UK > England > Lancashire
Map - OL41 - FOREST OF BOWLAND & RIBBLESDALE - Pendle Hill, Clitheroe & Settle.
Distance 5.5 miles Strenuousity 2.
It's the golden age of Family Fortunes and deep into Double Money.
You're at the podium as
Les Dennis prompts...
'We asked 100 people to name a famous forest?'
BOING! You're onto it like a flash as, left arm still behind your back, you blurt out 'Nottingham!' BING! Top answer. Not strictly a forest per-se but 49 people concur. 'Play or pass?'... 'We'll play Les.'
Dad's up next and dad's good at geography...
'Arthur, name a famous forest.'... ' Sherwood, Les.'
Ah, see what dad did there? He explored the derivation of the sporting team's name and transformed it into the material.
BING! 32. You planted the seed and dad dug it up.
Mum's next, oh dear, she's rubbish at places...
'Elsie, Name a famous forest.'... There's an awkward pause before she squeaks 'Gump'!
There's laughter in the audience, Les improvises... 'You never know what you're going to get in this game.'
BING! 7. Nice one mum, there's only two more answers needed and Les is quietly surprised.
Next up is the brother-in-law. He's only on because your sister Sharon's poorly...
'Gordon, name a famous forest.'... 'The Black Forest, Les.'
'It's a piece of cake this game, eh?' Les really is on fire tonight. Gordon is ex-RAF and spent a bit of time over there but is he being too smart?
BING! 11. Good job Gordon, even though you've never really liked him.
Finally, it's old uncle Charlie. Charlie doesn't say much probably because when he does nobody listens. He's only here by default, that's the drawback of a small family in this arena...
'Charlie, name a famous f...'... 'Forest of Bowland.' Charlie interrupts rudely.
'What's that like off
Tolkien or something?' Les mocks.
'Forest of Bowland.' confirms a straight-faced Charlie.
'The imaginary Forest of Bowland?' BING! 1. WHAT THE... ???
Not many people seem to know the Forest of Bowland, certainly not the handful it's mentioned to including an imaginary Les Dennis. There aren't that many trees for a start and forest is used in the traditional sense of a royal hunting ground.
Still, it's a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a significant part of the heather and bog being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and, as should be known by now, they don't hand them awards out willy-nilly.
Its relative anonymity might be explained by the popularity of its neighbours. The southernmost part of the Yorkshire Dales is to the right and the Lake District starts less than an hour up the M6. Also, the mention of Blackburn and Burnley to most people will hardly entice them to visit its southern end.
Unlike Eric Morecambe, 'little' Jimmy Clitheroe had no need to adopt the name of his birthplace for the stage. This tempting market town is an ideal base for the area and high street chains are 'reassuringly absent'.
Having said that, this is being written in a Costa™s with a Boot™s bag full of plasters sharing a newspaper from WH Smith™s. Some online guiders really do have a 'reassuringly absent' sense of reality.
What's that? SlyBob is being asked to leave? Looks like them Tesco™s sandwiches weren't being eaten nowhere near sneakily enough.
If you're a fan of the sausage, Cowmans, yes really, butchers can sort you out with more than 50 varieties although Pork & Cheese might be mincing it a bit too far.
Starting in the village of Downham, less than four miles north-east out of Clitheroe along the A671, this gentle, nigh-on-six-miler takes in fields and a ruined abbey before a stretch of the River Ribble.
With your OS OL41 as your companion, get your history hat and your skates on or that Sunday dinner will end up running into tea-time.
There's a small area for parking at the bottom of the village opposite the Old Well Hall.
They filmed bits of Whistle Down the Wind here in the 1960s and more recently the gritty, early Sunday evening, rural BBC drama Born and Bred starring the bad Wicksy off Eastenders and the cheeky 'Likely Lad'.
There are no overhead power lines or TV aerials to spoil any period detail, you see, the current landowner Lord Clitheroe forbids it, seriously.
Head up the hill towards the church and just after the Assheton Arms, turn right to walk past the pub's car park.
After the house, take the gate on the left and follow the path up and then down the sloping field. You might have to detour around some cows but look for the gate at the bottom that'll take you over a narrow road.
Cross the road and go through the gate opposite to head straight on keeping the farmhouse on your right. A farm track will soon bring you to a railway bridge now only used for freight and scenic, seasonal trips to and from Settle.
Go under the bridge and turn right after the barn\stable setup just beyond.
Keep to the walled edge of the field to reach a gate. After the gate, follow the path beside the hedge to reach a small footbridge.
The path after the footbridge is a little bit indistinct at this point. You want to be heading due east to find a step in the wall and just beyond, a rather charming looking stone bridge with no sides.
If you find yourself back under the railway line, you've gone the wrong way. Idiot!
Having navigated the bridge of death, head up and away from the river. There might be some docile bulls at this point who won't be bothered by your presence.
Look for a stile up on the left and after the stile, your map might suggest you can walk straight across to the top left of this field. Not on SlyBob's watch, the field is full of corn although nobody seemed to be bothered about picking it.
Stick to the left-hand edge and then turn right to reach the top of the field where there is a somewhat obscured stile.
It's a short hop through this field to another gate. Bear slightly left so that the farm is on your right as you head down to a junction with the A59.
Cross the main road and go through the gate opposite. There's a brief wooded area that brings you to a narrow road leading to some farm buildings on your left. Cross this road into a field with a heron in it and head for the gap in the wall ahead.
After the gap, you should have a view of the ruins of the 12th-century Sawley Abbey.
Some Cistercian Monks were once kicked out of here by Henry VIII, something to do with him giving the glad-eye to a lass called Anne.
Keeping the ruins on your left, you will soon reach the beer garden\car park of the Spread Eagle Inn at Sawley.
After refuelling and\or exploring\not bothering with the free abbey ruins, head out of the village by turning left past the inn with the abbey behind you.
With the River Ribble on your right, follow the road until it winds over it over a bridge. Just over the bridge, take the marked footpath on the left for a little bit of the Ribble.
It's not a lengthy stretch and you'll soon hit a minor road with some nice looking terraced houses. The road rises a little here and this is where SlyBob encountered their first yap-ology.
A Jack Russell Terrier darted barking from a parked car. No problem, a quick 'Hello boy!' and off he scarpered. 'I'm really sorry.' pleaded the owner, 'He's alright.' we assured.
Bob's boots are twice the size of anything it's likely to pull out of a hole but as the dog was scooped up and insincerely admonished, the yap-ology. was noted.
After a slight uphill pull, you'll pass a school that was assumed to be a boarded up hotel when seen from Sawley.
No, this is the wood-clad Bowland High School on a narrow, anonymous road but with specialist status in the performing arts. Given where this is, it would have been nice to say they were advertising 'Glee! - I Tell Thee!' as their end of year performance but they weren't.
Carry on the road for a short while and just before the road bends right, take the signposted path on your left into a field.
 Inexplicably not shown but it's sure a snap was taken.
There were some lucky rams in here, not shown, and their chances of pulling in this sheep-packed field looked good. They were, however, wearing what appeared to be tartan identification sheep braces and by that, it's meant braces for identifying sheep, tartan ones.
It's probably a farming thing but a quick peep of the undercarriage looks to be identification enough, their dignity and self-confidence intact.
This is heading south back to the river so navigate a handful of stiles to reach the visible Ribble.
This was during the early days of 'birding' and a kingfisher had yet to be seen but on reaching the river, this looks promising? Eroded, sandy banks although not a lot of branches to perch on just here.
There was a rogue Canada goose, for some reason, and then another couple of yapping, bounding hounds. The lagging owner was mortified... 'I'm really sorry.'
At no point during this incident were any lives felt to be in any real danger.
A kingfisher had yet to be seen because they don't actually exist. They don't exist because SlyBob had never seen one and had rambled along enough riverbanks to should have done. You know they're just the bling in an RSPB™ conspiracy to get you to sign up? Then Sly only went and saw one somewhere.
The path carries on by the river and as it veers right, HELLO! - here's the motherlode! This is the perfect environment, see the holes in them earthy banks over there? Sources say those are kingfisher nests, either that or penthouses for aspiring voles. This is a chance to sit, to sit and wait and watch a while.
Slightly disappointed, move on and continue to negotiate the eroded bank and fallen fence. As a consolation, here's some rare-breed, goat-like sheep and, not wanting to go all Countryfile, it's thought they might be Jacobs.
Keeping to the river, the village of Grindleton looms. The bridge crosses to the opposite bank where there are more spotting opportunities, perhaps? You might want to take a diversion straight ahead into the village, a couple of pubs and a generally nice vibe await.
Not normally fans of the close-proximity bovine, they're big buggers for a start and if they ever evolve to get wind of why we're supposedly pally, oh dear. These tame Limousins will let you pat them on the head. Thankfully, they didn't return the favour.
Cross the bridge and turn left to follow the road. It's quite narrow and some traffic avoidance may be necessary so pop over the fence at the first opportunity onto the riverside path.
The riverbank broadens as the road sweeps away to the right and more possible nests appear in the opposite bank. There was a bit of turbulence in the water and a few folk about so it was soon time to fruitlessly move on.
Cross the footbridge and follow the path right to a gate.
A couple of curious cocker spaniels were peeking through the gaps...
'I'm sorry, is he bothering you?' a young lad offered.
Note to self, very courteous is the Lancashire mutt puller.
Pass the waterworks on the right and go through a gate to emerge into a broad upsloping meadow.
An excitable Wheaten Terrier, not shown, doing a reasonable impression of a friend's dog
prompted a chat with the owner...
'I'm sorry, is he...', 'Don't worry about it.' etc, etc.
Her previous Wheaten had Irish roots and a lovely nature.
This one was from Birkenhead and by her words was 'Mad'.
'Well, that's Scousers for you. Cheerio then.'
Head uphill between the cricket ground and church to hit the main road through Chatburn.
Cross the main road to take Ribblesdale View over the railway line. Carry on up here past some residences to meet another mainish road that takes you left and back to Downham.
You might have already driven up here on the way from Clitheroe so walk briefly on the now familiar road and cross the bridge over the busy A59.
There's a choice to be made when you cross the bridge. Take the track on the left to ultimately end up back at the railway bridge that was passed under earlier, remember, or just follow the road back to Downham to shave off 20 minutes.
There was a chap walking his dog on the track and the routine had become, quite frankly, tiresome. The hunger was also kicking in at this point so the road it was. When you reach, what was, the Greendale Tea Room, now home to happy glampers, you're about half-of-the-way home from the A59 bridge.
Back in Downham, you arrive invitingly at the door of the Assheton Arms. They did possibly the best lamb roast Bob's ever had and there's some fancy fishy-fare on offer.
Don't be expecting Sky™ Sports, though, there's no satellite dishes allowed here, remember? Thanks, Lord Clitheroe.