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Downs, Dell, Moors, & Heath


No, the title of this post is not the name of a boy band (but it would be pretty cool right?). If you’ve ever read a novel set in the UK in the 1800s – 1900s, you’re likely to have come across a scene where a ‘spirited’ Bronte or Austen-esque heroine was standing or walking along some Moors. Or a Heath. Or Downs. Or (can you guess what’s next?) Dell. My point is, there are lots of names and when I come across any of these words in a book, I imagine the same grassy area at the top of a cliff, overlooking the ocean.

I should note that I’m talking about these spots in relation to physical geography. Almost each name has an alternate use, so don’t worry, I’m not referring to the Moors (people) of North Africa or the Heath chocolate bar (which I’ve never had because toffee sucks so I’m sure it sucks).

Downs: So what’s Downs? (Nothing, what’s downs with you?) A downland is referred to as a range of open chalk hill, and seems to especially refer to the chalk countryside in areas of England. Areas of downland are often known as downs, deriving from the Old English word ‘dūn’, meaning “hill”. I feel personally validated in agreeing with this because I recently visited the Seven Sisters Hills in England, and came across a sign to “South Downs Way”, which was actually the inspiration for this post.

Dell: Google “Dell” and the software company will take over the search results. A Dell in geography is “a secluded hollow or small valley usually covered with trees or turf.” . The word is related to the Middle English ‘delle’ and the Old English ‘dæl’, which means ‘valley’ . Also some words of warning: you’ll inevitably get the song “the farmer in the dell” stuck in your head and will actually end up googling the lyrics. Research is fun, isn’t it? Also, if the farmer is in the dell, then that means he took the wife and cow, dog, cat, mouse etc. there with him? Is that why the cheese stands alone? What happened to his Farm? Aren’t the barn and farmhouse worthy?

Moors: Moors or Moorland seems to be British in origin – it is defined as an “expanse of rolling infertile land”. Other definitions add to it by specifying that it is a type of upland / highland which, among other things, is determined by its elevation above sea level. It is also described as a boggy area.

Also, if you’ve read about moors, I’m like…70% sure that the moors have been described as ‘craggy’. Craggy actually means ‘a rough and uneven cliff or rock face’, and apparently can also be used to describe someone’s face “in an attractive way’. Not sure whether to say ouch or not…

Heath: Wuthering Heights is on my list of to-read classics, but Heathcliff comes to mind first even though I can’t make a clever book-related reference. Heath and Moors seem to generally mean the same thing – an area of land with poor, coarse soil, poor drainage and a peaty surface. Some descriptions call it a wasteland. Rough.


Bookmark: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, of course.
Waypoint: 50.7477° N, 0.1898° E are the coordinates for the Seven Sisters formation in Sussex, England. The walk is tough if you go on a rainy day and have to detour and haven’t trained at all, but its peace & wildness make it worth the trip.
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