Ilkley Moor is one of the most iconic open spaces. Its fame is largely due to the song that has meant that, along with Hampstead Heath and the Lake District, Ilkley Moor is probably one of the most known open spaces in the UK. But it is not just the song that makes it unique. Ilkley Moor is an urban common (I know the word ‘urban’ seems odd in this context, but that is the legal definition). This means that it is common land.
Common land is owned, just like any other piece of land, but it is also land on which commoners have rights. In the case of the Moor, those common rights are the right that two farmers have to graze sheep on the Moor. For as long as it has been a common this has also meant that the general public have had the right of ‘fresh air and recreation’ on the Moor. So long before the right to roam legislation, Ilkley has been unique in that it has been the only town (so far as I am aware) where within five minutes of the town centre, people have had free access to mountain moorland.
Many people believe that Ilkley Moor represents a wild and natural environment. In reality, it is nothing of the sort. Ilkley Moor, and other heather moors, are entirely the product of agriculture and man’s intervention. Left to itself, the Moor would revert to the climax vegetation for this area; it would become oak/ash woodland. The distinctive nature of the heather moorland was a product of sheep grazing and grouse shooting. So to retain the current character of the Moor, it requires continuous management. And that is where the Friends of Ilkley Moor come in.
Ilkley Moor is one of the most intensively used pieces of heather moorland. It suffers from overgrazing and erosion by walkers, cyclists, etc. Bradford MDC, in common with all other councils, suffers from financial problems. So the Friends of Ilkley Moor has been formed to raise awareness of the Moor, to raise money for its infrastructure and to create a forum for all those who love the Moor. We don’t want to be an organisation of whingers (Ilkley, like every other town has plenty of those) but of people who want to become actively involved in ensuring that what we inherited is passed on, in better shape, for those who will come after us.
Come and join us….