forest of bowlandI was staying with my sister in Blackpool for a few days, in preparation for the Manchester to Blackpool Cycle Ride, and after spending a day in the Lakes I decided that I’d love to see more of the Forest of Bowland, which is virtually on their door step.

We have walked over Nicky Nook Fell many a time, but I had a hankering to explore a bit further afield, and picked out a walk up Grit Fell and Clougha Pike- a fell overshadowing the City of Lancaster.

Now, don’t expect lots of photos of trees because although the Forest of Bowland is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it isn’t actually a forest, but ‘forest’ in the traditional sense of Royal Hunting Land. It is a wild Pennine landscape of heather, sweeping moorland and rocky outcrops not unlike the Dark Peak. But forest it ain’t.

I left my car in the surprisingly spacious car park off Rigg Lane near the tiny village of Quernmore and set off along an ancient green drover’s track, which crossed the small but surprisingly high stone aqueduct that is Ottergear Bridge. Although it was cloudy and rather dull I had hopes that the sun would break through.

Ottergear Bridge

Ottergear Bridge

A gravel shooter’s track took me into the fells, and although it was easy walking, it was a long, gradual uphill ascent. This area feels very remote, and I didn’t see another soul. It is prime grouse shooting land and every so often the grouse would fly up, uttering their strange cries that almost sound like human laughter. The whole area is now access land and so the local land owners can no longer keep us plebs out!

Wild rolling moorland

Wild rolling moorland

I passed three strange looking stone cairns and deviated to take a closer look, then realised they are not cairns at all, but a set of three sculptures commissioned by the Duke of Westminster who owns this land. Created by artist Andy Goldsworthy, they are three stone ‘boxes’ with narrow elliptical ‘hollows’ in each one. I am not quite sure what they represent, but they looked quite intriguing!

The Andy Goldworthy sculptures

The Andy Goldworthy sculptures

I had a hard time finding the path branching away from the shooters track towards the summit of Grit Fell, but eventually found it by following boot prints through black peat bog, which was mercifully quite dry today- Cougha Fell does seem to have a reputation for being boggy. A lone pine tree also acts as a useful landmark.

It's a tree!

It’s a tree!

Grit Fell’s summit is marked only by a modest cairn, and I pressed on towards Clougha, chatting with a man who was looking for Golden Plovers. The path threads it way round rocks and black peat to the rocky summit of Cougha, with its white painted trig point and stone shelter. The views are tremendous- I could see right across Morecambe Bay to the hazy fells of the Lake District to the north west, and I was able to pick out Harrisend Fell and Nicky Nook to the south. The sun was shining and it was getting pretty warm.

forest of bowland

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Just as I was relishing having the summit to myself, a walking group of around 15 ladies of a certain age threaded their way to towards me and stopped for lunch in the shelter.

Descending from Clougha

Descending from Clougha

I ate half my lunch but was pestered by a persistent wasp, so I took the little rocky path which gradually descended to woodland and heather, and found an idyllic spot by a small stream for the rest of my lunch. I was wearing some Karrimor walking boots I had acquired years ago and not really worn, and although they felt great underfoot, they were now gradually compressing my toes rather painfully.

More trees...

More trees…

My lunch spot

My lunch spot

The last stretch through trees, over a board walk and back onto the green drover’s track was delightful and I walked back along the track a little way so my camera could take advantage of the glorious colour that was lacking earlier.

Startled birds

Startled birds

forest of bowlandAlthough it was only around 7 1/2 miles, it was a grand walk that would have been even better with a little café somewhere but we can’t always have everything!

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