Words & Photos Dennis Kelsall
Distance: 10.5 miles/16.9km
Time: 4-5 hours
Start/finish: Grizedale Bridge, Bowland (GR: SD 535491)
Map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet OL41 (Forest of Bowland & Ribblesdale)
Information: Clitheroe, 01200 425566
Travel: No convenient public transport
Bypassed by thousands making for the Lakes or overshadowed by the popularity of the Yorkshire Dales, Bowland’s hills are often all but deserted.
Despite its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1964, much of the upland remained jealously guarded as private grouse moor, and until the enactment of Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000, there was little legitimate access to the fells. Even today, there are relatively few discernible paths away from the more popular tops and in consequence, the area offers some of the finest wild walking in Lancashire.
It was already afternoon by the time I arrived at Grizedale Bridge, but apart from a chatty chap returning to Scorton over Nicky Nook, the place was deserted. After a few pleasantries, I took my leave onto the shoulder of Harrison Fell, the initially confident path soon fragmenting beneath the heather. Beyond a gate by a meeting of fences I continued upward along a broad tongue of rising ground that opened a widening panorama. To the north, at 561m Ward’s Stone is the highest of Bowland’s hills, its long ridge culminating in Clougha Pike, which overlooks Lancaster and the Lune estuary. Further round, the distant backdrop is that of the southern Lakeland fells, while closer to are the dark blocks of Heysham’s nuclear power stations. Behind, the almost dead-flat plain of the Fylde stretches to the sea, Blackpool’s tower an unmistakable landmark even to non-Lancastrians.
Following the snaking boundary over Grizedale Head towards Greave Clough Head, the heather gives way to the blanket bog of the tops. There hadn’t been much rain recently, meaning that I didn’t have to wander about in search of firm ground. Even so, it was slow going all the way to Fiendsdale Head – but the first skylarks were singing and there wasn’t a soul about to disturb the deserted beauty of the day.
To the south Fair Snape beckoned and beyond it, Parlick, but that would add a good five miles and I suddenly regretted my late start. Instead I struck west to pick up a shooters’ track, which would take me down to Stang Yule. With a little time in hand, I paused to admire the view with the only other people I met during the day and then briefly diverted to the trig point on top of Hazelhurst Fell.
With dusk encroaching, the mile and a half back along the lane was no hardship, offering a chance to stride out and reflect on the day. My disappointment at not seeing a hen harrier (the area’s emblem) evaporated with the wheep-wheep calls of lapwings above the fields and a special treat, just before reaching Grizedale Bridge, was the sight of a short-eared owl searching for a meal.
Climb NE from Grizedale Bridge, passing through gate to follow boundary fence over Grizedale Head towards White Moss. Approaching Gleave Clough Head bear E, cutting corner to rejoin fenceline. Stick with it over Fiendsdale and on to Fiendsdale Head. Abandoning fence, strike W for 1/4 mile to intercept shooters’ track. Take that W, later winding down to cross top of Clough Heads Brook. Continue around flank of Hazelhurst Fell finally dropping off hill along upper boundary of Fell Plantation. Emerging onto lane at Stang Yule, return N through Oakenclough to Grizedale Bridge.Tweet