The South Pennines near HaworthThey are squeezed by national parks to the North and South; have some of the wildest moorland in northern England and were once described by Daniel Defoe as: ‘The Andes of England’, yet they are on the doorstep of millions of urban dwellers.

The South Pennines near Haworth

Now the call has gone out to make sure the South Pennines are used to the full by lovers of the great outdoors, by maintaining rights of way and promoting access to the countryside for both residents and visitors.

Pennine Prospects – a conglomeration of local authorities, water companies and voluntary bodies – held its first annual conference in Halifax, West Yorkshire, last week. The body has as its aim the promotion of both natural and cultural attractions. Apart from honeypots such as the Bronte country around Haworth, the uplands of the South Pennines are little visited by outdoor thrill seekers and culture vultures.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, told the gathering it should promote its countryside treasures.

She said: “The South Pennines have been a well-kept secret. Now they have the chance to become a special place for quiet recreation and enjoyment, for residents and visitors.

“This wonderful area is already rich in public paths and access land. They lead people enticingly out of the towns into the surrounding countryside. Under the aegis of Pennine Prospects, the local authorities and local people can work together to promote this special area, for its history, culture, landscape and opportunities for enjoyment.
Kate Ashbrook "Few places in England have so much richesse right on the doorstep.”

Ms Ashbrook (right) outlined what should be done: repair and maintain footpaths and bridleways in the area; promote access land; protect open spaces within towns and villages, and fight the introduction of windfarms on the area’s hilltops.

She pointed to the success of recent innovations such as the Walkers Are Welcome award. England’s only two towns to gain the designation, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, lie within the South Pennines.

Quiet recreation is good for both people’s health and the health of the local economy, she said. The campaigner, who is also chairman of the Ramblers’ Association, told the conference: “We need to celebrate this area for all it can bring to our health and wellbeing.”

The South Pennines area stretches from Holmfirth, on the northern edge of the Peak District, to Skipton in the North, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. It includes the West Pennine moors of Lancashire and the Calder Valley.