The Pennine Way is often called the ‘backbone’ of England and in recent years has enjoyed newfound popularity. This National Trail runs for 270 miles and over 11,000m of ascent, tracking high ground between the Peak District and the Scottish Borders. It still proves an irresistible challenge to thousands of backpackers every year.
Where did the fascination with this challenging trail come from? You could say it all started on 22nd June 1935. An article appeared in the Daily Herald newspaper entitled ‘Wanted: A Long Green Trail’, written by the ramblers’ champion Tom Stephenson. The purpose of this article was to question why we should not press on for something akin to the Appalachian Trail, to create a Pennine Way from the Peak to the Cheviots.
He imagined that the route would be a faint line on the Ordnance Maps, which the feet of grateful pilgrims would, with the passing years, engrave on the face of the land. Well, the engraving has gone rather deep in places, even to the extent that you could claim the route was carved out in stone, but that serves only as a testimony to its popularity.
As a long-distance walk it is impressive, stretching from Edale in the Peak District National Park onto the gritstone moors of the South Pennines. The way passes through the verdant Yorkshire Dales National Park, then crosses the bleak and remote North Pennines. Not content to finish there, it then traverses Hadrian’s Wall and runs through the Northumberland National Park. It finally steps over the border into Scotland high in the Cheviot Hills, to finish at Kirk Yetholm.
The Pennine Way is naturally busiest in the summer months. This is a fine time to walk, as all facilities and services are available, and the weather is generally warm and sunny, with plenty of daylight hours. In August, when the heather moors are flushed purple, fields are in flower, the boggy bits are drier underfoot and the blue sky is flecked with little clouds, the Pennine Way seems perfect.
The Pennine Way is a long and a hard walk, but one that is well worth the effort. Suitable for fit and experienced long distance walkers, most take two or three weeks to walk the way, and on average it tends to work out at around 18 days. It stretches over fascinating limestone country, thick blanket bogs, rugged moorlands, three National Parks and one Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.