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South Pennines Walking Guide

The South Pennines stretch from the northern boundary of the Peak District to the southern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales. Consisting of high rolling moorland, intersected by deep valleys, there is nowhere in this region that exceeds 2000 feet. The moors and valleys are where the old rivals, Lancashire and Yorkshire meet and where too the rival industries of cotton and wool.

South Pennines

There is no precise definition, no boundary on the map for the South Pennines but most agree it is the high land located in the municipal boroughs of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees. Others argue for the inclusion of Rochdale and Oldham and it is this point of view that will be embraced in this description. Driving through the area you cannot fail to notice and be impressed by the hills rising from the valleys. What is hard to imagine from the valley floor is the wealth of interest that can be discovered walking the tracks and paths across the hills.

The South Pennines is an area where the remains of the once predominant textile industry, cotton to the west and mainly wool elsewhere, merge into the attractive hilly landscape. Many small towns and villages still have grand looking mills towering over the residential streets. Even on the high moors, many cottages were home to looms with whole families engaged in the weaving process. Today much of the textile industry has gone but its influence remains as it was a major driving force in the growth of roads, canals and railways in the area. Everywhere you go there is evidence of the past from toll roads cut across the moors to other relics of the industrial past.

The moors provided a great escape for the workers who took to the hills to get some exercise and longed for fresh air. Today the opportunities for walkers are many and varied and it is important to dismiss all the preconceptions you may have of the area before embarking on a walk of discovery either across the hills or through the valleys. The Pennine Way National Trail opts for the high-level route dipping into the valleys occasionally as it follows the backbone of England and provides the basis for many circular walks of quality. Elsewhere excellent walking is to be found around Hardcastle Crags, Haworth, with its Bronte connections, and Marsden to name just a few.

The Pennines are not particularly high but they are nonetheless a formidable barrier. They challenged the builders of road, canal and railway. Accepting the challenge and overcoming the obstacles has given many places a transport heritage that is unique. In conclusion the South Pennines remains a living monument to the pioneering days of industry. Once the textile capital of the world this proud heritage is still celebrated today. The "Dark Satanic Mills" have gone and a "Green and Pleasant Land" has swept back. Today you can enjoy miles of open countryside and perhaps match the challenges the landscape provides.

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