Thursday, 19 March 2009

A Walk in the Andes of England

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.

Photo: (c) Steve Partridge
Licenced for reuse under a Creative Commons licence


The Solitary Walker said...

I remember Stoodley Pike very well from my Pennine Way walk.

If Blackstone Edge is the Andes of England, then could the Lincoln Edge, my own local north-south divide, be the Rockies of Lincolnshire, I wonder?

Perhaps not.

Poet in Residence said...

I had no idea they were the Andes but I've spent many a happy hour running around Stoodley Pike in my Clayton le Moors Harriers running vest and supping post-race beers in several local hostelries often followed by old-fashioned chips 'n peas (chips fried in lard).
Dominic, thanks for the memories, as the old song goes!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Can't help thinking that poet in residence's chips fried in lard would taste a lot better than your chopped carrots (but not be as good for you - so well done to you both!)

Poetikat said...

I enjoyed this post. It took me back to a few places: a laborious climb up a hill near Loch Lomond in Scotland-not even a large one, but for me, monumental)! Then back to an old "Hamish MacBeth episode where a few climbers are in peril on a cliff and also a t.v. series we got here in Canada about climbing some of the great peaks of Scotland. I know your post is about England, but that's what it evoked for me (along with a few British mysteries I've read that were set in the Lake District).
I thank you for visiting my poetry (and miscellany) blog and for signing on as a follower.

I also notice you liked Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. I always have to laugh every time there's a scene in a contemporary film where someone is going backwards up a large staircase. (The Untouchables, comes to mind.)


P.S. I love what you did with Rachel Fox's poem.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

SW: There is a very informative wikipedia page about Stoodley Pike. The Lincoln Edge. That brings back memories. If you mean what I think you mean, I spent the first 6 or 7 years of my life at the foot of it.

PiR: So did I, in my Calder Valley Fell Runners vest. It was (probably still is) a popular club run - Mythomroyd to the Pike and back.

WG: Funnily enough, the chopped carrots were chip-shaped, and we were speculating as to whether one could deep fry them or not.

Poetikat: Thank you for Following! Good to hear you enjoyed the "Before I Drop" collaboration. Re Hamish MacBeth. At the risk of sounding like Victor Meldrew, whenever I complain about the repeats on TV, I usually find myself saying, "why can't they repeat something decent like Hamish MacBeth"?

Susan said...

Sounds like heaven. I love hillwalking, especially with my kids, and taking the time to just lie on the grass and enjoy the day sounds like bliss.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for this. My hillwalking in Ireland never got past Slieve Snaght - and I honestly can't remember if I walked up it or just looked at it, it was so long ago! I was on holiday in Greencastle at the time. I intend to get round to Macgillycuddy's Reeks someday.

L. Rochelle said...

Very glad to have taken this walk with you. I'm sure that Daniel enjoyed it as much as I did!
Happy that we found each other's blogs..

Poetikat said...

Oh, I see Lyn's here too! That's great!

Dominic - Thanks for pointing out my omission on the blog.

Yours is clean already compared to what mine was.

We are quite fortunate here, in Canada, that the repeats are often good ones. We've had a number of runs of the "Hamish" series, particularly on a local Ontario network (although none recently). We seem to get the best of the British, most of the time.
(I don't know who Victor Meldrew is. Wait - I googled him and now I do know him, not from "One Foot", but from "Father Ted". Ha ha.)


Frances said...

Chopped carrots? - that's very abstemious of you Dominic. I can't go walking anywhere without a thermos of coffee and twenty bars of chocolate.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

LR: pleased you enjoyed our walk over Blackstone Edge. By the way, I like your Gandhi quote ("You must be the change you want to see in the world.")

Poetikat: I should try not to be too Victor Meldrew like. Decent programmes still do happen in the UK (my personal list would include the Coast series and the relaunched Dr Who). I don't remember VM in Father Ted. I'll check it out.

Frances: Carrots are great. I love chocolate and can easily eat too much of it. Fresh, crunchy carrots (washed down with a tin bottle of cold water) are almost as sweet and, I find, make a great substitute. :)

Anonymous said...

This brings back memories of rambles along the Pennine Way when I was at school in Yorkshire. We did a bit better than a few chopped carrots, though!

The Weaver of Grass said...


Poetikat said...

Dominic - I had meant to mention earlier that I noticed Christy Moore as one of your favourites. Time to play "Lisdoonvarna",then.

I spent a night in Doolin on my honeymoon and never wanted to leave.


Randy Watson said...

Thanks for taking me on the walk. I linked here via John Hays blog. Glad I did.

BarbaraS said...

Steven Spender has a poem about Pylons... somewhere. Must google that and come back...

Dave King said...

I've crossed those particular Andes only a couple of times, but I must say that whilst doing so, Defoe's remark (had I been aware of it, which I was not until now)would not have struck me as outrageously hyperbolic. great post, an enjoyable read.

The Solitary Walker said...

That Spender poem, Barabara, likens pylons to "giant nude girls" - I mentioned it somewhere on my blog last year. The term "giant nude girls" is consistently the most popular google search phrase directing people to my blog. Can't think why.

Sorlil said...

I'd love to read a poem with the title of your post!

"I can't go walking anywhere without a thermos of coffee and twenty bars of chocolate" - oh Frances, I think you must be my long lost twin!

Get Off My Lawn! said...

I used to be envious of the history that must just emanate from every landmark over there. I am only learning to appreciate wilderness - just in time to lose it in the name of industry. Sounds like a nice day regardless.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

They do have an awesome feel about them. It must have felt even more like that then.

A Walk in the Andes of England... I'll think about it. Can't think of a rhyme for "wristies"... :)

It was the White Peak for us, once a year. Did all schools in those days water down orange squash just a little bit too much?

WG & RW:
You're welcome.

You had me scratching my head and then it clicked!
"Everybody needs a break,
Climb a mountain or jump in a lake."

It's here. In context, the comparison ("giant nude girls") is not as surrealistic as it sounds.

Neither can I but there is hope yet for a world in which people who search the net for such things find their way into edifying blogs instead.

Interesting thought, English people seeking wilderness as the converse of Americans seeking heritage.