My son Daniel and I went for a walk over Blackstone Edge the other day. This rocky-topped fell that separates the worlds of Lancashire and Yorkshire was once described by Daniel Defoe as being 'the Andes of England'. I was always amused by this hyperbole -it is less than 2,000 feet high- but he had a point: the high ground of which Blackstone Edge is a part stretches, virtually unbroken, the length of the North of England, from the Scottish Borders to the Peak District; and, to be fair, in Defoe's time, without tarmac roads -not to mention the M62- the Pennines must have presented a considerable obstacle to anyone crossing the country.
We had a great time. We parked in a lay-by on the A58 where it crosses the fells, beside a reservoir and between two imposing lines of pylons. In a way, these power lines are an eyesore. One of the great strengths of the Pennine landscape is the long, straight horizon-lines. These hills are not tall, pointed mountains. The deep impression they create is produced by sheer scale. On the other hand, these power lines are human civilisation at its most functional, stripped of its cosmetic covering. Since the fells themselves are a bit like that, the pylons fit in, in a funny sort of way; and one should not forget that the Pennines as we experience them, stripped of their trees, are themselves a product of human activity. There are only a few human structures on the hill-tops: most fit into the same category as the Blackstone Edge pylons and all have become, for most people I suspect, part of the landscape.
The Stoodley Pike monument is a case in point. This massive, dark obelisk can be seen for miles. As we made our way up the gently-sloping fell, its tip could be seen peeping over the hill behind us. In a few minutes we came to the track marked on the map as a Roman Road (there is some controversy over its provenance) and at this point we joined the trail of bootprints, lost gloves and orange peel known as the Pennine Way. We made our way along it, as it wound through the the rocks that are strewn along the summit-ridge of the fell. The summit itself is, I think, the “inaccessible pinnacle” of the Pennines. Close to the top, a trig point stands on a gritstone boulder. A second boulder close by, the summit itself, is slightly higher and takes more than a little nerve to climb.
On the way back we had time to spare, so we stopped for a while, sheltering from the breeze in a depression. We spent some time laid flat on our backs on the short grass, watching the sky and eating a bag of chopped carrots we'd brought along.