For me, this was the beginning. For all my adult life, the hills and mountains have been very important to me, and this is where it all began. When I was 14 I cycled to these hills with a mate – when the road came to an end we carried on walking. We didn’t know about maps and compasses, let alone carried them, we just walked for a while then turned round and went back.
As we turned for home I had a feeling of regret – I wanted to know what was beyond the high ground ahead that we had so nearly reached. Since then I’ve been back here more times than I can remember, and these were the first hills I walked – this was where I served my apprenticeship.
The Forest of Bowland is the mass of moorland to the east of the M6 motorway, between Preston and Lancaster. There is a definite lack of trees here, but the word ‘Forest’ is used as in the old term meaning ‘Royal Forest’, otherwise an area reserved for hunting by the monarch, and this use goes back to pre-Norman days – Pendle Hill (see post #199) is one of the outlying hills of the group. The moors are now classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
None of the hills here top the magic height of 2000 ft (210 metres) that constitutes a mountain in the UK. Despite that, these are dramatic wild hills, rising straight out of the Lancashire plain. They were certainly important to our ancestors, and nestling to the west of Fairsnape Fell and Parlick at Bleasdale lies the site of a Bronze Age wooden circle, about 4000 years old. These moors also became important to me in my early wanderings in the hills.
As teenagers we would cycle or get the bus to the village of Chipping then walk two miles out to the hills. Navigation was a bit hit and miss in the early days, and this was a great training ground on which to learn, with the penalty for a mistake being a much longer day out than intended – more than once we had to run the two miles back to the village to catch the last bus, sometimes in the dark.
I don’t come back here too often now, but for the second week in a row Chris and I had to go to nearby Preston, and when the job was finished Border Collie ‘Mist’ was ready for a run up a hill somewhere. Parlick and Fairsnape fitted the bill perfectly. We started on Parlick, walked out to Fairsnape then continued to what used to be the old border between Lancashire and Yorkshire, changed for ever in the boundary changes of 1974.
I don’t need a map up here nowadays – I reckon I could cross these hills in any weather and know exactly where I am. When I first came here, these were quiet deserted hills – nowadays they are better known, and the moors are now tracked on the popular routes. On a busy day you will see walkers, runners and even fliers, as the area is a popular playground for hang gliders. For me, these are the hills of home.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock