Celebrating 50 years of the Pennine Way

The trail offers many delights, such as the highest pub, market town and waterfall.
The trail offers many delights, such as the highest pub, market town and waterfall.
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Winding its way through some of the wildest countryside our nation offers, the Pennine Way is famed for captivating and inspiring intrepid ramblers.

Passing the highest pub, highest waterfall, and highest market town, the rugged path cuts right into the heart of rural traditions and quirks. And now, 50 years since the trail opened, we take a look at its history, its stories, and even some unexplained Pennine phenomena.

Edale and Kinder Scout, the southern start of the Pennine Way.

Edale and Kinder Scout, the southern start of the Pennine Way.

‘The Way’ stretches from Edale, in Derbyshire, to Kirk Yetholm, in the Scottish borders. The 268-mile route snakes through the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, across the North Pennines and over Hadrian’s Wall into Northumberland and the Cheviots.

Yet the iconic footpath might never have existed without the vision of writer Tom Stephenson. In 1935, after being inspired by the Appalachian Way in the United States, Stephenson suggested a public trail along the backbone of England.

His article ‘Wanted: A Long Green Trail’ was published in London’s Daily Herald in 1935 and called for “a Pennine Way from the Peak to the Cheviots” to open up the moorlands to the public.

Stephenson, a keen rambler, had written many articles calling for greater access to the countryside and his suggestion echoed the national mood. His call led to the formation of the Pennine Way Association.

11th April 1975''This section of the Pennine Way -Britain's first long-distance footpath, which stretches 250 miles down the spine of the country - was opened ten years ago.  Mr. Stephenson was on that walk too, and to mark the anniversary 30 people  set out to cover the 14 miles to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and 26 completed the course.''Mr. Ken Wilson, of Addingham, chariman of the Pennine Way Council, and president of the West Riding Ramblers Association, accompanied Mr. Stephenson, who was the oldest to take part.''

11th April 1975''This section of the Pennine Way -Britain's first long-distance footpath, which stretches 250 miles down the spine of the country - was opened ten years ago. Mr. Stephenson was on that walk too, and to mark the anniversary 30 people set out to cover the 14 miles to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and 26 completed the course.''Mr. Ken Wilson, of Addingham, chariman of the Pennine Way Council, and president of the West Riding Ramblers Association, accompanied Mr. Stephenson, who was the oldest to take part.''

However, it was not until 1965 – 30 years after Stephenson proposed the idea – that the Pennine Way became a reality. On April 24 that year 2,000 people, including Stephenson, gathered on Malham Moor to celebrate the completion of the footpath.

Nowadays, approximately 15,000 long-distance walkers and more than 250,000 day walkers use all or part of the trail each year.

Most walkers allow between 16 to 19 days to walk the full route. But the fastest time to complete it is just two days, 17 hours, and 20 minutes. The record was set by Mike Hartley, who finished the challenge on July 23, 1989.

He ran without sleep, stopping twice for 18 minutes each time. One of the stops was for fish and chips in Alston, Cumbria.

Michael Bruce, 24, with girlfriend Nicola Lennon, 23, brave the wintry condition for a short walk along the Pennine Way infront of Britain Highest pub the Tan Hill Inn, which stand at 1,732' (528m) above sea level in the middle of Arkengarthdale, in the Yorkshire Dales, National Park, on the edge of Yorkshire.

Michael Bruce, 24, with girlfriend Nicola Lennon, 23, brave the wintry condition for a short walk along the Pennine Way infront of Britain Highest pub the Tan Hill Inn, which stand at 1,732' (528m) above sea level in the middle of Arkengarthdale, in the Yorkshire Dales, National Park, on the edge of Yorkshire.

Dr David Clarke, former journalist and folklore expert, was interviewed by the BBC ahead of a new series to mark the anniversary.

He said: “I first heard about these ‘spooklights‘ during my time as journalist for the Sheffield Star. When talking to members of Glossop Mountain Rescue Team I was amazed to find they kept a log of calls from people reporting bright red lights hovering over the moors late at night.”

Fearing walkers were lost on the heights of Bleaklow, rescue teams turned out again and again only to find no trace of anyone in distress.

“My inquiries turned up dozens of similar accounts of mysterious moving lights, sometimes in a string and others taking the form of a beam and even a bright white light that filled the entire valley,” said Dr Clarke.

One of the paved sections of the Pennine Way, looking towards Bleaklow from the south.

One of the paved sections of the Pennine Way, looking towards Bleaklow from the south.

“One informant said the lights had been seen for decades, long before the arrival of cars, electricity pylons and aircraft. They were pointed out by his grandmother who called them ‘the Devil’s Bonfires’.”

If you are undeterred by the spooky lights, a series of events are being planned at Edale throughout the weekend of April 24-26. The start point has been refurbished, and a time capsule has been built into the new wall.

For details visit www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/w. Search ‘The Pennine Way’ on BBC iPlayer to learn more about the Logendale lights.