On this day in history : 24th April 1965 – The Pennine Way, a 268 mile trail – often called the ‘Backbone of England’ – which runs across the Pennine Hills is officially opened….img_3028

The trail begins at Edale in the northern Derbyshire Peak District – (the traditional starting point being the Old Nags Head public house) – through the Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park and ends at Kirk Yetholm on the Scottish border….

The Old Nags Head, Edale – image credit: Clem Rutter

It was the brainchild of journalist and Rambler Tom Stephenson…. Inspired by similar trails in the United States, especially the Appalachian Trail, he wrote an article for the Daily Herald in 1935, entitled ‘Wanted: A Long Green Trail’….

Below Ing Scar

Stephenson, a founder member of the Ramblers and a strong campaigner for walkers’ rights confided to his friends that his ulterior motive was to open up moorlands that had long been closed to the public by landowners…. In 1948, to publicise the trail, he organised a three-day walk from Middleton-in-Teeside up to Hadrian’s Wall…. Several prominent MPs got involved, including Barbara Castle and Arthur Blenkinsop….

Before the Pennine Way was officially opened to the public it was tested by soldiers from the Junior Tradesman’s Regiment of Army Catering Corps…. Split into small groups of four or five, each covering a 15-mile section of the walk, they checked the route’s feasibility and signage…. They completed the task in just one day…. The record for the fastest completion by a single individual is 2 days, 17 hours, 20 minutes and 15 seconds – completed by runner Mike Hartley in July 1989 who did not even stop to sleep….

The Pennine Way on Ickornshaw Moor

On the 24th of April 1965 the final section of the trail was declared open in a ceremony that took place on Malham Moor….hundreds of walkers attended…. The first guide-book was written by Tom Stephenson and published in 1969…. Nowadays, the route is used by approximately 250,000 day walkers per year and 15,000 long distance trekkers…. 458 signs mark the way and walkers encounter 249 stiles, 204 bridges and 287 gates….

The Schil and the Pennine Way

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