The River Ribble at dawn, just east of West Bradford bridge. SD749441.

River Ribble [more...]

Beech on Longridge Fell, near Brownslow, Green Thorn. Most of Longridge Fell is conifer but there are hidden islands of hardwoods. SD665403.

On Longridge Fell [more...]

The view from the top of Pendle Hill towards East Lancashire, and Barley in the wooded valley. SD805414.

Sheep on top of Pendle [more...]

Forest of Bowland photographs

Precious landscapes

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are defined as "precious landscapes whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation's interest to safeguard them". The Forest of Bowland AONB has an area of 802 square kilometres and was designated in 1964. It is largely in the county of Lancashire. Nine percent of the area is within North Yorkshire (although prior to county boundary changes in the 1970′s, Lancashire was the minority county). It is bounded in the north by the Lune, to the south by the Ribble Valley (notwithstanding Pendle Hill south of the Ribble), to the west by the Fylde and to the east by the Yorkshire Dales National Park. About 16,000 people live in the AONB.

Ward's Stone
Ward's Stone.

The high peaks are Ward′s Stone (561 m), Pendle Hill (557 m), White Hill (544 m) and Wolfhole Crag (527 m).


The principal surface rock is millstone grit, with carboniferous limestone beneath. There are outcrops of surface limestone, principally around Clitheroe, where the prominent rounded outcrops are described as tropical reef knolls (or more accurately, Waulsortian mounds). There is also limestone on the surface near Sykes Farm on the Trough road and near Chipping. In some areas, the roads and tracks are bounded by limestone dry-stone walls on one side, and grit walls on the other.

The Trough of Bowland is a pass and accomodates one of the few roads that crosses the fells. It was formed as a glacial melt channel in the Devensian (last) ice-age. The Trough can be very inhospitable in the winter, but rather busy on a summer Sunday.

Hen Harriers
Hen Harrier (male in the foreground).


The SSSI within the Forest is the largest expanse of heather moorland and blanket bog within Lancashire and is noted for its breeding upland birds, particularly the Hen Harrier. In 2006 for example, there were 22 breeding attempts, resulting in 12 successfull Harrier nests, which produced a total of 46 birds. 2009 was a poor year nationally with the worst Hen Harrier breeding figures since monitoring by Natural England's Hen Harrier Recovery Project began. There were 8 attempts at breeding in Bowland, only 4 of which were successfull, resulting in 10 fledglings.

Peregrines breed successfully. The picture is less secure for the Ring Ouzel (a relative of the Blackbird) with only 14 breeding pairs in 2004, one sixth of the numbers in the early 1990′s. There is also a noisy colony of Lesser Black-backed Gulls high on the fells near Mallowdale and Tarnbrook (10% of the British population).

Red Grouse inhabit the fells. The Grouse shooting activities of the landowners have had a notable positive impact on the environmental management of the fells. The consequential limitations on public access were relaxed in the late 1970′s when Lancashire County Council negotiated some access agreements with the landowners. There is now Open Access and of course this brings with it responsibilities for walkers, and some restrictions on access for walkers with dogs.

Clough near Brennand Great Hill
Clough near Brennand Great Hill

Fells and Cloughs

The high fells have little agricultural value save the rough grazing of sheep. Forestry is limited in area - the largest forest in Lancashire near Slaidburn and Tosside (Gisburn Forest) was first planted in 1949. It adjoins Stocks Reservoir which was constructed between 1922 and 1932. The valley of Dalehead (including Stocks-in-Bowland village) was depopulated and flooded for its construction (see Dalehead and Stocks-in-Bowland for an excellent account).

The cloughs are a characteristic feature of Bowland. Ancient woodland survives in these gulleys, contrasting with the tree-less fells they drain. The upper fells are wild but these beautiful niches offer a delightful experience if you climb up them, and they also provide welcome respite from the wind!

The cloughs have an interesting collection of names, many indicative of the flora or former uses and content: Ashendean Clough, Wimberry Clough, Dead Man's Stake Clough (?!), Smelt Mill Clough (lead mining), Near Costy Clough, White Syke Clough (syke is old Norse for a small stream or gully), Brackenholes Clough, Higher Stony Clough, Long Reedy Clough, Birch Clough Rigg (ridge).