Travel • Forest of Bowland
Whenever we travel for work we add-on a day or two to take in the sights and see a little bit of the world. We were working with a family in Lancaster, so checked the map and saw a huge forest close by and decided to detour back through it on our way home.
The Forest of Bowland is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty according to Google. Here is our experience of it.
Realising it’s not a forest
As we drove into the ‘forest’, it became quite apparent it wasn’t a forest. It probably was a long time ago, but now it is a kind of paradise for sheep. It took us a long time to find somewhere to park as the local farmers kindly placed many signs saying ‘NO CAMPING’ and ‘NO FIRES’ everywhere.
Mistaking the moon for a UFO
Once we found a place to park we sat in the front seats for a bit, taking in the scenery. It was awfully windy and the moon was just coming out. The wind kept moving the clouds around and we peered at the moon to make sure it wasn’t moving. The parking spot was definitely one of those places you can imagine a UFO abduction happening. After about 10 minutes we felt (relatively) assured that it was indeed the moon, so we made our bed and fell asleep.
Off the beaten track
We climbed over a fence and deliberately left the ‘official’ path. This meant we gave our bodies a lot more loads; as we walked along the river, the uneven stones loaded our feet. We followed the narrow sheep path along the steep hill which put our ankles at strange angles and scrambled up a dry river bed of stones. It’s not called the path of least resistance for nothing; we can create much more variety and challenge on our walks by getting off the designated path.
Open access isn’t all it seems
One of the things I find constraining about living on this small island is there are very few places you can go where you really feel as though you’re in the wilderness. Because of this, fences symbolise to me domesticity and captivity; after all, if we were in the wilderness we wouldn’t see these things. I was looking forward to having a sliver of wildness here when I eagerly read that it was open access land we could roam around on. This was, I guess, technically true, however there was a very clearly marked path where everyone else we saw trekked on, criss-crossed by fences. I artfully avoided including them in my photos, as I imagine most people do. It made me think about the Inclosures acts; a series of Acts of Parliament that empowered enclosure of open fields and common land in England and Wales, creating legal property rights to land that was previously held in common. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual enclosure acts were passed, covering 6.8 million acres. Just after posting this I found an article noting that analysis of Land Registry documents and maps shows 25,000 landowners control huge swathes of the country despite the population being 55million.
Aside from the farming, the fences and the rich landowners, if you’re passing through I’d recommend this as a nice walk. If you’re looking for wilderness then this definitely isn’t the place for you and if you’re looking for forests then you may be disappointed. If you like long, challenging walks, amazing views and moors this ticks all your boxes.