Walkers on a packhorse bridge in the South Pennines

Walkers on a packhorse bridge in the South Pennines

It’s the landscape that inspired the Brontë sisters and the late poet laureate Ted Hughes and, though not as well known as the national parks that sandwich it, it offers landscapes and villages steeped in history.

The South Pennines is the stretch of moorland and countryside north of the Peak District and south of the Yorkshire Dales, rich in cultural heritage and rare wildlife, and a festival next month aims to put the area firmly on the outdoor recreation map.

The fourth South Pennines Walk and Ride Festival opens on 11 September with walks on Ilkley Moor, cultural heart of the West Riding and setting for the unofficial Yorkshire anthem On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘At.

Former Ramblers chair and access campaigner Kate Ashbrook is expected to open the festival, hosted by the spa town’s Walkers Are Welcome group.

There will be more than 100 walks and rides, with historical features at the heart of many of the routes. Mountain bike and horse riding events are included in the schedule for the festival, which is in its fourth year. Two weeks’ worth of events are planned including, for the first time, a two-day backpacking walk on the Pennine Moors.

Other walks include a station-to-station route around Hollingworth Lake, a tour of Oldham’s ‘lake district’ – 10 reservoirs built in the 19th and 20th century, and a trip to meet alpacas and turkeys.

The South Pennines are bounded by the former industrial towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire and there is heritage galore, from the last Clarion House, built as a co-operative outdoor venue aimed at promoting socialism, to the home of Anne Lister the Halifax landowner dubbed the ‘first modern lesbian’ who wrote a 4-million-word encrypted diary detailing her liaisons in the early 19th century. She was also a pioneer female mountaineer.

The moors are criss-crossed by ancient packhorse routes, Roman roads, and the more recent Pennine Way and Pennine Bridleway.

Most walks and events are free, but booking is recommended for some. Full details, with a downloadable programme, are on the South Pennines website.

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