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      July 2011 > Let's go for a walk up Hill-Hill Hill

Let's go for a walk up Hill-Hill Hill

Lake Achensee, AustriaOne of the questions at our pub quiz the other nights was “which is the largest lake in the Lake District?” “Ah”, I thought, “trick question – but I know the answer.” Feeling very smug I wrote down ‘Lake Bassenthwaite’, of course, because it’s actually the only ‘lake’ in the Lake District by name – all the others are mere ‘meres’ or ‘waters’. Needless to say, the ‘correct’ answer given by our quizmaster was ‘Lake Windermere’.

Now, I’m not one to make a fuss – it’s only a bit of fun – and ‘Lake Windermere’ is perfectly acceptable BUT strictly speaking that’s like saying ‘Lake Winder Lake’, which happens to be the largest ‘body of water’ in the Lake, Mere, Water & Tarn District. Such conventions are accepted and, as you may have noticed in our brochures/website, we talk about ‘Lake Achensee’ (above) and ‘Lake Oeschinensee’, even though See also means ‘lake’. It may not be strictly correct, but it certainly avoids any confusion and helps the reader understand the geographical feature we are alluding to, especially if they don’t speak the language.

Sierra Nevada SpainIt’s similar with the ancient pine forests that once covered much of the lands of the southern Mediterranean, but these rare pine trees, Laurus canariensis, are now confined to the remoter interiors of the Canary Islands (bottom image - Tenerife). Such forests are the famous laurissilva, laurel forests, that you will often see written as laurissilva forests, i.e. ‘laurel forest forests’. Staying in Spain, you also hear people talking about the Sierra Nevada Mountains (right) - even though sierra means ‘mountains’.

It reminded me of how Pendle Hill in Lancashire got its name…

Pen is a Celtic word for ‘hill’ or ‘peak’, as in Pen-y-Fan, the highest mountain in South Wales, and Penyghent, one of the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks. The story goes that when the Anglo-Saxons invaded and began to settle in the north, they asked the local Britons what their hill was called and they were told ‘Pen’ – i.e. “it’s just a hill!” The incomers nodded and said, “Apparently, that’s Pen Hyll”, (adding hyll, the Old English for …well, hill).

Over the following centuries, the words evolved and merged into ‘Pend-hyll’ – which was fine – and then from Pendill to Pendle, until the modern era, when its original meaning had become sufficiently blurred for the suffix ‘hill’ to be added once more! Today, Pendle Hill is famed as the home of the so-called witches who were executed in Lancaster in the 17th century, but I always think of its wonderful triple name which simply means ‘Hill-Hill Hill’.

There must be many more topographical place-names or geographical features with this kind of repeated etymology, so if you know any in common usage, please let me know…

Laurissilva, Tenerife

Posted: 15/07/2011 17:13:41 by | with 2 comments
Filed under: Austria, heritage, Spain, UK, walking

Thank you so much for this blog - it reminds me that God is always there no matter how big those mountains I climb. Though sometimes I'm tired to face mountain after mountain, it reminds me that God is still watching.
22/02/2012 03:29:58

Frank Watson
Good accurate article, living in Clitheroe I know Pendle Hill Hill Hill very well!!!
19/07/2011 16:33:46

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