Seeing in the New Decade

Happy New Year! Many people see the New Year as a chance to seek fresh challenges and throw off any of the negatives of the past year – a time for new beginnings and new horizons. New Year traditions emphasise change, whether celebrating with friends, watching the fireworks or having a few glasses of wine (see the answer to last month’s MustGetOutMore Question, below!!!!). A recent New Year’s fashion, and not just amongst mountaineers, has been to climb the highest local hill on New Year’s Day.  In some cases this means an early start to see the dawn of the New Year at the summit, and for a few hardy souls the challenge is to climb late at night on New Year’s Eve to see in the New Year at the summit! Whatever the hill or the timing, it is a good way to start the year, with a challenge completed and, weather permitting, the joys of a clear long view – just what is needed as you head into the New Year and, this year, a new decade!

Getting to the highest hill top is obviously easier in some places than others. Climbing Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in the City Edinburgh (251m high) (Grid Reference NT27537295), is a straightforward stroll, for example, whereas summiting Ben Macdui in the Cairngorm Mountains (at 1309m, the 2nd highest mountain in the UK and the County Top for Aberdeenshire) (Grid Reference NN98909890) is only for the seasoned mountaineer with the right equipment and a good weather forecast. And then there’s a key question – which hill is really the one to climb! It’s easy to find a list of the County Tops – the summits which are the highest points above sea level in each county. But just as each county has its County Top, so each county also has its Most Prominent Hill – this is the hill or mountain with the greatest ‘drop’, which is the height its summit above its surrounding landscape rather than sea level. And the County Top and the Most Prominent Hill aren’t always the same place!

The county of North Yorkshire is renowned walking country with the beautiful hills and valleys of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks. In the far north west of the county lie the famous “Three Peaks” of Whernside, Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough. All are accessible to walkers and not just mountaineers and all provide a fantastic long distance view from the top. The tallest of the three is Whernside (Grid Reference SD73858142), which is the County Top of North Yorkshire at a height of 736m above sea level. But Whernside is not the Most Prominent Hill in the county. That honour falls to Ingleborough (Grid Reference SD74127459, which although its summit stands “only” 724m above sea level, is actually 427m above the surrounding landscape – and that is a full 19m greater than Whernside’s ‘drop’. So the County Top and the Most Prominent Hill are not the same place – and that means that at the same time Whernside is 12m higher than Ingleborough and Ingleborough is 19m taller than Whernside!

In the northern part of the West Midlands the county of Staffordshire has a similar situation. The highest point in the county lies in heather moorland at 519m above sea level on the northernmost county boundary. But while it’s the highest place you can be within Staffordshire, it’s a bit of a disappointment because it’s just a point on the south west side of Cheeks Hill (Grid Reference SK02506980), whose actual summit is about 25 metres to the north, a few metres or so higher in altitude, and actually over the border in Derbyshire. It’s not even the Most Prominent Hill in the county, for that lies some 10km to the south west – ‘The Cloud’ (Grid Reference SJ90406370), which is on the county’s north-west boundary with Cheshire about 4km north east of Congleton can be seen from a long distance away, and although it is only 343m high, it stands proud and prominent at 177m above the valley of the River Dane.

Much further south the county of Kent also has a different County Top and Most Prominent Hill. The highest hill in Kent is Betsom’s Hill, just north of Westerham on the North Downs, whose summit is 251m above sea level (Grid Reference TQ43535639). Betsom’s Hill is unique amongst County Tops in the UK in being the only one which is not accessible, as it is on private land. Perhaps it is a good thing, therefore, that the Most Prominent Hill is some 20km east. Detling Hill stands just north of Maidstone on the chalk of the North Downs, and provides a popular walk and viewpoint. Although only reaching a summit height of 200m, which makes it only the 9th highest hill in Kent, its ‘drop’ of 163m makes it the most prominent in the county (Grid Reference TQ80495865). It makes a great destination at any time of the year, but is certainly an impressive place to celebrate the New Year.

You can find out which hill is the County Top in your own county and also which is the Most Prominent Hill, by visiting the website at

And Finally….!

The Must Get Out More Question !

Which is the highest offshore island in the UK (i.e. not on the mainland of Great Britain or Ireland) ?


The Answer to the Last Question

Actually, two questions for you to think about while you enjoy a glass of wine over the Christmas and New Year festivities…….Where is the largest vineyard in the UK? : and, Where is the largest wine producer in the UK?

The UK has 672 vineyards which between them cover 1675ha. The largest single vineyard is Denbies, just north of Dorking in Surrey, which has 90ha in vines (Grid Reference TQ16555114). The Nyetimber vineyards at West Chiltington, 3km east of Pulborough in West Sussex actually cover a larger area (171ha), but their vines are planted across 7 detached and separate plots (Grid Reference TQ07911879). The largest wine producer in the UK is Chapel Down, which is located at Small Hythe, 4km south of Tenterden in Kent (Grid Reference TQ89213040). It has ‘only’ 78ha of its own vineyards but also buys grapes from many other vineyards across south east England to make its award-winning wines. All three of these ‘largest’ wine growers and producers have a Visitors Centre open for most of the year where their wines can be tried and tasted.


The Record Locations

You can use the Grid References provided to locate record locations on a map at

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