As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the Forest of Bowland, Jackie King picks out a selection of gardens, visitor attractions and rural venues in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in northwest England.
Gorgeous scenery, pretty villages, quaint tea rooms and lush green gardens. The Forest of Bowland AONB has something for every member of the family.
Spend a little time here and you'll soon discover that there's a huge range of cultural and natural attractions for adults and children alike. If you're looking for natural beauty, look no further than the likes of Waddow Lodge Garden, a collection of hundreds of unique plants, or the Bowland Visitor Centre, the perfect starting point for any walk or bike ride.
Then again you could always visit the likes of Slaidburn Village Hall and the Tithe Barn, where you can combine natural beauty with galleries, exhibits of local artists and other cultural events.
Waddow Lodge Garden
Come and enjoy the hundreds of plants collected here over 40 years by Head Gardener Peter Foley. The whole garden is managed by Peter and his fiancee Liz, and run along organic principles, using environmentally friendly gardening techniques and composting all available waste material. There's an extraordinary variety of plants here, including herbaceous perennials, grasses, roses and shrubs, heathers and rhododendrons, dwarf conifers and alpines plus fruit and vegetables in a new kitchen garden area. In addition there’s a small orchard of classic old apple varieties, many native to Yorkshire and Lancashire, plus a small wildflower area and a wet meadow further down the garden perfect for encouraging wildlife into the garden. gardentalks.co.uk
Bowland Visitor Centre
If you’re planning to explore Lancashire’s countryside, then it’s worth starting out at the warm and welcoming Bowland Vistor Centre in Beacon Fell Country Park. Here you’ll find a wealth of information about the Fell, Forest of Bowland and surrounding area, and an enthusiastic team of volunteers who will happily advise you on where to go and what to see. There’s also a café serving freshly prepared food and drink to set you up for a day of exploration on Beacon Fell itself. There's a network of paths, including a sculpture trail, for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, but you don’t have to stick to them. You might prefer to just roam around, perhaps fly a kite or build a den, and relish the freedom of being in the great outdoors. forestofbowland.com
Bowland Wild Boar Park
Great for children and animal lovers, the Bowland Wild Boar Park has all sorts of wildlife to get up close and personal with. You can see and feed the llamas, deer, goats, lambs and chicks, and view the wild boar and Longhorn Cattle around the scenic Ribble Country Park. There are tractor and trailer rides, an educational eco lodge, and a relaxing picnic area by the pond where you can enjoy your lunch whilst you watch the wildlife at the feeding station tucking into theirs. wildboarpark.co.uk
Whether you’re heading out into the Ribble Valley or exploring Browsholme Hall’s own private nature trail, the award winning Tithe Barn café is the perfect place to plan your day. Order one of their locally produced cakes or try a cup of their own brand Bowland Bowbearer coffee, as you pour over their selection of walking leaflets or sit back and admire the permanent display of works by local artists. The café is converted from a 300 year old barn which forms part of the Browsholme Hall estate. Occupied by the Parker family since 1507, the house and gardens are open to the public on specific days throughout the year, and the barn is also available as an unforgettable venue for weddings or conferences which can accommodate up to 120 guests. browsholme.com
Forrest Hills is a lovely rural venue surrounded by 180 acres of woodland, rivers and lakes. It’s a relaxed and inspiring setting for meetings and events, as well as offering all sorts of leisure activities from a scenic 10 hole golf course to a fully stocked fly fishing lake. Originally part of Banton House Farm, the Newsham family have diversified this area of the farm and believe passionately in maintaining the ‘local distinctiveness’ of the location. They grow and use as much produce from the land as possible, whether it’s wood and stone for building materials, or fruit and vegetables for catering. lancaster.ac.uk/conferences/spaces-facilities/venues/forrest-hills
Slaidburn Village Hall
This former Chapel now serves as a vibrant hub for community life in the pretty stone village of Slaidburn, as well as a flexible venue for all sorts of events from exhibitions to weddings and even stage performances. There is a main hall which overlooks the village green with the River Hodder running alongside, plus three meeting rooms, a gallery and a fully equipped kitchen to cater your event. The whole building was renovated in 2006 with conservation at its heart from the very beginning. Natural and locally sourced building materials were used wherever possible, and the venue is now run on a low carbon footprint using many simple touches such as low energy light bulbs and water saving devices. There is also an innovative air to water heat pump which keeps visitors warm and snug throughout the Lancastrian winter. slaidburnvillagehall.co.uk
For more information on characterful places to stay, local food and drink, and nearby outdoor activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to the Forest of Bowland