An Ever Changing Landscape

How the open moorland landscape of the South Pennines came to look the way it does today is a complex story of human exploitation and environmental change. It is a landscape in which countless generations of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, and early farmers of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages lived. Gradually, the use and re-use of this upland environment over a period of thousands of years, coupled with climatic decline led to the uplands becoming cleared of trees and scrub, and the soils becoming poorer.

Although no longer a place in which to live, the uplands continued to play a vital role in all that we see around us today. It was the wool from the sheep that grazed the moor and the high energy streams that flowed down it to power the waterwheels of the mills, which combined to bring about the growth of the textile industry. Later it was the seams of coal and good quality building stone from beneath its surface that enabled industry to expand, and people to build the urban landscapes for an ever increasing population. Maintaining such large industrial populations also required a good supply of water which was provided by the uplands through an elaborate system of water management - the reservoirs.

So much about where we live, what we do, and how we go about our daily lives has been determined by our relationship with the uplands. This in turn has left its mark on the landscape. An interactive guide is available to help you investigate this rich cultural landscape. The Spotters Guide can be found here.