At a pedestrian crossroads on the South Pennine uplands walkers shared their reasons for venturing into the wilderness.

Posted: 21.05.12

Some people had braved the blustery conditions on Haworth Moor over the Easter weekend to walk the dog; others had travelled half way round the world to make the pilgrimage to Top Withens, the ruined farmhouse thought to be the inspiration for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. All shared their sense of place with researchers carrying out a survey.

“People feel a connection with the landscape, whatever reasons they may have for visiting,” explained Simon Warner, artist in residence for the Watershed Landscape project, managed by rural regeneration company Pennine Prospects. “Haworth Moor, Top Withens and the Brontes bring their own spirit to the place but I think it’s more than that. With the climb in altitude people seem to shed their everyday selves. The South Pennine uplands are isolated and yet, by being able to see so far, they are connected to the wider world.”

“We spent two days near Top Withens, on the footpath leading to it and at Bronte Waterfalls, and asked nearly 50 people how far they had travelled, the reasons for visiting and their impressions. It was a fairly random exercise but I think we got a good cross-section of people and it would probably be a similar story whenever you went up there.”

Simon conducted the interviews with Jasmine Taylor and Rebecca Stott, third year students on the BTEC Diploma in Travel and Tourism at the Keighley Campus of Leeds City College, and Judith Adams and Stacey Johnstone, of Whitestone Arts Company.
“Beyond a certain altitude it’s a pre-industrial landscape with just the remnants of the packhorse trails visible. However with the growing popularity of long distance walking it is reverting back to being a busy landscape as people criss-cross it on the Pennine Way and other paths; now for leisure rather than economic reasons.

“Interestingly we met a few people who had organised themselves into informal walking groups for various reasons. We met a group of middle aged Asian men who are doing quite long walks such as the three peaks every week, and a group of ladies who go to certain places to see very specific things including a spring walk in Addingham to see the flowers. These are groups we would not have known existed without going out onto the moors to speak to people,” added Simon.

Information from the interviews will be used by Whitestone Arts Company, of which Simon is a founder member, to create a mixed-media performance at a symposium, Unbounded Moor, at West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth on October 6. This will bring together a diverse range of presenters, including poet Simon Armitage, to talk about landscape and literature, and share their inspirations.

Meanwhile Simon will be giving an illustrated talk, Picturing the Watershed, in which he will refer to earlier portrayals of the South Pennines uplands by artists like Bill Brandt and Joseph Pighills, and describe how his own landscape techniques have evolved from black and white photography to digital video. The talk, from 2pm on Saturday, June 23, at the Manor House Art Gallery and Museum, Ilkley, is free and there is no need to book.

The Watershed Landscape project, managed by rural regeneration company, Pennine Prospects, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and South Pennines LEADER, aims to enhance and protect the important ecological and heritage features of the landscape for the benefit of future generations and celebrates the uplands as a place of inspiration for all to enjoy.

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust