A Pennine Journey
In September 1938, A. Wainwright made a solitary walk through the Pennines. The following year he wrote up an account of this walk, which was eventually published in 1986 as ‘A Pennine Journey: the Story of a Long Walk’. The current walking route ‘A Pennine Journey’ is a recreation of Wainwright’s walk adapted for today’s roads and rights-of-way, taking a route that he might have chosen if he was planning it today. The route has been devised and a guide written by members of the Wainwright Society with maps and illustrations inspired by the work of the great AW. The route is 247 miles long and divided into 18 stages.
The Pennine Journey begins and ends at Settle in North Yorkshire, providing a challenging circular walk passing through the wonderful variety of terrain and scenery the north of England offers whilst touching on all the major rivers in the region. The route heads up the eastern side of the Pennines through the delightful Yorkshire Dales. It takes in stretches of County Durham before arriving at Hadrian’s Wall. The Wall is followed for 21 miles before heading down the western side of the Pennines. Travelling down the Eden Valley and then skirting the Howgill Fells it arrives back in Settle.
Perhaps not surprisingly over half the Pennine Journey is within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This was established in 1988 and it is the second largest of 40 AONBs within England and Wales. The varied geology of the area, much in evidence on the walk, has been recognised by it becoming Britain's first European Geopark and it was a founding member of the UNESCO Global Geopark Network.
The guidebook divides the walk into 18 daily stages of varying length and offers a choice of possibilities. It can be undertaken as one continuous walk, split at Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall (Alfred Wainwright’s primary objective) into two stages of roughly 120 miles or divided into three stages - eastern, northern and western - of around 80 miles.
|Day Stage||Distance (miles)|
|Settle to Horton||7.25|
|Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Buckden||12.75|
|Buckden to Gunnerside||17.5|
|Gunnerside to Bowes||17.5|
|Bowes to Middleton-in-Teesdale||12.5|
|Middleton-in-Teesdale to Westgate||15.75|
|Westgate to Blanchland||10.75|
|Blanchland to Hexham||11.75|
|Hexham to Housesteads||15.5|
|Housesteads to Greenhead||9.75|
|Greenhead to Alston||17.0|
|Alston to Milburn||16.75|
|Milburn to Appleby||8.25|
|Appleby to Kirkby Stephen||16.0|
|Kirkby Stephen to Garsdale||12.25|
|Garsdale to Sedbergh||13.75|
|Sedbergh to Ingleton||17.75|
|Ingleton to Settle||14.25|
The genesis of the Pennine Journey route was a long distance walk devised by David Pitt and his wife Heather. David is Chairman of the Pennine Journey Supporters Club and wrote about the route’s development in a blog for Ordnance Survey entitled Putting ‘A Pennine Journey’ long-distance footpath on the map. An excerpt from this blog follows:
“As long-distance footpath walkers and Alfred Wainwright (AW) admirers it seemed logical when, in 1991, my wife Heather and I were wondering what long distance path we should do next that, we remembered AW’s words in his “Personal Notes” at the conclusion of his Coast to Coast Walk guide book: “The map of England is an oyster very rich in pearls. Plan your own marathon and do something never done before…”
What we planned was our ‘own marathon’ but based it on AW’s narrative of his ‘A Pennine Journey’ that he did in 1938, published in 1986 after he had become famous. His walk was done mainly using minor roads, in those days relatively traffic-free, but ours was planned using our library of OS maps and took in as many routes described by AW as reasonably possible. One example being the liberal use of the Pennine Way route for which he wrote in 1968 the Pennine Way Companion, regarded by many as the definitive route guide to the first National Trail which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015.
It was 1998 before we walked what we then (and for several years afterwards) called our Settle to Settle Walk: it seemed sacrilegious to call it ‘A Pennine Journey’. Then in 2003 the Wainwright Society was formed and the committee took up our suggestion of a collaborative venture by the members to write and publish a guide to this modern recreation of AW’s first long distance walk.
Sensible revisions to our initial route stretched the distance from 230 miles to 247 miles, resulting from members’ input and in April 2010 the guide book was published by Frances Lincoln. For some years they had published all Wainwright material and we were delighted when the book was given the accolade of being described as a ‘pictorial guide’ – something only used by them for AW’s own guide books. This was due in no small measure to the lovely route maps, at 2½ inches to the mile, done by Ron Scholes who had been a personal friend of AW, together with black and white sketches by Colin Bywater.
However, we felt that this was only a milestone on the ‘A Pennine Journey’ route which could only end with, given AW’s admiration of the work of the Ordnance Survey, its inclusion on future OS maps. Firstly it was necessary have the route waymarked and this required the agreement of all the highway agencies involved. A development plan was compiled which attracted the support of all the parish and town councils along the route and following this, the blessing of the highway agencies was given. Then the Pennine Journey Supporters Club, to promote and support the route, was established and the necessary waymarking funds were raised from guide book royalties and sales. It was at this point that Ordnance Survey was approached to ask if they would include the route on future re-prints of Ordnance Survey maps and they agreed to do this once the waymarking was completed and the endorsement of the highway agencies was obtained.In early 2013 the waymarking was started and completed by the target date of 25 September 2013 – the 75th anniversary of the start of AW’s ‘A Pennine Journey’ from Settle. The recent publication of Outdoor Leisure Map OL2 Yorkshire Dales (South and West) is the start of what could be considered the logical conclusion of the Pennine Journey project with the entire route being shown on Ordnance Survey maps. As a result of the help and support given by many people this will be the ultimate tribute to Alfred Wainwright who said about the Ordnance Survey: “I admire their work immensely, being lost in admiration of all their work. Their maps are, as ever, my favourite reading…They are a fine example of dedicated effort and meticulous accuracy. My private sanctum at home is crammed with Ordnance maps, most of them dog-eared with over-much use but all loved and respected and handled with reverence.”
The link to the original Ordnance survey blog is:
The Pennine Journey Supporters Club publish a newsletter, the latest edition of which can be found at:
Further information about this route including on the ground updates since the guide book was published can be found at the Pennine Journey website www.penninejourney.org.uk
We are grateful to the Pennine Journey Supporters Club for providing information for this page.
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