Outstanding Week 2017

5th September 2017

Outstanding Week is the AONB Family’s week-long programme of events to help people enjoy and be inspired by the UK’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). This year it takes place from Saturday 16th – Sunday 24th September.

AONBs are some of the most beautiful, cherished and outstanding landscapes in Britain. They are vibrant landscapes which offer a wealth of opportunities for everyone to enjoy them.

Outstanding Week is an opportunity for you to get involved and get out into our outstanding landscapes to enjoy country shows, dark sky discovery nights, walking festivals, archaeology walks, wood fairs, foraging and local food festivals, wildlife walks, coastal and marine days, thatching courses, drystone walling competitions, charcoal making, bioblitz, inspiration through art and many, many  other activities.


Join us throughout the country to discover why September is such an Outstanding month!

See @naaonb @AONBFamily #OutstandingWeek for details.

Celebrate Outstanding Week in Bowland:

  • Autumn's Palette

Sat, 16 September, 11:00 – 12:30, Tosside

Autumn is on the way so bring some of Bowland’s fantastic colours inside with these lovely tissue paper window hangings. Red, yellow, green, orange – the choice is yours! A family-friendly activity where adults come free!

Booking essential. For further information contact the AONB office on 01200 448000 or email​ £2.50, 1 ½ hours, family-friendly

  • Equinox Stargazing

Sat, 23 September, 19:30 – 21:30, Gisburn Forest Hub

Come and experience an unforgettable night under the stars in the Forest of Bowland! This weekend is the autumn Equinox, giving equal night and day so there should be great opportunity to travel through the constellations and along the Milky Way. Following an indoor presentation there will be powerful telescopes for you to gaze through, all operated by experienced amateur astronomers, who will attempt to answer your questions on life, the universe and everything! Suitable for adults and accompanied children 12 years and over.


Please keep an eye on Robert Ince's eventbrite page - due to the popularity we plan to run another event in the autumn!

For further information visit www.eventbrite.​​ince-7214874047

For full details visit

Festival Bowland Fun in Autumn

22nd August 2017

Enjoy a guided walk from Garstang on 4th September with one of Wyre Council's regular Monday Walks (there's another one in early October!).

Take inspiration from Gisburn Forest and paint your very own Bowland in Miniature picture on a tiny glass tile with local artist, Karen Redmayne on Sunday 10th. 

 Head to Garstang again for an evening bat walk on Friday 15th then make a 180 degree turn to enjoy a family-friendly Autumn's Palette craft session at Tosside Community Hall on Saturday 16th.  Round September off with some Equinox stargazing back at Gisburn Forest on Saturday 23rd when we'll be keeping our fingers crossed for clear skies!

Browsholme Hall's characterful Tithe Barn is once again the venue for the annual Lord of Bowland Lecture on Tuesday 3rd October and this year, we'll be finding out all about the Parker family, Bowbearers of Bowland.  Enjoy a spooky Halloween Activity Day at Beacon Fell Country Park on Saturday 28th and experience Grizedale valley's autumnal tints on a walk from Scorton on Sunday 29th October.

Search for Bowland meteors in the skies above Gisburn Forest on Friday 17th November and bring 2017 Festival Bowland to a close with Wyre Council's Barnacre Legstretcher on Friday 24th November.

For a full Festival Bowland programme and details of how to book go to

Summer in Bowland

26th June 2017

Image by Veronica CaperonBell Sykes Farm in Slaidburn is celebrating National Meadows Day on July 1st - a day packed with things to see and enjoy.  And why not continue the flowery theme with a visit to Clearbeck in Tatham to explore the lovely National Gardens Scheme open garden on Sunday 2nd?

Set off on a guided walk from Garstang on Monday 3rd or venture (slightly) further north for a Legstretcher around Wyre Lakes on the evening of Friday 7th.

Take the family along to Beacon Fell Country Park on Sunday 9th July for a fun Summer Activity Day or, for keen hikers, there's a Summer Fells walk to Clougha Pike on Sunday 30th.

Back to Beacon Fell on Wednesday 2nd August for the very popular Gruffalo Walk, but beware, this one can book up quickly!  If you missed the Garstang Monday Walk in July then there's another chance to explore this part of the AONB on August 7th.

Make a weekend of it on the 12th & 13th August and fashion your very own rustic stick chair at Cobble Hey Farm & Gardens, or pop over to Pendleside for a storytelling walk on Friday 18th.

Join the North West Fungus Group for a fungal foray in Gisburn Forest on Saturday 19th and then round off the month with a Ribble Valley Ramble followed by a meal at the Spread Eagle, Sawley, on August Bank Holiday Monday.

Click here to view a full list of event and booking details

Stop press!  We've organised a special, additional event to link with the summer Sunday Bowland Explorer bus service on13th August:

Image by Dave OystonStocks Circular Walk, School Lane Car Park (Gisburn Forest & Stocks) 11:00am – approx 4:00pm

Join us on a walk around Lancashire's largest reservoir. Guided by David Oyston, United Utilities Catchment Controller, we'll explore the history, wildlife and landscape of this fascinating and beautiful area.  Constructed during the early part of the nineteenth century, the reservoir was built on the site of the village of Stocks in Bowland, in Dalehead, and there are still clues to remind us of this once busy farming community.

(Please book ahead for the walk by calling the AONB office on 01200 448000 or by emailing  Seats on the Bowland Explorer are on a first come, first served basis.)

Flowery Fun for all the Family

20th June 2017

It's National Meadow Day on Saturday 1st July, and we are celebrating with an Open Day at Bell Sykes Farm in Slaidburn.

There'll be lots to see and enjoy at Bell Sykes Farm as we celebrate all things meadow-y!

Join a morning guided walk to learn more about wildflowers and their traditional uses; watch craft demonstrations including wood and stone carving, spinning and traditional mowing; catch some bugs in a family-friendly bug hunt during the afternoon, or just sit and enjoy the meadows with a brew and a slice of cake.

The meadows at Bell Sykes are amongst the best examples in the whole of Lancashire and seed from them has been used to restore the wildflowers to 26 meadows across the AONB since 2012.

Guided walk places cost £3 and will need to be booked in advance by contacting Tel: 01200 448000

Lancashire Landscape Improved by Electricity North West

5th June 2017

The Lancashire landscape between Cow Ark and Newton in the Forest of Bowland AONB will be enhanced with the removal of decades-old overhead power lines and electricity poles.

Electricity North West, the region’s power network operator, is investing almost £300,000 in undergrounding 2.6km of overhead power lines and 35 poles between Crimpton and Ing Barn which were originally installed in 1958.

The scheme is part of Electricity North West’s commitment to invest £9m in undergrounding sections of the power network in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks across the North West.

David Kenneford, programme delivery manager for Electricity North West, said: “We’re champions of the North West and proud that it’s our network that connects communities and keeps the lights on across the beautiful North West region.

“We are committed to doing the right thing and we put the community in which we operate at the heart of everything we do. 

“That’s why we’re delighted to be working closely with Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to replace the power lines with underground cables to improve the views for local residents and the thousands of people that visit the area every year.”

Engineers have started to install the underground cables and the overhead power lines will be removed before Autumn.

Elliott Lorimer, principal officer for the Forest of Bowland AONB, said: “We're delighted that that this scheme is now in progress with Electricity North West.  Both the local landscape and the wider views out to the Bowland Fells and Yorkshire's Three Peaks will be significantly enhanced by this work.”

To view more photographs from the area visit Electricity North West's Facebook or Instagram pages, and to read more about the work Electricity North West does across the North West visit the news page here.

June is Blooming with Festival Bowland

25th May 2017

Enjoy an evening ramble from Scorton with Wyre Council's Legstretcher walk on Friday 2nd then pack some sandwiches and join them for their regular Monday walk around Garstang on the 5th.

Bring your torch on Wednesday 7th and go bats about Bowland in Slaidburn when we'll find out all about bats' roosting behaviour and then take a walk to see these fascinating creatures emerge from their roosts as night falls. 

If you love the countryside but can't walk as far as you used to then the Dunsop valley Tramper trek the following day might be just the thing.  Trampers can be booked in advance but limited numbers are available so you'll need to be quick.

Head for the hills on Saturday 10th when the RSPB will lead a moorland walk from Slaidburn looking for some of Bowland's special upland birds including ring ouzel, merlin and, if you're very lucky, England's rarest bird of prey, the hen harrier.

Spend a very special hour in Gisburn Forest on Sunday 11th June with storyteller, Sue Allonby.  Wander through the woodland then gather for fantastic tales which will be sure to delight! A great event for families with children of four years and over.  

For budding craft-folk, Sunday 11th also offers the chance to make your very own rustic log stool using a shave horse, over at Cobble Hey Farm near Garstang.

The evening of Thursday 15th June sees the world premiere of a choral work specially commissioned by William, 16th Lord of Bowland, and set to music by Lakeland composer, Christopher Gibbs. The four part song cycle will be performed by the Renaissance Singers of Blackburn cathedral at Slaidburn village hall and will feature acclaimed musician, John Kenny, playing the carnyx – an ancient Celtic war horn. 

To round of a packed month, Clearbeck garden near Bentham will once again be opening its doors in aid of charity as part of the National Gardens Scheme on Sunday 25th June. Sculpture, follies and a two acre lake all feature in this lovely corner of the AONB.

Places on most events (although not all) need to be booked in advance.

Click here to view a full list of event details

The Gruffalo brought to life in Gisburn Forest with new augmented reality app

2nd May 2017

In the first development of its kind, Forestry Commission England and Magic Light Pictures bring The Gruffalo characters to life in the forest through a new augmented reality app.

The Gruffalo Spotter has been designed for exclusive use at 26 forests across England where visitors can join the adventure through the deep dark wood. The trail will open at Gisburn Forest on 24 February 2017.

Families can follow clues on an interactive trail and track signs of their favourite characters based on The Gruffalo, best-selling picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

The self-led trail is packed with fun facts about forest animals with fantastic activities along the way. Once families have spotted the characters, they can use the app to bring the 3D character animation to life and take photos with them.

Their photos are automatically added to the device’s gallery, from where it can be shared via social media with the hashtag #GruffaloSpotters.

Taking family forest walks to new heights, the app mixes technology with the real world, encouraging children to get exploring, firing their imaginations and enabling them to have an all-new forest experience.

The Gruffalo Spotter app has been developed and animated by Nexus Studios and is available for free with no in-app purchases from the App Store, Google Play and Amazon.

A Gruffalo Spotters kit will be available to buy on site and includes animal facts, tips for tracking wildlife, an evidence collection bag, a magnifying glass and a pencil to make a note of your forest finds!

Martin Colledge, Bowland Beat Manager for Forestry Commission England commented:

“This is such an exciting development and will deliver a completely different forest experience for our visitors. The Gruffalo is a world renowned story and to be able to bring the characters to life in their natural setting is fantastic. It’s great we’ve had the opportunity to join the two worlds of technology and nature together sensitively!”

Barney Goodland, Head of Digital at Magic Light Pictures said:

“Our partnership with Forestry Commission England has been an overwhelming success from the start so in this, our fourth year of activity, we wanted to do something really special. We’re always looking to further children’s enjoyment of The Gruffalo brand and this was an innovative way to incorporate new technology with a real world experience. Working with the Forestry Commission and Nexus Studios has been a real joy and it’s exciting to now be sharing The Gruffalo Spotter with families. Most importantly for us the app is completely free, which means that it’s there for everyone to enjoy.”

Claire Cook, Creative Producer at Nexus said

“The team at Nexus are massive fans of The Gruffalo and were really excited to be able to bring the iconic characters to life in the forest through the magic of Augmented Reality. Working with Magic Light and the Forestry Commission has been a fantastic collaboration on many levels, from new technical innovation in AR and real time 3d characters, to creating an experience that works outside in all weathers and for all ages. The creative challenges have always been enjoyable and we can’t wait to see children (and their grown-ups!) playing it.”

The Gruffalo Spotter app will launch from 20 February and the trail at Gisburn Forest will run until December 2017.

The Gruffalo Spotter app is free from the App Store, Google Play and Amazon and requires downloading before your visit. A preview of the app is available here

For a full list of participating sites across England and for further details please visit

Bowland Set for Musical World Premiere

2nd May 2017

Image by Mark SutcliffeMusic of the Forest has been specially commissioned by William, 16th Lord of Bowland, and set to music by Lakeland composer, Christopher Gibbs.

The four-part song cycle evokes the landscape and history of this beautiful area and will be performed by the Renaissance Singers of Blackburn Cathedral under the baton of Samuel Hudson.

Providing a dramatic climax to the cycle will be internationally acclaimed musician, John Kenny, who will play the carnyx, an ancient Celtic war horn.

The performance takes place in Slaidburn Village Hall on the evening of Thursday 15th June.  Tickets cost £7.50 each and need to be booked in advance by calling the AONB office on 01200 448000 or by emailing

To find out about the inspiration behind this exciting new work read Mark Sutcliffe's Discover Bowland interview with William Bowland and Christopher Gibbs here.

A Feast of Festival Bowland Events

25th April 2017

Golden Plover by Chris GomersallMay is packed with Festival Bowland events! Wander through a bluebell wood and take tea in the village hall; head up to Tatham for the Maiden Bridge summer art exhibition plus Clearbeck's open garden; try your hand at fused glass in Hornby or family crafts at Beacon Fell; join the RSPB on the lookout for moorland birds and enjoy a guided ramble followed by food in Sawley.  And of course, as it's May, it's Garstang Walking Festival: nine days of fresh air and exercise in and around Bowland's western gateway. Details at

Click here to view a full list of Festival Bowland events.

Cloudspotting Music & Arts Festival 2017

4th April 2017

BIRDS. Bikes. CCloudspotting logohoirs. Carnivals. Drumming. Dancing workshops.  And that’s just for starters.

The full arts and music programme for the blooming Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival has been confirmed, apart from a few late surprises, and a rich programme of magical activities and adventures lies in wait for North West families.

Taking place between July 28th and 30th, Cloudspotting celebrates its 5th year at the fabulous location of the Gisburn Forest hub, situated deep in the Forest of Bowland AONB, 40 miles north of Manchester.

The festival was conceived in a Ribble Valley pub beer garden in 2011.  Since then, the reputation of the festival has blossomed for its adventurous music programme, family friendliness and magical intimate atmosphere.  Its location in the remote clearing of Lancashire’s largest forest is the most unspoiled natural habitat a festival audience could wish for. 

The live music programme looks strong, eclectic and on point, with a line-up brimming with artists who will be gracing much larger festival stages than Cloudspotting this year.

Cloudspotting FestivalThe Friday night features the spectacularly talented Moulettes and will be headlined by the cosmic grooves of Manchester’s cult outfit Henge, whose performance at last year’s festival so entranced its virgin audience that a repeat booking was demanded by attendees.

DJ Woody, a world DMC turntablist champion, headlines the Lawn Stage with an alternative live set before playing an AV ‘history of hip-hop’ set later in the night at the Cabin in the Woods.

And there lies a beauty of Cloudspotting.  The festival offers first consideration to its growing family audience camping in the main field but for the night owls, alternative late-night haunts can be sought out in the forest.

The midnight curfew on the main stage means that Cloudspotting has that rare quality of being able to hear the headliners while you curl up in your tent (or drink red wine outside it while minding the kids!).

Headlining Saturday night is Congolese poet, composer-lyricist, scriptwriter and performer Baloji for his only northern UK festival performance of the summer.  Baloji is an incredible live performer. His music stands at the crossroads of African music, incorporating traditional with soul, jazz and funk influences, discovered through sampling and electronic music which has its roots in the region of Belgium where he has spent much of his upbringing.   Other Saturday acts include Gulp, the side project of Guto Pryce of the Super Furry Animals, The Wave Pictures, Jeramiah Ferrari and the dub reggae vibes of Operation Sound System.

Cloudspotting Sundays are gloriously chilled days reflected by a more acoustic edge to the music programme. With that in mind, a gaggle of leading female artists on top of their game have been confirmed to star on Sunday – This is The Kit, Jesca Hoop, Holly Macve and Hannah Peel, will all be touring new material this summer. 

Sharing in the sets of some inspirational musicians is certainly par for the course at Cloudspotting.  But the strength of the festival is how the wider programme engages with the family, from early years, to teenagers, to adults.

The natural habitat of the Forest of Bowland is a source of great inspiration for the festival’s artistic themes.  This year, protection of the native birds of the forest will be celebrated, the endangered Hen Harrier has already had a strong presence in the festival’s promotional artwork, and a series of linked interactive activities produced in association with the RSPB will take place over the weekend.

FCloudspotting Festivalor festival goers who like to get stuck in, there is a raft of interactive arts on offer.  Performing arts workshops include the 6-hour ‘Play-in-a-day’ session, where participants will write, act and present a stage play on the Sunday; dance workshops, from clogging to Can Can; song-writing and drumming.  Creative Arts are also in abundance with long-time partners The Bureau, Blackburn leading a programme including forest arts, photography and science-based activities.

More passive attendees – especially those with young families – will be entertained by some award-winning outdoor theatre, courtesy of Fine Chisel, who will be performing ‘Flit, Flap and Fly’, and Madam Bridget’s Caravan of Curiosity  (world famous fortune teller and tea leaf reader!), which will be presented by association with the Northern Festivals Network.  Story-telling sessions, interactive music sessions, art installations, and walking trails (including ‘The Gruffalo’ trail) and circus school are just a portion of the programme that can be researched on the festival’s website (

In addition to all the arts and cultural activity, Gisburn Forest is also a UK hotspot for mountain biking.   Bike hire is available and other organised leisure pursuits include orienteering, a family sports day (Saturday), with the Lancashire Sports Partnership, and yoga.

Teenagers are well catered for too with a secret youth zone in the forest with activities such as DJ workshops, beat-boxing and graffiti arts.

Production Director Helen Ficorilli added: “As ever the Festival will be promoting quality across all artistic platforms with families particularly well catered for.  We are excited about a really wide ranging family arts and activity programmes connecting our audience with our beautiful forest location.” 


Cloudspotting camp opens from 12 noon on Friday, July 28th – 12 noon on Monday, July 31st.

For ticket information visit


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