Tag Archives: Countryside

Picnicking in the Trough of Bowland

One of my all time favourite childhood memories is picnicking in the Trough of Bowland with my grandparents. Every summer they packed the car up with my sisters and I, the dogs, copious amounts of delicious homemade food and wellies for paddling.

The Trough of Bowland is a valley between Marshaw (northeast of Garstang) and Dunsop Bridge (northwest of Clitheroe) in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Lancashire.

Forest of BowlandAONBs are areas in the countryside that have been designated for conservation due to their natural beauty, in a similar way to national parks. If you haven’t yet experienced the Forest of Bowland, you are missing out on one of the country’s most breathtaking natural environments.

While most people know of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, the Forest of Bowland is their lesser known but equally impressive neighbour.

TreesThe landscape is wild and untouched; a vast expanse of fells, valleys and moors that will stir and exhilarate you. At the same time, tall trees shelter and flowing water soothes. It’s the stuff of epic legends and enchanted tales.

The Trough pass is a ‘scenic route’ if ever there was one, traversing through the magnificent Bowland fells and rising almost 300m above sea level at its highest point. The Trough is only a small part of the Forest of Bowland, which is dotted with picturesque villages as it reaches just into Yorkshire to the northeast and to Pendle Hill at the southeast corner.

There are 312 square miles to explore in total and you’ll need more than a day to do that!

StreamI’m so grateful to my grandparents for introducing me to this special place that has become a favoured destination for walking, eating out, pottering and, of course, picnicking. My family continues the tradition every summer (with my grandparents accompanying us in spirit) and it’s always a riot.

You can drive along the Trough road and pick one of umpteen perfect spots to park up and lay your picnic. Sheep roam free, dragonflies skim the water that runs downstream to the River Wyre and dappled sunlight warms through the leaves of the trees (if you’re lucky!).

All the things we did decades ago are still a source of laughter and enjoyment – lazing in the sun sandwich in one hand, sausage roll in the other, paddling, playing with a bat and ball, letting the dogs run and roam – and I have just as much fun as I did when I was 10!

Blackberry picking in the late summer sun

When summer is drawing to an end and you can feel the first hints of autumn in the air, blackberry picking is the perfect way to enjoy the last warm days of the year.

From the end of August and through September, blackberries can be found growing in hedgerows up and down the country. My favourite spot is along the old railway line from Knott End to Preesall, which used to serve the Pilling Pig locomotive transporting passengers from Knott End to Pilling and onwards to Garstang in the early 1900s.

The old railway line

The Knott End to Pilling stretch of the line closed in 1950 and a section from Hackensall Woods in Knott End to Park Lane in Preesall is now a footpath. It’s about a mile long and you’ll experience both the shelter of woodland and the full force of the elements as you cross wide open countryside.

The old railway line from PreesallFrom the top of the steps at the Preesall end (which is well hidden at the roadside), you can see much of the footpath laid out before you (pictured). There are a number of points to veer off the line and change course, including a six mile route that picks up the Wyre Way.

Blackberries line much of the footpath and I have wonderful memories of picking them with my grandparents as a child. I still follow my grandad’s advice: select berries at the same height as you (higher are for birds, lower may have been watered by dogs), wear something long sleeved and leave some for everybody else!

Taking advantage of nature’s offering and the chance to eat ripe, seasonal fruit for free is a must! The dog comes too, meaning we both get our daily quota of exercise and fresh air (and she’s partial to a blackberry or two).

Blackberry and Apple CrumbeSo what to do with your haul? My nana made big pans of blackberry jam but for me, nothing signals autumn like crumble. My favourite recipe is Deliciously Ella’s Apple and Blackberry Crumble (pictured), which uses only a handful of ingredients to make a wholesome and nutritious version.

The smell as it bakes and the delicious mouthfuls that follow are the fruits of your labours to be enjoyed. And with this virtuous recipe, you can enjoy cold crumble for breakfast the next morning!

From hedgerow to bowl in hours – soul food indeed.

Summer fun at Great Eccleston Show

When the weather is on form, there’s really nothing better than spending a summer’s day outdoors at one of the north of England’s agricultural shows.

It’s the all-the-time-in-the-world pace that I love. And the haze of mellow revelry in the warm air.

At over 150 years old, Great Eccleston Show is still going strong. It’s one of the most popular events in Lancashire and this year is no exception.

Goats

The animals all looking their best (cattle, goats, sheep, shire horses, pigs, ponies, poultry, ferrets, rabbits, budgerigars…) – prize winners’ rosettes proudly displayed – are delightful to see.

There are marquees showcasing and selling local food, crafts, horticulture and art; modern and classic agricultural vehicles and equipment; entertainment in the form of fairground, stunt riders and cooking demonstrations (TV chef Phil Vickery this year); sheep shearing, herding and beekeeping demonstrations; and the main event, the tractor pulling, is the most random but thrilling sport to watch!

Shire horeses

You’ll find all the essentials on site – beer tent, food trucks and plenty of ice cream vans. Take a blanket and some sun cream and kick back. I saw more than one person napping on the grass in the sunshine!

Tickets are £12 for adults on the gate and £2 for kids but parking is free. You can take your dogs and they will be welcomed.

The showground is on Garstang Road (A586) in Great Eccleston, near Preston.

Find out more at greatecclestonshow.co.uk

Afternoon tea in the Ribble Valley

Stirk House Hotel, located just off the A59 near Gisburn in the Ribble Valley, is a 16th century manor house hotel nestled within 20 acres of grounds giving generous views of Pendle Hill, the Forest of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales.

While it still has attractive period features and plenty of charm, the interior is modern and stylish. The venue caters for holidaymakers, weddings and conferences however the purpose of my visit was my favourite pastime, afternoon tea.

View across the Ribble Valley

But before I get to that, my friends and I first worked up an appetite with a leisurely meander in the surrounding countryside on a circular walk from the hotel. The scenery around the hotel is stunning; we traversed open fields and woodland, walked alongside the River Ribble and picked up a little bit of the famous Ribble Way, a 70 mile footpath that follows the river from mouth to source. You can pick up walking routes from reception.

sunday 044Afterwards, we were lucky enough to snatch a table on the hotel’s terrace overlooking the gardens. There’s also a conservatory if you would like the views without the elements. Stirk House takes its conservation responsibilities seriously; expect to see thousands of trees and wild flowers and, if you’re lucky, deer, kestrels, owls (the World Owl Trust has designated the grounds a Wildlife Conservation Area), rabbits and bees (thanks to a bee hotel designed to protect threatened species).

Afternoon tea started with hot buttered toast fingers plus homemade marmalade and honey, thick and sweet. Then followed finger sandwiches – smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber, honey roasted ham and free range egg mayonnaise – on a mixture of brown and white bread.

Cake came in the form of delicate mini éclairs, rich malt loaf, raspberry and mint fools and strawberry shortcakes, not forgetting of course, fruit scones with jam and clotted cream. It was all freshly baked and delicious, however the raspberry and mint fools deserve special mention for tasting so exquisite.

sunday 046We took our time, enjoying a rare leisurely afternoon throughout which the staff were attentive, happily replenishing our tea pot numerous times and keen to make sure we didn’t leave anything uneaten!

The surroundings could not have been more idyllic; birds singing, rabbits hopping to and fro, bees humming in the nearby flower beds and the chef popping out to pick fresh lavender from the garden.

Dogs are welcome at Stirk House, which operates a ‘four legged policy’, and we saw one lucky mutt being lavished with attention from a member of staff.

Afternoon tea, normally £15 per person, was on offer at just £12 when I visited which I consider to be excellent value for money.

Stirk House runs lots of events and themed nights too – visit stirkhouse.co.uk or take a look at their Facebook and Twitter sites.

Trekking coast and countryside in Knott End

This six mile walk in Knott End, the village I was brought up in, really showcases why I love it – vast expanses of coast and countryside a stone’s throw away from one another.

You’ll traverse seafront, farmland, brine fields and woodland on a relatively flat route that is prone to muddy conditions in wet weather (which is most of the time!), and that takes in part of the legendary Wyre Way.

Kissing gate
Kissing gate

Start out at Hackensall Woods following the footpath at the bottom of Hackensall Road (in the centre of the village), through woodland and along the old railway line until you reach an iron kissing gate on the right. Go up the short, steep hill, over the stile and emerge onto farmland at Curwens Hill.

Pass through and follow the track through open countryside, bearing left and passing fishing lakes on both sides until you reach houses and a T junction (this is Town Foot).

Approaching Corcas Lane
Approaching Corcas Lane

Turn right onto Back Lane and follow the road past Cemetery Lane and over a bridge with white wrought iron railings until you reach Corcus Lane, approx. 400m beyond (signposted Public Bridleway).

Turn right, follow the road past some dilapidated farm buildings on your right and continue until you reach a signpost to join the Wyre Way.

The Wyre Way
The Wyre Way

Go right, over the stile and onto the embankment. Follow the path with marshes to your left and fields to your right. You’ll come to a T junction and a sign saying ‘Halite’ – go left and follow the path in a right angle until you reach the end of the embankment.

Go straight over onto a vehicle track signposted Hackensall. Follow the track passing the golf course (look out for golf balls!) until you reach Hackensall Hall and another T junction.

Hackensall Hall
Hackensall Hall

Turn left (signposted Wyre Way Knott End) passing the hall on your left and follow the track which swings left and crosses the golf course – head towards the green shelter on the sea side of the course.

Once you’ve reached the shelter follow the track, which runs parallel to the coastline.

Knott End seafront
Knott End seafront

After a short while you’ll bear left onto the seafront which you can follow to the ferry car park (which is a good point to start and end this walk if you’re travelling to Knott End by car or public transport) and back into the village.

At a brisk pace and with a young Labrador in tow, this walk takes me around two hours. Wrap up warm in the colder months – parts of this walk are exposed and guaranteed to blow the cobwebs away.

This walk can be found in the Pathfinder Guides Lancashire Walks book.