As the sun rises across the Cow and Calf rocks at Ilkley, the eerie winter light is a sight that only the earliest of birds catches.
Part of Rombalds Moor, which stretches from Ilkely to Keighley, the area is best known as providing the inspiration for the Yorkshire ‘anthem’ On Ilkla Moor Baht ’at, but it’s not its only claim to fame.
The moor boasts the second highest concentration of ancient carved stones in Europe. Believed to date from the late Neolithic or the Bronze Age, the most famous, which bears a swastika-shaped pattern, can be found at Woodhouse Crag at the northern edge of the moor.
Elsewhere, there is also a small stone circle known as The Twelve Apostles. The area has changed little over the centuries, but almost 3o years ago Ikley Moor found itself at the centre of an alien investigation.
On the morning of December 1, 1987, retired policeman Philip Spencer was walking across the moor heading for his father-in-law’s home. He’d taken his camera in the hope of catching some images of the early morning light.
In fact the photographs he took that day would end up in the world’s press. Using a compass to navigate through the fog, Spencer said he came across a strange looking being. Hurriedly taking a picture of the creature when it ran away, he decided to follow it and claimed to have caught a glimpse of a craft with a domed top rising up from the moor and disappearing into the sky.
Spencer said he imagined the whole incident had taken no longer than a few minutes, but when he reached his destination the village clock was an hour ahead of time with many UFO experts believing that he had in fact been victim of an alien abduction.
The photographs Spencer took, although slightly blurred, appeared to show a 4ft alien creature. Analysis of the images concluded the figure hadn’t been superimposed and it bore no resemblance to any native wildlife. Spencer made no money out of the photographs and the incident is regularly cited as one of the UK’s most persuasive UFO sightings.
Technical details: Nikon D4, 17-35mm Nikkor, 2.5secs @f22, 100asa.