The north of England has a special place in the history of British walking. The Peak district moors between Manchester and Sheffield saw the first struggles for the walker’s rights of access that eventually led to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2003. Fittingly, our first long-distance trail, the Pennine Way, sets off from the Peak on its tough but rewarding line from the south to the north of this area.
My first ever fell walks, when a student at the University of York, were on the North York Moors, one of five National Parks in northern England. My favourite countryside though is in the northern Pennines around Alston, which has only the lesser designation of AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty) but in upper Teesdale has England’s closest thing to wilderness.
It’s not all height and emptiness, for there is plenty of gentler walking in places like the Yorkshire Wolds, and scope to explore regenerating cities like Leeds; and I’ve reached the end of this introduction before mentioning the Lake District, a contender for the most beautiful place on the planet.