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MINIMUM IMPACT FOR MAXIMUM INSIGHT
Nature’s peace will flow into you as the sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you and storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. John Muir (one of the world’s first and most influential environmentalists, born in 1838)
Why is walking in wild and solitary places so satisfying? Partly it is the sheer physical pleasure: sometimes pitting one’s strength against the elements and the lie of the land. The beauty and wonder of the natural world and the fresh air restore our sense of proportion and the stresses and strains of everyday life slip away. Whatever the character of the countryside, walking in it benefits us mentally and physically, inducing a sense of well-being, an enrichment of life and an enhanced awareness of what lies around us. All this the countryside gives us and the least we can do is to safeguard it by supporting rural economies, local businesses, and low-impact methods of farming and land-management, and by using environmentally sensitive forms of transport – walking being pre-eminent.
In this book there is a detailed and illustrated chapter on the wildlife and conservation of the region and a chapter on minimum-impact walking, with ideas on how to tread lightly in this fragile environment; by following its principles we can help to preserve our natural heritage for future generations.
The Pennine Way is the grand-daddy of all the UK National Trails and although its 268-mile (431km) length doesn’t qualify it as the longest trail, it was the first and is probably the best known of all the National Trails. Surprisingly, it is almost equally loved and loathed by those that walk it and it is certainly a challenge however you decide to tackle it.
As well as physical fitness, determination and an ability to smile in the face of a howling wind, above all else a Pennine Wayfarer needs a positive mental attitude. There will be times when you just want to throw in the towel, catch the next train or bus home and never return to the moors again, but you must overcome these moments of weakness if you want to reach Scotland and the Border Hotel.
As you progress, the walking gets easier as you become fitter, the scenery is diverse and engaging and there’s always something of interest to see, including an incredible variety of plants and wildlife and some of the best walking to be had in the UK.
The path begins in the Peak District, in the heart of England and cunningly weaves between the old industrial centres of Manchester, Huddersfield, Halifax and Burnley. By sticking as much as possible to the high heather moors between these conurbations it visits Stoodley Pike Monument and Top Withins, thought by some to be Wuthering Heights from Emily Brontë’s novel.
The path soon leaves the gritstone of the Southern Pennines behind and the rocks become light grey as we enter limestone country through the Airedale Gap and into Malham, the home of the incredible amphitheatre of Malham Cove. A tough day over Fountains Fell and Pen-y-ghent brings you to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, the start and finish of the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk. The Way visits the iconic Yorkshire Dales of Wensleydale and Swaledale and traverses Great Shunner Fell between them. After a quick stop at the highest pub in Great Britain (Tan Hill Inn) you reach the halfway point at Baldersdale. Now your muscles are like steel wires, you hardly feel the weight of your rucksack and you have your sights firmly set on Scotland.
Possibly the best day walk anywhere in the country starts at Middleton-in-Teesdale, taking in three incredible waterfalls and the stunning glacial valley of High Cup, followed the next day, by the highest point on the walk over Cross Fell (2930ft/893m).
Beyond this, you spend a day walking the best section of Hadrian’s Wall, before plunging into the forests of Wark and Redesdale, emerging into the town of Bellingham, the last proper outpost of civilisation before the end.
Technically you’ve left the Pennines behind now, as you pass through Byrness and over the rolling green mountains of the Cheviot range for the last marathon section into Kirk Yetholm.
You may arrive at the Border Hotel a different person – the walk has certainly had a profound effect on many of the people who have walked it (see the boxes on p34, p35, p36, p37, p41, p42 and p43), but even if not, you’ve completed one of the great walks and if you’ve managed to do it without getting rained on, you really are one in a million!
- Contents list
- About the Pennine Way
- Practical information for the walker
- Using this guide
- Sample route guide: Calder Valley to Ickornshaw
- GPS waypoints
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