Forest of Bowland

Forest of Bowland Loop 

by Andrew (Andy) Shuttleworth

Andy lives in Garstang, a small town in between Preston and Lancaster and close to the M6 motorway. But there have been a number of "hops" on his journey to this sleepy northern outpost. He left his birthplace in Swadlincote, Derbyshire aged 22 for the bright lights of London. There he trained to become a nurse. After qualifying in 1995 he gained his first position as a staff nurse in the leading heart hospital Harefield. There he worked in the transplant intensive care unit.

Through his career in the NHS he rose to Charge Nurse and his experience led him to an opportinity to work in Japan. As part of this move he let go of his two motorbikes. He was to spend 10 years in Tokyo.

 Returning in 2012 he found work in the north west of England and settled in lovely Formby on the Irish sea coast.  Returning to work as a nurse, he witnessed the trajic death of a 19 year old patient that he'd been caring for. "I suddenly realised how fragile and how short life is", he explained. So he decided to put off no longer something he always wanted to do and he returned to biking. At the age of 40 he found a Blackbird that had just 9,000 miles on the clock and parted with £5,000 in cash. It may have been the obvious choice of bike, as it was his 4th.

Passing his test in 1996 he owned a carbed Blackbird and a CBR600. "The lightness of the CBR600 scared the life out of me, I much preferred the weight and stability of the Blackbird". He had 2 more bikes before emigrating in 2002. With his 10 year hiatus from motorbiking he sensibly decided to get some training following his purchase and had some 1-1 training with an ex police motorcyclist as well as doing the RoSPA course.

The Forest of Bowland was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1964. It is an area of gritstone fells, deep valleys and peat moorland, mostly in north-east Lancashire, with a small part in North Yorkshire 

The Trough of Bowland is a pass connecting the valley of the Marshaw Wyre with that of Langden Brook, and dividing the upland core of Bowland into two main blocks


Andy has created a loop of The Forest of Bowland, taking in the best sights and roads of the area. We'll start at Booth's supermarket in Clitheroe but as it is a loop you can join in from anywhere. 

Clitheroe is an ancient market town with a castle and a population of 17,000. Whilst big enough to warrant some exploration, it's small enough to retain some charm.

Andrew's Route

Leaving Clitheroe on the B6478 you first cross the mighty River Ribble before riding through Waddington.   This village has been a regular winner of Lancashire's "best kept village" award, and it's easy to see why. Follow the road out of the village and you'll reach a bridge over The River Hodder, a tributary to The Ribble and gateway to pretty Newton-in-Bowland. Again, follow the road through the village passing the Parker's Arms. This pub stands in a prominent position and is renowned for its food. I believe there may be a long wait for a table if you come at a busy time.The next village just a few minutes ride away is the charming village of Dunsop Bridge 

Forest of Bowland picture postcards

Andy pointing out the centre of Great Britain

Dunsop Bridge, Centre of Great Britain?

If someone asked you where the centre of Great Britain was would you know? Or more to the point would you care? 

The nearest village to the geographical centre of Britain was officially recognised by the Ordnance Survey in 1992 as being Dunsop Bridge right here on Andy's route.

BT celebrated this fact in 1993 by installing their 100,000th payphone in the village, complete with commemorative glass etchings. It was no other than explorer Ranulph Fiennes who officially declared this phone box open. Despite BT closing the vast majority of call boxes, this one is still up and running after a fierce campaign to save it.

Dunsop Bridge takes its name from the bridge with  two simple arches that spans the river Dunsop. There are public toilets at the car park on the right as you enter.

Passing over the bridge ride for approximately 1/4 mile at a left hand bend there is a right turn signposted Trough of Bowland. Just to the left of the signpost, look for the milestone which dates back to 1739, it also acts as a base for the first finger post. One is still in place to this day. This stone is grade II listed. 

Having turned right you are on the gorgeous Trough Road. Langden Brook is a popular spot and houses Langden Grill a roadside eatery. It is renowned for its good food, so much so that it was featured in an episode of the popular BBC series Hairy Bikers.

The Trough of Bowland

The Trough is scenic and popular with visitors, particularly walkers and cyclists, and it is sometimes considered synonymous with the Forest of Bowland as a whole. In fact forty years ago I'd never heard of the Forest of Bowland this whole area to me was simply, "The Trough" However, today we are aware that it is but a small part of the wider AONB. Andy tells me this is his favourite part of the ride, similar in some ways to the Lakeland passes, but here there is a great advantage that the road isn't choked with cars......sheep on the other hand can be a hazard.

The road rises steeply and eventuallly you reach Jubilee Tower. There is a car park on the right. Andy says, " You must stop here, cross the road and climb the tower steps. The view of Morecambe Bay and the Lakeland fells is amazing" . On a clear day I'm told Blackpool Tower is clearly visible

Images from Dunsop Bridge and "The Trough"

Continue on the road and on a steep descent, turn right at a crossroads S.P. Caton. You will re-enter the Forest of Bowland, continue past the impressive St Peter's church, Quermore, which stands outs in its isolated position.  Andy warns that the next junction is tricky and please take great care. The approach is from an acute angle. Turn right and head for Caton, there you'll find pubs , fuel and a Co-Op.

A worthwhile diversion from here would be the Crook of Lune picnic site. Splendid walks, views, cafe and toilets.

Take a right onto the A683 and ride a little under 4 miles to the fork junction with the B6480 SP Wray & Bentham. follow the road through Wray until you reach Bentham where on its main street you'll make a right turn SP Slaidburn and railway station (Black Bull pub). The small town of Bentham lacks much of the charm of the Forest of Bowland villages. But in just a few minutes you are crossing open moorland and just 2 miles from the centre of Bentham, look for a lay by on the right. For a chance to see and climb Lancashire's very own version of Ayers Rock!

A hamlet bears the name Fourstones so I think it reasonable to think there were originally 4 of these large glacial deposits. Alas its not known what became of the other three, but my best guess is they were broken up for building stone.

Fourteen steps have been carved into the stone to allow you to climb to its "summit".  The stone also serves as a boundary stone marker between Lancashire and Yorkshire, though I'm pleased to say the sunny side and majority of the stone is in Lancashire ;-)

Crook of Lune bridge

The road to Slaidburn is narrow as it crosses open moorland. Cross Greets bridge and  as you edge closer to Slaidburn, the penultimate village on the route, it gradually gets greener. 

In Slaidburn there is a great riverside cafe which is bike friendly. Public toilets are also close to hand.

We'll now be heading back to Clitheroe via the final Forest of Bowland village, Bolton-by-Bowland. But first we'll take in a worthwhile diversion.

The lost village of Stocks-in-Bowland

In 1900, the village consisted of three cottages, a smithy and an inn, the Traveller's Rest. The village church, vicarage and school stood a little apart from the centre of the village.

The land was purchased by the  Fylde Water Board. A dam was then built across the River Hodder and 344 acres of the valley were flooded in March 1933 to form Stocks Reservoir submerging what was the village.

Whilst the school, church and vicarage, stood a little above the reservoir limits, these buildings too were demolished in order to preserve the purity of the water.

The tiny St. James Church, known as Dalehead Chapel, which dated to 1852, stood by the present car park at Stocks Reservoir. A new chapel was built beyond the catchment area, which incorporated masonry and fittings from the original building. We will visit the new St James Church, an isolated chapel. Inside you can read about the history of Stocks.

 St James' church in its new home

 Looking back on the road to Slaidburn - breath-taking road