Exploring The English Wilderness
Stretching from the upper Midlands in the heart of England to near the Scottish border, the Pennines are a beautiful and diverse range of small mountains and high hills that provide wonderful hiking and other recreational opportunities for everyone. I say “diverse” for two reasons: first, because this chain runs from the outskirts of bustling metropolises like Manchester and Leeds-Bradford to some of the most remote parts of England. Secondly, the range is host to a plethora of awe-inspiring geological formations, especially in the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales, vast moorland, evergreen and deciduous woodland, lakes, small villages, and roaming sheep and cattle.
The West Pennine Moors straddling the borders between the northern area of Greater Manchester, eastern Lancashire and West Yorkshire are no exception to these rural gems. The area is renowned for its natural beauty and ample footpaths and horse trails (aka bridleways). Any interested hiker is able to begin their trek from any number of parks, roadside footpaths, or even from within a village and within minutes be surrounded by lush green pastures, centuries-old farmhouses, rain-spattered stone fences, and the overall friendly aroma of the English countryside.
One area that might attract those with a passion for the countryside as well as interest in history is Pendle Hill, a prominent landmark of east Lancashire. Beware that legend holds the hill to be haunted by the ghosts of women who were executed there on suspicion of witchcraft hundreds of years ago! Another attraction is Darwen Tower which offers matchless views of the region, even to the Irish Sea and the peaks of Snowdonia National Park in Wales on a clear day.
I have already mentioned in my previous article about the Lake District how strong footwear and preparation for the high levels of precipitation are essential for hiking in Britain. There is another piece of advice, however, regarding the area’s weather that all should heed very carefully, especially in the winter months. Since a lot of the Pennines are composed of moorland, which is soggy terrain on which there are usually a scarcity of trees and other landmarks, the winds traveling across the moor can be quite strong and bitterly cold. This was a painful lesson I learned while hiking on a beautiful brown moor in Lancashire called Great Hill in December. I got caught in a sleet storm and had to turn back for fear of my own safety as the icy winds whipped across my face! Amazingly, the temperature in the village below was mild.
This just proved the point that the Pennines are not a hike to be taken lightly! But for those who desire adventure and stunning views, they will not disappoint.
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