Visiting the moors

Photo Catherine Gras

Heathland is a characteristic feature of the landscape in the north of England, Wales and Scotland, especially in the small mid-mountain ranges such as the Peak District, Lake District, Yorkshire Moors, Snowdonia…

It took me some time to realise that what made these landscapes so strange, so attractive… was the absence of trees. This was not always the case, most of these hills, mountains, plains were forested a few centuries ago, but reforestation is not likely to happen soon.

Indeed, these regions have been deforested by man and remain so because extensive sheep farming is most often practised there. The rare areas of reforestation must be protected from their voracity.

It is often said that there are more sheep than people in the UK, and this is probably true. They keep the vegetation short and what’s left is mainly what’s not very edible: broom, heather…

Extensive breeding does not mean that the herds roam freely everywhere, but it can be said that they reign over this moorland area. It is up to the walker to find his way between the low dry stone walls, fortunately the right of way is manifested by these often quite original ways of jumping the walls:

In these “medium mountain” massifs, which are quite old, there is a combination of fairly short vegetation and an eroded relief, which gives a landscape made up of undulations. Here again, the walker should be careful if he does not want to get lost, especially as the marking of paths is almost non-existent:


As the seasons change, the moor will change colour, here is the late autumn view of the Peak District:

In low winter light, it looks like this:


As you go up in altitude, the moor itself becomes scarce and the next level becomes more mineral, here in the Lake District:

To the point where all vegetation disappears like in the Snowdown massif:


And with the snow, the landscape is transformed again:

Especially as the wind is often quite strong on the summits and will create piles of snow or ice.

Like here at Snowdownia, which is just over 1000m high. But don’t be fooled, even if the altitude is relatively low, the unstable conditions make it a climb that can be complicated, a sunny start does not guarantee an arrival at the summit without fog or ice. The proof in pictures with the descent from the summit, during two different ascents:

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