Weekend Walk: The Gisburn Forest Tramper Trail

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In recent years Lancashire County Council, working in partnership with the Countryside services of its boroughs, the Forest of Bowland, United Utilities, the Forestry Commission and others has opened up a number of ‘Tramper’ trails.

A tramper is a robust motorised buggy especially designed to travel on off road tracks. Across the county, particularly in the Forest of Bowland, there are a number of sites where trampers can be hired (often at a nominal fee) allowing those that use them access to Lancashire’s wonderful (and under-rated) countryside. This week we feature a tramper trail in the Gisburn Forest (details of hire will be explained below).

The Gisburn Forest is unusual in the wider area of the Forest of Bowland in that it is a forest. That is, it has trees! Lots of them. Those readers familiar with the Forest of Bowland will know that much of it is characterised by a lack of trees – the term ‘forest’ referring to the area’s past as a royal hunting park.

The location at the start of the walk lies close to Lancashire’s lost village of Stocks. Indeed the ruins of the old church can be seen to the rear of the car park.

In the 1920s as Blackpool was becoming more and more popular attracting millions of visitors it was facing a problem with water supply. To meet this situation the Fylde Water Board constructed a dam and flooded the head of the Hodder Valley to create the reservoir. The project required an army of over 500 men at its height. Although outside the area of flooding the church, vicarage, school and a number of farms were demolished to protect water quality.

Now this whole area, forest and reservoir, is an outdoor playground. Apart from the obvious attraction to walkers there is a fishery on the reservoir and the Forest of Gisburn is a magnet to mountain bikers. As will be seen on the trail, this is one of the best places in Lancashire for bird watching with wildfowl and waders out on the water and then an impressive range of species attracted to woodland habitats.

Directions: Facing Stocks Reservoir, take the footpath in the right corner which is the start of the circular walk. This passes first the picnic area and then a tramper friendly track to a bird watching hide.

Almost 800yds from the start at a marker post turn right onto a much narrower track entering woods. In a little over 200yds this arrives at a junction in more open ground. Turn right. Now on a broader track keep ahead through tall trees.

Keep on the track as it swings right crossing a culvert and descends through broadleaf woodland to bring you back on the footpath close to the car park. Turn left.

Further Information: Check out www.forestofbowland.com for more information about this and other trails.

The Forest of Bowland tramper can be hired from The Hub at nearby Stephen Park. Readers are advised to give 48hours notice to check availability. Telephone 01200 446533. The suggested donation is £15 per day to help cover maintenance and insurance. Before use, a short lesson will be given on how to operate the vehicle.

Route devised by Lancashire County Council in partnership with Forest of Bowland. Described by Bob Clare. For more walks go to www.lancashirewalks.com.