ILKLEY Moor is one of the great icons of Yorkshire; yet most people don’t realise that the vast heather-strewn yet baron lump sitting between the Wharfe and Aire valleys is merely a part of a much bigger upland area, that of Rombalds Moor.
Rombalds also contains the moors of Bingley, Hawksworth and Morton along with one or two others, and it’s been described as reminiscent of the heath in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles; which is set in Devon.
It’s also been said that Ilkley/Rombalds Moor, which rises to 1,319ft above sea level, “can scare you to death during daylight, and at night it’s even worse”; as ex-policeman Philip Spencer found out in December 1987 he was allegedly abducted by aliens while crossing the fell after dark.
But enough of this Ilkley/Rombalds mish mash; for the purpose of this review we’ll call it Ilkley Moor, which means that I can remind you that those of a Yorkshire persuasion will know that it’s the inspiration for the county’s unofficial anthem, On Ilkla Moor Baht’at, and with that tune firmly ensconced in my head (brass band version, of course) it seemed like more than a good enough place to try out the Trespass Sandray softshell jacket.
Before that though, who and what is Trespass? Well, if you’re reading this there’s a very high chance that you’re an outdoors person so I’d be very surprised if you hadn’t heard of them because they’re one of the UK’s most successful outdoor clothing retailers and have around 200 stores across the UK and abroad.
They were founded in 1938 in Glasgow as Jacobs & Turner making uniform, including those of the local police, and eventually expanding to manufacturing waterproof jackets. It wasn’t until 1984, however, that the Trespass brand was born to “provide only the finest, high-performance, quality outdoor clothing”.
Gear testing is a funny old world; in most cases the best weather conditions are when it’s bad weather, although who really wants to yomp across a moor in the pouring rain? On the day I chose to test the Sandray jacket the mercury was pretty much fixed at zero, as was the wind speed. No rain meant great conditions for a softshell; because while they’ll hold off water they won’t repel a downpour, and I’ve always found that they really come into their own when it’s chilly.
The Sandray is made of polyester TPU meaning that it’s water resistant to 8000mm, breathable to 3000mvp and windproof. TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane to give it its full name, is “any of a class of polyurethane plastics with many properties, including elasticity, transparency, and resistance to oil, grease and abrasion”. In other words, it’s hard wearing.
The jacket doesn’t have a hood (which I prefer), four zipped pockets, one of which is internal, while the cuffs come with handy Velcro tabs and there’s a drawcord at the hem along with a high neck and chin guard (which came in handy on the top of the moor). It’s available in four colours; green, black, red and blue.
Now for the test! I’d be walking across Ilkley Moor from Burley Triangle, a three-sided area of grass where the street from Burley in Wharfedale meets the Menston to Ilkley road that skirts the side of the moor.
Not long after entering the fell I’d pick up a 45-mile circular walk known as Bradford Millennium Way which would take me south west to Horncliffe Well. From there I’d join another long distance path, the Dales High Way, and head north to Ilkley via the Twelve Apostles standing stones and White Wells, an 8ft by 6ft plunge pool where the temperature is said to be a constant seven degrees; which means that it’s popular with certain hardy souls every New Year’s Day.
It’s a route I’ve walked many times before so I knew that I’d be in for quite a pull up to Horncliffe Well and that from there to the Twelve Apostles I’d be exposed to the elements.
Aside from the Sandray jacket, I wore a long-sleeve wicking base layer with a short-sleeve on top of that and a full zip fleece.
From Burley Triangle the path immediately starts to head up hill, and becomes steadily steeper to Horncliffe Well. It’s said that the well, despite being high up, never runs dry. It also marks the spot where the moors of Hawksworth, Burley and Bingley all meet.
The jacket performed well in terms of keeping the cold out while also allowing me to stay well ventilated. It was one of those days where I had to constantly play with the zip to control the air flow in line with how much effort I was putting in; I’m sure we’ve all been there!
On the top it was very cold, but as already mentioned there was little wind; which I was very glad of, and the sky was clear giving incredible views all around. From Horncliffe Well it was an easy walk to the Twelve Apostles, and a little way beyond that at Gill Head the landscape began to drop sharply down and past White Wells and then into Ilkley.
The jacket had performed well; it had kept the elements out and the heat in. It fitted well in terms of body and sleeve length; and it was flexible and roomy, but not baggy, and had a nice clean simple look to it. Perhaps the only downside, for me, was that the main zip wasn’t two-way; but that’s not enough to stop it being an essential item of clothing over the coming months.