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Situated next to the ‘Cow and Calf’ rocks, a local beauty spot near the little town of Ilkley – and one of the ‘gateways’ onto the moors, lies this very strange rock carving.

The prehistoric carving with modern graffiti

Little is left of it now, it is slowly deteriorating and wearing away. There were once many more carvings here, but this one sits on the edge of a quarry and the rock had been broken up to build ‘The Crescent Hotel’ in the town 200 years ago. In the process many carvings were destroyed.

Also, this one has had modern graffiti scrawled over it in the form of people carving their names on the rock – and a local ‘professional rock artist’ who shall remain nameless, has carved a Celtic Cross close to it.

Which is a real shame, as this carving is probably in the region of 5000 to 7000 years old! These carvings are a real mystery. No one knows who carved them or what they mean – and they are not limited to just one place either – some moors have them, some don’t.

There are well over 400 on the moors within a small radius where I live – and more are being discovered by small groups of enthusiasts (I found a couple last year) – some are incredibly intricate and beautiful and some are just squiggles or rings carved on the rocks. Some are human figures. But they are all very special and very fragile.

The ‘Cow and Calf’ rocks – the carving is found nearby


Most are hidden or lie on the remote areas where few go – and these are the ones which are really well preserved. No, it is the ones – like this one – which are near the ‘tourist areas’ which get vandalised. I don’t think it is deliberate, probably just ignorance. To the ininiated they can appear just like ‘squiggles’ or markings. There is nothing to indicate that they are ancient.

But it is still a shame – that the damage done to these beautiful and fragile carvings is done by fellow humans.

And that is a tragedy.