Rock Signatures

Overlooking the town of Ilkley, the Cow & Calf Quarry is a well-known starting point to explore Ilkley Moor, but there is also something very special to be seen there. If you go up onto the top there is a large area of exposed rock that has the names of many people carved into its surface. Many are dated some as far back as the first half of the 19th century, and some tell us where they came from. What brought them to the Cow & Calf Quarry and why they felt the need to carve their name is lost to us, but behind each one there will be a story. Some might not even be the name of the person who carved it, but rather in memory of a loved one, however most are almost certainly simply declaring ‘I was here.

Many more of the boulders around this area also have names carved on them, as in the example shown above. In this case it records the name of E.M.Lancaster 1st XXIV FOOT, and below it the date 1882. This is of particular interest as it suggests that the person once served in the 1st Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot which fought in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. There they suffered great losses at Isandhlwana, but later a Company of their soldiers fought at Rorke’s Drift. Whoever E.M.Lancaster was, he might have already left the army, as in 1881 the regiment changed its name to The South Wales Borderers, but it might simply be that 1st XXIV FOOT was just that much easier to carve.

While there is a wealth of names to be found at the Cow & Calf Quarry (click here for more examples), there will be many more to be found all across the Watershed Landscape Project area. If you know of any other examples, especially ones in unusual or unexpected places, then why not photograph them, recording their grid reference, and add then to the project's gallery on the Geograph website: 'Watershed Landscape Project – heritage of the South Pennines’.