Various "gateways" to the North
For government and statistical purposes, Northern England is defined as the area covered by the three statistical regions of North East England, North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber. This area consists of the ceremonial counties of Cheshire, Cumbria, County Durham, East Riding of Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and West Yorkshire, plus the unitary authority areas of North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire. This definition will be used in this article, except when otherwise stated.
Northern England as defined along historic county boundaries
Other definitions use historic county boundaries, in which case the North is generally taken to comprise Cumberland, Northumberland, Westmorland, County Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire, often supplemented by Cheshire, or are drawn without reference to human borders, using geographic features such as the River Mersey and River Trent. The Isle of Man is occasionally included in definitions of "the North" (for example, by the Survey of English Dialects, VisitBritain and BBC North West), although it is politically and culturally distinct from England.
Some areas of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire have Northern characteristics and include satellites of Northern cities. Towns in the High Peak borough of Derbyshire are included in the Greater Manchester Built-Up Area, as villages and hamlets there such as Tintwistle, Crowden and Woodhead were formerly in Cheshire before local government boundary changes in 1974, due to their close proximity to the city of Manchester, and before this the borough was considered to be part of the Greater Manchester Statutory City Region. More recently, the Chesterfield, North East Derbyshire, Bolsover, and Derbyshire Dales districts have joined with districts of South Yorkshire to form the Sheffield City Region, along with the Bassetlaw District of Nottinghamshire, although for all other purposes these districts still remain in their respective East Midlands counties. The geographer Danny Dorling includes most of the West Midlands and part of the East Midlands in his definition of the North, claiming that "ideas of a midlands region add more confusion than light". Conversely, more restrictive definitions also exist, typically based on the extent of the historical Northumbria, which exclude Cheshire and Lincolnshire. [a]
Personal definitions of the North vary greatly and are sometimes passionately debated. When asked to draw a dividing line between North and South, Southerners tend to draw this line further south than Northerners do. From the Southern perspective, Northern England is sometimes defined jokingly as the area north of the Watford Gap between Northampton and Leicester[b] – a definition which would include much of the Midlands. Various cities and towns have been described as or promoted themselves as the "gateway to the North", including Crewe, Stoke-on-Trent, and Sheffield. For some in the northernmost reaches of England, the North starts somewhere in North Yorkshire around the River Tees – the Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage suggests Thirsk, Northallerton or Richmond – and does not include cities like Manchester and Leeds, nor the majority of Yorkshire. Northern England is not a homogenous unit, and some have entirely rejected the idea that the North exists as a coherent entity, claiming that considerable cultural differences across the area overwhelm any similarities.