The South Pennines-based project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and local community group South Pennine Leader, spent three years improving the local landscape.
It was chosen from a range of entrants from across the UK and will now go forward to the European Landscape Awards in 2013. The UK award is run every two years by Defra and regional nature groups from the four nations.
Natural environment minister Richard Benyon said: "This project is within an hour of where seven million people live and is an internationally important area for birds, a vital store of carbon, a place to visit for walkers and cyclists that enhances rural tourism and an inspiration to artists and writers."
Judges were won over by how the project prompted people to think differently about their landscape. It involved 30 community groups and 1,300 volunteers giving 7,000 hours of their time. Jobs included tree planting, dry-stone walling improvement and restoration of hay meadows and moorland.
The UK winner in 2010, Durham Heritage Coast, was a runner-up in the European Landscape Award 2011. Visit www.uklandscapeaward.org