Few landscapes in the county are truly natural, although the highest ridges and summits of the Pennines have a near wilderness quality in places which owes little to human activity.
Much of the landscape has been heavily influenced by man and has evolved gradually over time with each generation adding to the legacy of those who came before. Some landscapes, like the remoter upland moors, have changed little over the last two thousand years. Others, like the settled coalfields, have been subject to enormous changes in the last two centuries.
The following sections provide information about the way the landscape has evolved over time through the different historical periods.