Forest of Bowland
“Unspoilt and Undiscovered, the area awaits the enterprising walker.”
There is an unwritten rule that the more popular and well known a place is the better and more worthwhile it is to visit. It is a form of ticking. However this is often not the case and is certainly not the case as far as the Forest of Bowland is concerned. Occupying an area between the two trunk roads of the M6 and the A65 north of the Lancashire mill towns the Forest of Bowland is an area of unspoilt beauty with vast tracks of moorland split by wide valleys, pretty streams and a few (but only a few) attractive villages. Farming is the main land use but to the east forbidding Gisburn Forest is a bikers’ paradise and large Stock’s reservoir encourages fishermen on an astonishing level.
Slaidburn is recognised as the capital of the Forest of Bowland with Dunsop Bridge its trusted lieutenant (as well as being the geographical centre point of Britain). However the hills of Longridge and Pendle are fine viewpoints to the west and south whilst Hurst Green is a pretty village where JRR Tolkein took inspiration for the Lord of the Rings.
Slaidburn is an attractive village in the middle of the Forest of Bowland with a deserved reputation for attracting tourists who come principally to walk the area. There is a fine village green beside the River Hodder which is home to a family of friendly ducks and lovely views over the surrounding fells. The village also boasts the wonderful old church of St Andrews and a pub of great character, the Hark to Bounty, named after the squire’s favourite hound. There are many other fine old buildings in Slaidburn; Waterloo House, the old Methodist church, Glebe House and the Slaidburn Heritage Centre are all well preserved due to the slightly unusual history of the village. Since the late 19th century the village has been ‘owned’ by the King Williamson family who have preserved much of the character of the village whilst avoiding the modern developments that tend to crop up on such picturesque village outskirts.
Dunsop Bridge is situated on the apex of the Rivers Dunsop and Hodder from whence the bridge takes its name. It is smaller than Slaidburn with fewer facilities but the tea shop called Puddleducks is an excellent place to buy your essentials. Bird watchers, cyclists and of course walkers will enjoy the peace of this attractive little village. The nearest pub is the famous Inn at Whitewell a mile and a half down river!
Other notable centres of population within or just outside the Forest of Bowland are Chipping and Hurst Green. Chipping is within the boundaries of the Forest Of Bowland in an idyllic location under the moors to the west of the famous Trough of Bowland. It is pretty and traditional with a good pub in its centre and is a place where I would be more than happy to spend a weekend – we even acquired Mist from one of the local farms! Hurst Green is very different, smart and sort after by those living nearby. Aside from being on the doorstep of Stonyhurst College where Tolkein lived and taught, Hurst Green is typical of a village which has prospered by being the workers’ home for a large mansion. It is an attractive village with some excellent pub/restaurants.
Further north and passing through the Trough an area of wild moorland soon drops in to the pretty valley of the River Wenning and two neighbouring villages of High and Low Bentham. Now these two villages really are untouched and unspoilt with some excellent walking country on the doorstep. As a holiday base it is a quieter option to Ingleton yet only a few miles distance – Ingleborough clearly and impressively in view.
The History of the Forest of Bowland is dominated by the feudal system of land ownership introduced over 1,000 years ago. Lords and great families dominated the lands and small settlements grew up which became the villages of today. It was not a poor area and the king himself came up and enjoyed the hunting and as a result preserved the wholesale clearing of land that has taken place in the nearby Yorkshire Dales. Industrialisation never hit the area in any significant way and life passed on unchanged till tourism started to arrive in the last century. Such an area was rife for traditions and rumour typified by the trial and conviction of the Pendle Witches and their subsequent journey to the hangman in 1612. More mundane was the development of Gisburn Forest and the building of Stock’s Reservoir in the last century. However the Forest of Bowland remains one of the most traditional and unchanged areas that exist in England today.
Click on the links below for further details of my favourite walks in the area.
Fair Snape Fell. The stretch of hill between Fair Snape and Parlick is my favourite stretch of walking in the Forest of Bowland.
Fells above Slaidburn. A 7 mile round of the fells to the south of Slaidburn taking in moors, farmland and a lovely stretch of riverside.
Exploring Gisburn Forest. Following some of the cycle routes a good impression of a working forest can be gained.
Circuit of Stock’s Reservoir. A circular walk of 8 miles round man made Stock’s reservoir with some excellent birdlife to be seen.
Villages of Clitheroe. Visit 3 of the idyllic villages near Clitheroe which lie on the River Ribble
Sawley and the Ribble A 10 mile circuit exploring the villages and history of this section of the River Ribble
Pendle Hill from Downham . A steep climb to the plateau is still my favourite way to enjoy Pendle Hill.
Witches of Pendle…hill. Pendle Hill can be seen from miles around in all directions and has a sinister history to explore.
Footsteps of Tolkein. Explores the landscape that inspired JRR Tolkein to write much of Lord of the Rings.
Trough of Bowland. From Dunsop Bridge the walk follows a beautiful valley to the Trough before returning along the River Hodder.
Ruined Castles of Dunsop Bridge. Splendid walking in lovely scenery, just do not get excited by the castles!
Longridge Fell. Pick your way up the forestry path from Hurst Green to experience the far reaching views from the summit.
A Round of Birkett Fell. A walk of great contrast within its 7 miles starting at Dunsop Bridge; farmland, rivers, woodland and moors all combine.
Slaidburn – Croasdale Beck. A short walk around the foothills of the Slaidburn moors.
Bentham Riverside Walk. A quiet walk along the River Wenning on good paths which link High and Low Bentham
Other Things to do in the Forest of Bowland
Slaidburn Heritage Centre. An excellent collection of memorabilia displaying the history of farming in the area.
Stonyhurst College. A grand old building often open to the public where amongst others Arthur Conan Doyle was a scholar and JRR Tolkein resided.
Bowland Wild Boar Park. Near the pretty village of Chipping the park offers a great day out for families including the ‘tractor and barrel ride’.
Cobble Hey. Near the M6 at Garstang Cobble Hey is a working farm with spectacular gardens in a delightful setting.
Browsholme Hall. The oldest surviving family home in Lancashire there are guided tours through the house and gardens.
Gisburn Forest. For more information from the Forestry Commission visit their web site.
Sawley Abbey. The remains of a Cistercian abbey at Sawley offer a glimpse in to the past when religious orders were all powerful
For further information on the area visit Forest of Bowland.com
Updated Weather Forecast
Click here to go to the Met Office website for the 5 day weather forecast for the Forest of Bowland area.