Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ilkley Moor landscape

After launching Walking Photographer Tours, it wasn’t long before I became a business member of the Friends of Ilkley Moor. As a member I was invited to attend the Friend’s of Ilkley Moor (FoIM) AGM where I learnt a great deal about the inner workings that go into the upkeep of this celebrated moor.

I wanted to share the work of FoIM with readers and arranged an interview with John Stidworthy, who was elected Chairman for Friends of Ilkley Moor in 2013…

When was Friends of Ilkley Moor founded and what were the motivations in forming the group?

Friends of Ilkley Moor were founded in 2008. The moor was perceived as becoming less accessible to the public with the ever-encroaching bracken. The Friends intended to tackle that, and also improve footpaths on the moor so that could be more easily used by a wide range of visitors, by helping Bradford Council, the owners, in their management of the moor. They set out to obtain grants to help in this work, and have raised significant funds.

What are the primary objectives for Friends of Ilkley Moor today?

They are still to improve the environment for visitors, at the same time conserving the fauna and flora of the moor. Through their Project Officer they also provide education to the public and school groups, and a regular programme of activities. A full list of their intended areas of action appears on the Friends website.

In your opinion, what has been the single most important contribution that FoIM have made to Ilkley Moor?

Apart from educational work, the most significant has probably been the provision of all-weather paths across some well-used sections of the moor by assisting the Bradford Countryside Service with funds and volunteer labour. Places that were almost impassable in wet weather can now be accessed every day of the year. Some paths, such as that from Spicey Gill to the Swastika Stone can now be used by walkers, pushchairs and some wheelchairs.

What other important actions has the organisation made in the last year?

One of the most significant was persuading Bradford Council not to ban the use of bracken-killing chemicals on the moor, and the subsequent funding for spraying some areas to try and eradicate bracken. So far, the results have been mixed, but there is some encouragement to continue this approach.

Do you have a favourite part of the moor and what makes it your favourite spot?

Many parts are good, but Rocky Valley, between the Cow and Calf and White Wells, has views over Ilkley, high crags and, as its name suggests, rocks, and encapsulates a favourite type of moorland habitat.

You were recently elected Chair in 2013, what typical duties and roles does this position involve?

It involves chairing committee meetings every month to six weeks that check on progress and consider new projects. The chairman is also the public face of the Friends, liaising with the council and other organisations, and answering a variety of questions from the public about the moor.

What do you personally hope to achieve during your time as Chair?

Apart from ongoing projects such as path maintenance, the major event in 2013 was getting bracken spraying organised after some years of thinking about it. More needs to be done in the future. On a more mundane level, provision of waste bins has been improved. It would be nice to increase the wildlife diversity of the moor.

Ilkley Moor is part of a much larger network of moors; do any of these neighbouring moors benefit from the FoIM work?

No, not directly. Baildon Moor has its own group of Friends. Other moors are in private ownership

There must be a lot of different thoughts, ideas and concerns for Ilkley Moor, how do you choose what work does and doesn’t get carried out?

Some work chooses itself, for example if a path needs urgent repair work, we would try to provide funds to help Bradford to do the work. Otherwise, suggestions from members or Bradford are considered and prioritised by the committee.

What’s your biggest concern for the moor?

With the pressure on local government finance, there are inevitably going to be difficulties for the Countryside Service in the future. The Friends have managed in the past to tap into grant funding worth many thousands of pounds. They may be able to do so again, but there is no guarantee. We could find that the moor has far fewer resources to call on, and that present levels of care may not be sustainable.

FoIM run an impressive education and volunteer programme, what 2014 events are you particularly looking forward to?

The very last one, on Moorland Bats. There is something magical about these night time masters of the air.

What makes Ilkley Moor special to you?

Its sense of space and quiet, and the chance to roam, still finding new paths after years of walking.

Want to explore more of Ilkley Moor?

Photography lesson on Ilkley Moor

Why not come explore Ilkley Moor and learn how to take great photos with Walking Photographer Tours on a Ilkley Moor Photo Walk