The moor road – ‘Keighley Gate’

I recently came across an article in The Northern Antiquarian about the remains of an ancient cross base deep in the heather in Morton moor. There are several old crosses on the moors, and I find them quite fascinating. I decided to see if I could find it.

The 12th century Cowpers Cross lies in the heather nearby.

I spoke to my good friend Paul who wrote the article, and he said it could be difficult to find, particularly at this time of year as the heather is high and the base isn’t very tall. He also said that there wasn’t much known about the base – the cross is missing although it may be lying somewhere nearby. Very little is known about Black Knoll Cross, although it possibly stood near a lost road that passed by many years ago. It is on a high point of the moors and would have been able to have been seen from miles around when fully erected.

One of the new defunct tv towers at the top of the moor.

Morton moor

Paul also said there was evidence of a lost Bronze Age stone circle nearby, which hadn’t been documented.

Picking up my walking buddy James, we set out with map and camera and parked as far as we could go up the old moor road – Keighley Gate. In the old days this track was a convenient way over the moors in horse and cart, but nowadays it would be impossible in a car, unless a 4X4, and even that would take a beating.

Deep in the heather, the old cross base

Passing by another ancient cross – Cowpers is a real enigma, it has stood here in various guises down through the centuries – we carried on up to the top of the moors and to the now defunct tv masts – which are new being slowly dismantled.

I remember driving up this road in the 70’s with my new wife Diane and parking up and watching some very strange lights flickering over the moors. It was a time of heightened ufo activity in the area, and the local paper was full of stories. We never saw a ufo, but we did see the lights several times – floating across the moors like Will ‘O the Wisps. Maybe marsh gas, or maybe walkers returning with their torches – or something else. We never found out what.

Heading East, we eventually came to the spot where we crossed the boundary wall and in knee deep – sometimes waist deep heather we made our way South admiring the views down the valley. No paths here so route finding was a bit hit and miss, but eventually we came to the area where the cross should be. Many boulders were peeking out of the heather and eventually after examining several I discovered the cross base.

Not too big – maybe a couple feet in length, one side was cut to hold the upright which was missing. There is a long section lying near the base – possibly the upright, but the moorland over time has partly covered it up and unless we had a shovel and digging implements it would be impossible to get at it. We left it in peace.

Prehistoric walling on Morton moor

Turning our attention to the lost circle, we spent nearly an hour trying to find it – but the heather was just too long. We did find an area of burnt heather and there was evidence of where some prehistoric hut circles once were. Some ancient walling disappeared into the heather and unless it gets burnt it would be impossible to trace it. This is the problem with the moors – there are lots of carvings and artefacts about but the heather gets too thick and covers up everything. It then gets lost forever.

The Two Eggs

So we headed back, past ‘The Two Eggs’ – giant boulders on the moors, the source of one of the Creation Myths found around here, where a dragon is said to have laid them – and pleased that we found the old cross and disappointed that we didn’t find the circle. We will come back in late autumn when the heather is dead and maybe with a bit of luck we will get lucky!