soaring some 32ft into the crisp April sky, the Chevin Cross has stood over Otley every Easter since 1968.
According to Ron Sweeney, a member of The Bridge United Reform Church in Otley, who helped to erect the first cross more than 40 years ago, the Easter Sunday Sunrise Service has grown from a small prayer at 7am to an event attracting almost 300 people.
“People come on pilgrimages over Easter and they leave flowers and little messages. We get letters in from various people who say it has given them a lot of pleasure and sense of comfort over the years,” says Ron.
The cross weighs in at almost two tonnes and is hoisted up onto the craggy ridge by 50 men and women two weeks before Easter Sunday. Seven churches in Otley are involved and new volunteers of all ages are drawn in every year.
For Ron, it is this community spirit that has kept the ritual going for so long and has prevailed over tougher times.
He says: “It really means a great deal to the community. In 1968 we did discuss whether to make a permanent cross, but decided against that because it would be just another monument. This requires action from local people.”
In 1997, the cross was sawn down in the middle of the night, but within 24 hours the people of Otley had ressurected it.
A couple of years later – the Millennium – Churches Together in Otley decided to build a new cross, using salvaged wood from the wreckage of Manchester’s bombed Arndale Centre.
“It’s a symbol of good coming out of evil,” says Ron.
And as a reminder to everyone, the cross will dominate the rugged landscape of Lower Wharfedale until May 7.