Nestled between the Lancashire coast, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District is the Forest of Bowland, much less well known than the others, but without doubt just as beautiful. Features Writer Rob Bullock looks at this gem, what makes it special and some of the interesting places to visit.
It takes just one visit to agree that the Forest of Bowland is well named as an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). But that official designation which means that local authorities, national environmental agencies and local representatives plan and implement the best way of maintaining the area’s natural charms rubber stamps the official loveliness of this small part of northern England which sits on the very edge of Lancaster District.
A slower, more peaceful way of life
The Forest of Bowland has a fantastic network of Public Rights of Way. There are plenty of quiet lanes which are great for cycling. So why not leave the car behind and explore some of the many unique villages steeped in history.
Slow down and immerse yourself in the peacefulness of the area by avoiding the busy spots, take your time and savour the sights, sounds and smells of this, officially, beautiful place.
Perfectly placed and easily accessed
Sitting in between Lancaster on the north west, Settle on the north east, Clitheroe on the southeast, and Garstang on the southwest, the Forest of Bowland is ideally placed for a family day out and you can be there in less than an hour.
The Forest of Bowland is one of the last remaining outposts of traditional wildflower meadows in England. Traditional hay meadows across our land once hummed with the sound of millions of pollinators flitting from flower to flower, but due to modern farming techniques habitat loss has drastically reduced their numbers.
But an alliance of local farmers, landowners and volunteers have organised themselves to hand raise crops of wildflowers for transplanting into fields which are staging a recovery from, literally, the roots up! This time of the year is the perfect time to see rewilding right on our doorstep.
Places to visit:
Dunsop Bridge -this lovely Bowland town was once part of Yorkshire prior to the boundary changes in the 1970s and is a perfect place to use as a starting point for a walk in the beautiful surrounding countryside. For many years it was also thought to be the geographical centre of Britain before modern GPS systems determined that the point lay a few miles away in Whitendale.
A notable point of interest is Dunsop Bridge’s St Hubert’s Church – a 19th century Roman Catholic church designed by Edward Pugin.
Slaidburn – is part of Bowland that was, once again, previously within the boundaries of Yorkshire, and despite its small size, it is popular with visitors.
The area around the village is a Dark Sky Discovery Site and nearby Stocks Reservoir is the largest fly fishery in the North West. The reservoir has some lovely walks that range from easy to difficult and there are plenty of places to have a picnic.
A notable place of interest in the Hark to Bounty pub which rumour has it is thought to have been named after a particularly noisy dog.
Trough of Bowland – is a stunning pass that reaches almost 300 metres above sea level and is one of the most iconic stretches of countryside in Lancashire. It is well worth a slow drive with plenty of stops to marvel at the view. Why not stop, enjoy a picnic and savour the moment.
As well as the natural beauty, there is also some interesting human history here too, it was the route taken by the “Pendle witches” to their trial at Lancaster Castle in 1612.
Stonyhurst – is a 16th century Jesuit college, whose notable alumni include Arthur Conan Doyle and various global prime ministers and presidents. It sits on the southern edge of the Forest of Bowland and has some fascinating buildings and gardens within its grounds.
However, it is the surrounding area that primarily brings people here; the circular walk starting and finishing at Hurst Green is called the ‘Tolkien Trail’ and takes in the area in between the village and the school and it is thought that it inspired the Lord of the Rings author during his regular visits here. In fact, it is thought that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote part of The Lord of the Rings in a classroom on the Upper Gallery during his stay at the college where his son taught Classics. So, immortalised by Tolkien, the Forest of Bowland has inspired generations of readers across the world.
Famous well beyond its boundaries, there are plenty of interesting nooks and crannies in this area of outstanding natural beauty, so why not have a day out and explore the Forest of Bowland.