National Geographic : 1986 Mar
SAY ONE, and I was stuck in a (peat bog! I'd wandered from the narrow Pennine Way, high on the treeless, wind-worn hills of northern England, and was up to my thighs in an acidic mire of beer-colored water, rotted heather, sphagnum moss, and cotton grass compacted over centuries into a black, spongy mass. Flailing, I sank two feet deeper. Then, sacrificing what remained of freshly pressed hiking clothes, I lay belly down on the mud and slowly tugged myself out, pulling on clumps of marsh grass and almost losing my boots in the process. The ooze gurgled and closed. A curlew's sad cry echoed over the Pen nines, stumps of great mountains thrown up 300 million years ago. Seated, blackened and wet, on a patch of heather, I sensed the utter loneliness of ancient moors that seemed to stretch to infinity in every direction. My plan, despite a discouraging start, was to walk the entire 270-mile length of the Pennine Way, a footpath that meanders like the track of an inebriated snail along the hills. Beginning at its southern end in Edale, in the Peak District National Park, the foot path passes along the backbone of England through the hills of Bronte country and mill town valleys once part of the Celtic kingdom of Elmet before entering the dramatic white limestone Yorkshire dales. Still farther north it crosses Northumberland and the Cheviot Hills, where the people speak in a singsong dialect delightful to listen to but al most impossible to understand. Beyond Ha drian's Wall, particularly, the land becomes lonely again, merging into the border for ests, until the path ends at last at Kirk Yet holm just over the Scottish border. The Pennine Way was declared Britain's first national long-distance footpath in 1965. Only about 6,000 hikers make it from one end to the other each year, according to Tom Stephenson, onetime leader of the David Yeadon, Yorkshire-born author and il lustrator of more than a dozen travel books, now makes his home in New York City. Minneapolis photographer Annie Griffiths' credits include a chapter on the Midlands in the Society's recently published DiscoveringBritain& Ireland. 394 rk Yetholm v/y AS One man's Stream - Tom SStephenson's a int1935 to set a hiking trail along the spine of England- became reality 30 years later. Flanked by industrialtowns in the south, the way traverses uplandserodedby rivers running east or west. Much is over rough, desolate terrain.Map, compass, stout gear, and warm clothes are required.Barry Heavens and his nine-year-oldson, Philip (below), plan to walk the 270 miles in stages over three years.