Pennines: Wikis


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The Pennine Mountains of Northern England
Typical Pennine scenery of Saddleworth Moor looking towards the Wessenden valley

The Pennines are a low-rising mountain range in northern England and southern Scotland. They separate the North West of England from Yorkshire and the North East.

Often said to be the "backbone of England",[1][2][3] they form a more or less continuous range stretching from the Peak District in Derbyshire, through the Yorkshire Dales, around the northern and eastern edges of Greater Manchester, the West Pennine Moors of Lancashire and Cumbrian Fells to the Cheviot Hills on the Anglo-Scottish border. North of the Aire Gap the Pennines give out a western spur into Lancashire, the Forest of Bowland and south of the gap is a similar spur, the Rossendale Fells.[4]

Although the above is a common definition, the Cheviot Hills are not strictly speaking part of the Pennines, being separated by the Tyne Gap and the Whin Sill, along which run the A69 and Hadrian's Wall - however due to the Pennine Way route crossing them they are often treated as such. Conversely, although the southern end of the Pennines is commonly said to be somewhere in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, often Edale (the start of the Pennine Way); they in fact extend south into Staffordshire and Cheshire, as can be seen by looking at a relief map. The true southern end of the Pennines is actually in the Stoke on Trent area, around 40 mi (64 km) south of Edale.

It is an important water catchment area with numerous reservoirs in the head streams of the major river valleys. The region is widely considered to be one of the most scenic areas of the United Kingdom.[5] The North Pennines have been declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as has Nidderdale, while portions of the Pennines are incorporated into the Peak District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Northumberland National Park.[6] Britain's first long distance footpath, the Pennine Way, runs the full length of the Pennine chain and is 429 kilometres (268 mi) long.[7]



The first use of the name "Pennines" to describe the mountain range is in the spurious De Situ Britanniae, first published in 1757:[8]

This province is divided into two equal parts by a chain of mountains called the Pennine Alps, which rising on the confines of the Iceni and Carnabii, near the river Trivona [ Trent ], extend towards the north in a continued series of fifty miles.

This book purported to contain the account of a Roman general preserved in the manuscript of a fourteenth century English monk, Richard of Cirencester, and was considered the premier source of information on Roman Britain for more than a century after it was made available in 1749. It was in fact a forgery created by Charles Bertram, an Englishman then living in Copenhagen. In 1853, Arthur Hussey listed several names in De Situ Britanniae that he could not trace to an earlier source, including the "Pennine Alps".[9] However, by that time, particularly in the early 19th century, the name "Pennine Chain" or "Pennines" had become widely accepted.

In his 2004 book Names and History: People, Places and Things, George Redmonds provided a modern assessment.[10] He comments at length on the strange omission of the etymology of the Pennines in the serious literature regarding that area of England, including publications on place-name origins of Derbyshire and Lancashire by respected authors. He finally learns that the origin of the name is from De Situ Britanniae and that "nor do we know any name for the whole range before the eighteenth century." There follows a discussion of the forgery and the fact that a number of its inventions had found their way into the Ordnance Survey maps; and that the true origin of the name was known by serious authors, most of whom simply chose not to speak of it. He also notes that the mountains had been called by various names in the past, and that there were allusional references to the mountains as "our Apennines" as early as the 1630s (and perhaps before that), so likely Bertram simply invented a name that was easy for people to accept as fact.


The names of towns and geographical features retain some evidence of the Celts who were here before, and after, the Romans: for example the town Penrith, the fell Pen-y-ghent, the river Eden, or the name Cumbria. More commonly the local names result from the later Anglo-Saxon and Norse settlements. And in both Yorkshire and Cumbria many Norse words not commonly used in standard English are part of everyday speech: for example, gill (narrow steep valley), beck (brook or stream), fell (hill), dale (valley).[11]

Geology and landscape

Topographical map of the United Kingdom, Pennines centred

The Pennines have been carved from a series of geological structures whose overall form is that of a broad anticline whose axis extends in a north-south direction. The North Pennines are conicdent with the Alston Block, whilst the Yorkshire Dales are coincident with the Askrigg Block. In the south the Peak District is essentially a flat-topped dome. Each of these structures consists of Millstone Grit and the underlying Carboniferous Limestone. The limestone is exposed at the surface to the north of the range in the North Pennines AONB and to the South in the Derbyshire Peak District. In the Yorkshire Dales this limestone exposure has led to the formation of large underground cave systems and watercourses, known as "gills" and "pots" in the Yorkshire dialect. These potholes are more prevalent on the eastern side and are amongst the largest in England; notable examples are the chasms of Gaping Gill, which is over 350 ft (107 m) deep and Rowten Pot, which is 365 ft (111 m) deep. The presence of limestone has also led to some unusual geological formations in the region, such as the limestone pavements of the Yorkshire Pennines. Between the Northern and Southern areas of exposed limestone, between Skipton and the Peak, lies a narrow belt of gritstone country. Here the shales and sandstones of the Millstone Grit form high hills occupied by moors and peat-mosses with the higher ground being uncultivable and barely fit for pastures.

The landscape of the Pennines is generally upland areas of high moorland indented by the more fertile valleys of the region's various rivers.


The Pennines constitute the main watershed in northern England, dividing the eastern and western parts of the country. The rivers Eden, Ribble, and Mersey all rise in the Pennines and flow westwards towards the Irish Sea. On the other side of the watershed, the rivers Tyne, Tees, Wear, Swale, Ure, Nidd, Calder, Wharfe, Aire, Don, and Trent also rise in the region but flow eastwards to the North Sea.



Kielder Water

Ladybower Reservoir and many other smaller reservoirs


The mountains are not very high and are often referred to as fells. The highest is Cross Fell in eastern Cumbria, at 2,930 feet (893 m) while other principal peaks include Mickle Fell 2,585 ft (788 m), Whernside 2,415 ft (736 m), Ingleborough 2,372 ft (723 m), High Seat 2,328 ft (710 m) and Wild Boar Fell 2,324 ft (708 m), both in Mallerstang, Pen-y-ghent 2,274 ft (693 m), and Kinder Scout 2,087 ft (636 m).

Character Areas of the Pennines

The Joint Character Areas of the Pennines

England has been divided into areas with similar landscape character. These were called Joint Character Areas (JCAs), but are now called National Character Areas (NCAs). The NCAs are a widely recognised national spatial framework but the boundaries of the NCAs are not precise and many of the boundaries should be considered as broad zones of transition.[12]

The Pennines have eleven National Character Areas. These are: -

  1. Border Moors and Forests[13]
  2. Tyne Gap and Hadrian's Wall[14]
  3. North Pennines[15]
  4. Howgill Fells[16]
  5. Yorkshire Dales[17]
  6. Bowland Fells[18] alongside the Bowland Fringe and Pendle Hill[19]
  7. Southern Pennines[20], including the West Pennine Moors
  8. Dark Peak[21]
  9. White Peak[22]
  10. South West Peak[23]
Croasdale Forest of Bowland.

The Bowland area of the Pennines is dominated by a central upland landform of deeply incised gritstone fells. There are vast tracts of heather covered peat moorland and blanket bog on these fells. The lower slopes of the fells are dotted with stone built farms and small villages and are criss crossed by drystone walls enclosing reclaimed moorland pasture. Cloughs, steep sided wooded valleys, link the upland and lowland landscapes. To the south-east of the area are extensive coniferous plantations and the eastern limestone areas support high quality species rich meadows.[24]



It is a relatively sparsely populated region by English standards.


The main economic activities include sheep farming, quarrying and tourism.

Main Settlements

The summit of Cross Fell with Great Dun Fell in the background.


The three main gaps in the Pennines have always afforded communications links between the areas to the east and west. These gaps are the Tyne Gap between Carlisle and Newcastle upon Tyne along which the A69 road and the Tyne Valley railway run, the Stainmore Gap between the Eden Valley in Cumbria and Teesdale in County Durhsm and the Aire Gap linking Lancashire and Yorkshire via the valleys of the rivers Aire and Ribble. The Pennines are also traversed by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the M62 motorway. In many places, the Pennines remain a formidable barrier to be crossed by tunnel or roads which may be blocked by snow for several days in winter.

Rail services are operated along the Huddersfield line between Huddersfield railway station and Victoria and Piccadilly stations in Manchester. The name of the train-operating company First TransPennine Express comes from such journeys - its trains connect the North West with the North East.

There are three trans-pennine canals built during the Industrial Revolution which, as the name suggests, cross the range in various locations:


A prehistoric settlement on Harkerside Moor in Swaledale.

Early inhabitants

The area contains many examples of Bronze Age settlements, and evidence of Neolithic settlement (including many stone circles or henges, such as Long Meg and Her Daughters.)[25]

Celtic and Roman times

The Pennines would have come under the tribal federation of the Brigantes. This tribal federation was made up of mainly small tribes who inhabited the Pennines and cooperated on defence and external affairs. The Brigantes later evolved into an early form of kingdom.

During Roman times, the Brigantes came under Roman domination. The Romans exploited the Pennines for the natural resources and wild animals found there.

Early Middle Ages

The Pennines were a major obstacle for Anglo-Saxon expansion west. Even when they were conquered they still retained a distinct Semi-Celtic identity, which can be traced in place names today.[citation needed] During the Dark Ages the Pennines came under a number of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. It is believed that the north of the area first came under the kingdom of Rheged. There were later three kingdoms which were solely based in the Pennines though.[citation needed] These were: The Kingdom of the Pennines and later the Kingdom of the Pennines broke up[citation needed] and was succeeded by Dunoting/Kingdom of the North Pennines and The Peak/Kingdom of the South Pennines.

During Norse times the Pennines were lightly settled by Viking Danes in the east and Norwegian Vikings in the west. The Vikings left a lot of influence on placenames, even though they did not settle in great numbers. When England was unified the Pennines were incorporated into England.

Other history

The Pennines were the major route for the Jacobite attack on England. They also became highly exploited in the Victorian age.


The language used in pre-Roman and Roman times was British. During the Early Middle Ages, the Cumbric language developed. However, little evidence of Cumbric remains, so it is difficult to ascertain whether or not it was a language in its own right or simply a dialect of Old Welsh. It is also uncertain as to the extent of the region in which Cumbric was spoken.

During Anglo-Saxon times (the area was settled by Anglian peoples of Mercia and Northumbria, rather than the Saxon peoples of southern England) Celtic speech remained in most areas of the Pennines longer than it did in the surrounding areas of England.[citation needed] Eventually, the Celtic tongue of the Pennines was replaced by early Middle English in the 12th Century.

In Norse times, Viking settlers brought their languages of Old Norse, Old Danish (mainly in the Yorkshire Dales and parts of the Peak District) and Old Norwegian (mainly in the western Pennines). With the eventual consolidation of England by the Saxon kingdom of Wessex, the pure Norse speech died out in England, though it survived in the Pennines longer than in most areas[citation needed]. However, the fusion of Norse and Old English was an important part of the formation of Middle (and hence, Modern) English, and many individual words of Norse descent remain in use in local dialects, such as that of Yorkshire, and in local place names.

Norman French had little effect on the language of the Pennines though.[citation needed] All of the above languages have had an influence, either large or small on the modern placenames of the Pennines. The modern language of the Pennines is English.

Folklore and customs

The folklore and customs are mostly based on Celtic[citation needed] and Viking[citation needed] customs and folklore. Many customs and stories have their origin in Christianised pagan traditions.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Poucher, W.A. (1946), The Backbone of England. A photographic and descriptive guide to the Pennine range from Derbyshire to Durham., Guildford and Esher: Billing and Sons Limited .
  2. ^ Edwards, W.; Trotter, F.M. (1975), The Pennines and Adjacent Areas, Handbooks on the Geology of Great Britain (Third ed.), London: HMSO (published 1954), p. 1, ISBN 0 11 880720 X .
  3. ^ "Pennines -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  4. ^ Dudley Stamp, L (1946), Britain’s Structure and Scenery, The Fontana New Naturalist Series (1960 ed.), London and Glasgow: Collins .
  5. ^ "Writer inspired by beauty of Pennines celebrates its views - Yorkshire Post". Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  6. ^ "Designated Landscapes Index". Natural England. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  7. ^ "Trail stats, Pennine Way". National Trails Homepage. The Countryside Agency. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  8. ^ Bertram, Charles (1757), "Chapter XXXIII", in Hatcher, Henry, The Description of Britain, Translated from Richard of Cirencester, London: J. White and Co, 1809, p. 51, 
  9. ^ Hussey, Arthur (1853), "A Renewed Examination of "Richard of Cirencester"", in Urban, Sylvanus, The Gentleman's Magazine, XXXIX, London: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, pp. 270 – 273, ; discussing the so-called Iter VII: "... Alpes Peninos ..." not traced (to any earlier source).
  10. ^ Redmonds, George (2004), Names and History: People, Places and Things, Hambledon & London, pp. 65–68, ISBN 185285426X  A Major Place-Name Ignored
  11. ^ Gunn, Peter (1984), The Yorkshire Dales. Landscape with Figures, London: Century Publishing Co Ltd, ISBN 0 7126 0370 0 
  12. ^ "National Character Areas". Natural England. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ > "The Landscape of The Forest of Bowland Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)". Page managed by the Information Management Team in the Strategic Planning & Transport Section, Environment Directorate, Lancashire County Council. 06 June 2007.>. Retrieved 2007-12-07. 
  25. ^ Out of Oblivion: A landscape through time
  • Arthur Raistrick, 'The Pennine Dales', Eyre Methuen Ltd 1968, ISBN 041326760

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun


  1. A mountain range stretching through north central England.

Simple English

Not to be confused with Pennine Alps.

The Pennines are a mountain range in England. Often said to be the "backbone of England", they form an unbroken range stretching from the Peak District in the Midlands, through the Yorkshire Dales, parts of Greater Manchester, the West Pennine Moors of Lancashire and Cumbrian Fells to the Cheviot Hills on the Scottish border. Their total length is about 250 mi (402 km).


The name Pennines is believed to come from the Celtic pennioroches, meaning "hill", although the earliest written reference to the name dates only from the 18th century.

Altitude and size

The mountains are not very tall and are often called hills. The highest is Cross Fell in eastern Cumbria, at 893 m (2,930 ft). Other main mountain peaks include Mickle Fell 788 m (2,585 ft), Whernside 736 m (2,415 ft), Ingleborough 723 m (2,372 ft), Pen-y-ghent 693 m (2,274 ft), and Kinder Scout 636 m (2,087 ft).

The landscape of the Pennines are mostly upland areas of high moorland. The Pennines make up the main watershed in northern England, dividing the eastern and western parts of the country. The rivers Eden, Ribble, and Mersey flow west towards the Irish Sea. On the other side of the watershed, the rivers Tyne, Tees, Swale, Calder, Aire, Don, and Trent flow east to the North Sea.


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