Pennine Poets and Prose

3rd January 2017

I can still remember vividly first reading the words that Yorkshire Poet Ian McMillan wrote for the celebrations of the Pennine Way’s 40th Anniversary back in 2005.................

‘The Pennine way is a beautiful thing

In summer, autumn, winter, spring.

As the clouds dance across the Pennine sky

And the wild birds wheel past the walker’s eye’.

These simple and unfussy words for me capture completely the spirit of England’s greatest long distant footpath.

I was drawn to express myself in prose after my first Pennine Way adventure a year or two earlier, although I didn’t manage to capture the feeling of being on the ‘Way’ like Ian did.

At the time all I wanted was to express the joy and exhilaration at completing a most unforgettable and in many ways life changing adventure.

The ‘Way’ spoke to my heart and soul, as it does to so many who walk along the backbone of England.  I have been penning and jotting my thoughts ever since.

Ian is not the only writer to have expressed the Pennine Way in words.  There is much written either about or because of the Pennine Way and its landscapes.

Simon Armitage born deep in the Pennines at Marsden writes beautifully direct prose and poetry which capture the heart and soul of this land. His words are even written on the landscape if you know where to look.

Emily Bronte, who’s Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, puts the wildness of the high Pennine moorlands at the very heart of classical literature.

Don’t forget Ted Hughes. A Poet Laureate, born in Mytholmroyd in the Upper Calder Valley, he spent his childhood roaming the moors, a landscape which had a deep and profound influence upon his life and his work.

But for me it will always be Ian’s beautiful words which come closest to the feeling of exhilaration at being out on ‘the Way’. -  I wonder what yours are?

If you are a budding writer or poet, and you want to be inspired by the landscape then take a walk along the Pennine Way. Wherever you go on the trail there will be plenty to encourage and captivate you. I guarantee you will return often.

Finally I must introduce you, if you haven’t already met, to the work of another great Pennine poet Ammon Wrigley. A man whose whole life was spent tramping the high moorlands and writing wonderful poetry and prose inspired by it. When he died in 1946, his ashes were scattered around the Dinner Stone, a rock formation on Standedge, high on the moors above Saddleworth. Standedge (pronounced Stannige), is a stunning moorland escarpment in the Pennine Hills along which the Pennine Way follows. If you take the trouble as you pass that way, you can find a small plaque attached to the grit-stone which commemorates his life. From Standedge there is one of the best Pennine views of the whole trail.

 A verse he wrote can apply to me or you or anyone who tries to put words to their feelings:

‘But whatever I’ve writ - is writ,

Whether it be blest or curst,

O remember the little that’s good

And forgive and forget the worst’.

There are plenty of great days out and excellent short circular walks to give you a taste of the mighty Pennine Way.

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Stoodley Pike, Calderdale - istock/petejeff
"Rain" by Simon Armitage - Roger Styles