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back to Book Reviews

The Pennine Way
by Roly Smith with Photographs by John Morrison
Published by Frances Lincoln
ISBN 978-0-7112-3024-8

The Pennine Way by Roly SmithHaving spent my first twenty-one years living in and around the Peak District, I can remember many days visiting friends and relatives in my mother’s birthplace of
Edale. In fact, my grandmother worked as a maid at the Nag’s Head in the 1930s. It is from here that I used to walk upward onto the plateau of Kinder Scout and watch ‘the
brave’ toiling under heavy rucksacks as they started their trip along the backbone of England, the Pennine Way. I was filled with envy.

However, I think it is true to say that in more recent times Tom Stephenson’s marathon route has been somewhat relegated from its position as our premier long-distance path. When discussing the subject, folk appear more inclined to quote from Wainwright’s personal notes at the end of his Pennine Way Companion: ‘You won’t come across me anywhere along the Pennine Way. I’ve had enough of it’, or try to convince you that your chances of surviving the peat hags of Black Hill are remote.

Thankfully, along has come a refreshing publication by Roly Smith, graced with stunning photography by John Morrison, which reminds the fell walker that we should remember what the Pennine Way has to offer.

With an eloquent mix of history and personal recollection, Roly Smith paints a vivid picture of how Tom Stephenson battled against the authorities before finally prevailing with his plan to see free access from Edale to Scotland over some of the most fiercely protected grouse moors in England. We are given a taste of the many highlights along the way and, quite rightly, informed of the lonely and desolate nature of such places as the infamous Black Hill.

The quality of John Morrison’s photography gives due credit to the grand-daddy of our long-distance paths; from limestone pavements to gritstone moors, the pages make the route come alive in the reader’s living room.

So, if you are looking at taking on one of our intrepid long-distance paths, and you have three weeks to spare in which to do it, could I suggest you have a look at The Pennine Way by Roly Smith. You may find yourself booking into the Nag’s Head in Edale for a quiet night before the journey begins.

reviewed by Lindsay Shaw - Member No. 852