Bowland Experience

Forest of Bowland 50th Anniversary

A short drive from Rathmell is the beautiful Forest of Bowland, also known as the Bowland Fells.  It is an area of barren gritstone fells, deep valleys and peat moorland, mostly in north-east Lancashire, England and a small part lies in North Yorkshire. It has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) since 1964, and is used for grouse shooting, walking and cycling,

Did you know that..

  • Bronze Age settlers cleared trees from the fells and began cultivating the land. They left little material evidence of their presence, but the fells have remained largely clear of trees ever since.
  • Other prehistoric remains in the area include a cairn on Parlick Pike and Bleasdale Circle.
  • The Romans left behind two key routeways through Bowland, the north-south Ribchester to Carlisle road, and a lesser eastwest route, which is evident north of Downham.
  • The Norse settlers left their impact in our language as well as the landscape – for example the word ‘Bu’ (in ‘Bolland’ or Bowland) is old Norse for cattle, and ‘Pen’ in Pendle means hill.
  • ‘Tolfin’ was a Norseman who founded what is now called Dolphinholme (‘holme’ is an area of flat land).

It was the medieval period that perhaps had the greatest impact on the Bowland landscape. During this time the Royal hunting forests were established – the title ‘forest’ refers to hunting rights, and not to a large expanse of woodland, as we interpret it today. The King used his rights to prevent landowners from clearing and cultivating the land, restricting development and prohibiting change. This controlling influence continued after the Forest laws were revoked in 1507, as deer parks and smaller estates replaced the hunting forests.

There were five main forests – the Royal Forest of Bowland; and three others belonging to the earldom of Lancaster at Bleasdale, Quernmore, Wyresdale and Pendle. Hunting in these areas was traditionally for deer and wild boar, together with rabbits, foxes, hares, pheasants and partridges.

Managing the land for game hunting, primarily grouse shooting, has remained a predominant influence on the landscape, and several large private landowners remain today – such as the Duchy of Lancaster, the Duke of Westminster and Lord Clitheroe. The private estates were responsible for building the distinctive villages at places such as Slaidburn, Downham and Abbeystead. The current, largest single landowner is United Utilities, which manages a large area of the fells primarily for water catchment.

Other notable heritage features in Bowland include:

  • Medieval vaccaries (a type of cattle farm) at Sabden and Marshaw; the motte and bailey castles in the Lune valley, and the monastery at Sawley.
  • Grand halls, parks and houses at Browsholme, Leagram and Quernmore.
  • Sixteenth to eighteenth century stone buildings with their distinctive stone mullions, lintels and datestones can be seen in many villages – a fine example is at Stephen Park in Gisburn Forest.
  • Dry stone walls and outbarns – the irregular field patterns are oldest (pre 1600AD), while the more regular patterns date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
    Disused quarries and lead mines.
  • Lime kilns (used to make mortar as well as lime to fertilise the fields).
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