Not far from the bustling crowds of modern day Britain are many wild and magical places where time almost seems to stand still. From bleak open moorlands to ancient woodlands and soaring hillsides, England has some spectacular and unforgettable landscapes. Here are five of the best. Any of these can be enjoyed on weekend breaks in England and are easily accessible.
Bodmin Moor is a place rich in myth and legend. Its wild, bleak landscape has inspired numerous poets and novelists, from Alfred Tennyson to Daphne du Maurier, and many more stories have been handed down through the ages. Tales talk of fairies and the Devil, of ghosts and witches, giants and ferocious black dogs. Standing stones are the remains of people turned to stone, while lakes are the bottomless home of the fabled sword Excalibur. Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Jamaica Inn, was inspired during a time when Cornwall was notorious for smugglers that hid out on the moor. This is a place where you can quickly become lost in the mist, where the wind is a constant howl in the background, where you might easily slip back into another time.
Laurie Lee captured the beauty of the early 20th century Cotswolds in the novel Cider with Rosie. It is a world that has largely disappeared, but you can still catch glimpses of it in the landscape, in the quaint cottages nestled amidst rolling hills and gentle valleys, and in the meadows, farms and woodlands. Pass by Lee’s home, Rosebank Cottage, and stop to feed the ducks at Steanbridge Pond. Gaze over the valley, looking out for roe and fallow deer, and walk through woodland, listening out for the drilling of woodpeckers in spring. You can also visit Lee’s school, just by the entrance to the village, and his grave at Holy Trinity Church.
Creswell Crags, Derbyshire
The spectacular limestone gorges of Creswell Crags are an ancient world of caves and valleys, woodlands and wild flowers. It is also the site for an amazing number of prehistoric finds and, significantly, the only place in Britain where you can see rock painting in caves dating from the Ice Age. Immerse yourself in a world of deer and bison, birds and rivers, and imagine yourself a hunter thousands of years ago, sheltering in the warmth of the cave.
Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
One of the few remaining patches of ancient woodland in England, Sherwood Forest offers visitors a glimpse into another world. With its twisted oaks and sunny glades, its cascading streams and mythical heaths, this is a place of folklore and ballad. Take yourself back to a time where there were outlaws living amidst the trees, to when Robin Hood and his compatriots practiced swordplay and archery, and stole from the rich to give to the poor. There are over a thousand ancient oaks in Sherwood Forest, dating back hundreds of years to medieval times. Look out too for longhorn cattle, common in medieval times and now reintroduced to graze and maintain the heathland.
Calderdale, West Yorkshire
The wild moorland of Calderdale is a bleak and beautiful place for walking. It is also the place where Ted Hughes took inspiration for much of his work, and he was born in the town of Mytholmroyd. Imagine farming the unforgiving Yorkshire hills of his poem Crow Hill, and gaze at ancient stones and valleys. This is not quaint English countryside but a windswept, hostile landscape, marked by ancient tradition and ways of life.