available in the woods which surround the Lode Pit Beck at Shipley Glen. The first record of coal ownership is of John Vavasour in 1387, when he as Lord of the Manor complained that the people of Baildon had extracted 100 shillings worth. Disputes were common, particularly when the manor was split between the Baildons and the Hawkesworths,most notably in 1652 when Francis Baildon sued his father-in-law, Sir Richard Hawksworth over losses in his minority- he was granted £100 and future share in the profits.

The technique was simple but dangerous- a vertical shaft was sunk into the coal seam and as much was mined along the shaft in a bell shape. When it became too dangerous to mine any further, the spoil was put into the hole and another shaft sunk a little distance away on the same seam. The spoil eventually settled, often filled with water leaving the bell pits we see today.

One of the main difficulties encountered was that of poor drainage, and agreements had to be drawn up to prevent neighbouring works affecting each other, The coal was of poor quality and left a lot of ash when burnt. It was however extracted by pits into the Victorian era with a cottage and engine house at Dobrudden and a further sizeable pit at Brantcliffe.

Looking down from the edge of the hill you can see the expanse of Dobrudden Plain where around 35 cup and ring stones can be found. (There are around 80 in the Baildon area).

This rock art is a feature of Rombalds Moor, with the Ilkley region being particularly rich. They are ascribed to the Bronze Age and are scheduled ancient monuments under the care of English Heritage. They have been accurately mapped using Satellite Positioning techniques. It is illegal to deface or even dig the turf from around them. The easiest one to find is the upright one by Dubrudden Caravan site wall. This was placed there by Sydney Jackson and the Cartwright Hall Archaeological Group in the 1950s. (Watch out for an exhibition on the work of Sidney Jackson at the Brackenhall countryside in 2009. )The Victorians associated them with Druidical or magic ceremonies, Astronomical or territorial maps have been suggested or family memorials, route markers or fertility symbols. What is sure is that we will never know the truth, which is one of the attractions of these markings.

Finally, the large heaps of clinker type material known as the Cinder Caves can be seen. This is partly burned waste from the mines, and it is said that the moor side glowed at night when these were on fire. My theory is that this poor quality shale which was burned for road foundations.

After a quick look at the shale outcrops near to Hope Gate and a look across to the old Pack Horse route leading from it, we can skirt the lower part of the moor, along Part of the Millennium way, back to Baildon.

M. C. Lawson 04/06/0/8