It seems hard to imagine on this densely populated isle that it is possible to escape “Far from the Madding Crowd” but escape is not only possible but remarkably near at hand. This walk gives a taste of Lancashire’s secret wilderness – the Forest of Bowland. For years these upland moors were the preserve of grouse, gamekeepers and shooters and that in part explains why this area is not as well-known as the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales. It’s lack of popularity however does not diminish its beauty – indeed it enhances it because the chances are you’ll have it all to yourself. 

Fact file
Start: Stoops Bridge Abbeystead LA2 9BQ Grid ref: SD563 543


Distance: 8 miles

Time: 3 ½ - 5 hours

Grade: Strenuous in that the walk involves 1100ft of ascent but the climb will seem easy after negotiating the stiles between Abbeystead and Tarnbrook.

Map OS OL41 Forest of Bowland


 Map by kind permission of Johnston Press


1. From the car park turn left and then immediately right on Strait Lane - that is do not cross Stoops Bridge into Abbeystead. Walk up the lane to where is bends left and keep ahead on a footpath to the left of a cottage passing through a white fence gate.


At the rear of the property go through a kissing gate bearing slightly left across a long pasture. Now on the Wyre Way a long distance path that follows the river from source to sea though on this walk you are going in the opposite direction. After passing a Wyre way stone marker


cross a stile and with a fence to the left continue to a kissing gate. Through this bear slightly left with the farm house of Higher Emmetts on your left. A wooden stile puts you on a lane. Cross onto the drive of Top of Emmetts


and then turn right over a ladder stile. With a fence to your left continue to the corner of the field, turn left over a plank bridge


and then right over a double stile. Bear slightly left and after 300yds negotiate another double stile arrangement over a brook. Keep to the right of a large field barn


and follow the fence on the right to a wall stile (rather awkward). Continue with the wall on the right passing between to squeeze stiles carry on to cross a ladder stile. Bear right to go through a metal gate onto a track leading to another metal gate and a low ladder stile. Over this keep ahead to cross a bridge


over the infant River Wyre onto a farm track leading into the isolated hamlet of Tarnbrook.


2. After all the clambering, climbing, squeezing and negotiating of stiles it will come as a relief to know that there is only one stile left for the remaining 6 miles of the walk. As you reach the lane that represents Tarnbrook's main street keep ahead through a wooden gate


to join a firm shooters' track leading onto the open fell.


Keep on it as it climbs towards Ward's Stone, the highest point in the Forest of Bowland. After passing Tarnsyke Wood the track becomes steeper as it comes close to an aqueduct (carrying a water pipeline)seen to the right.


Soon after pass a luncheon hut - also to the right.


At the junction just above the hut keep ahead and at the next junction turn left.


Now with most of the hard climbing behind you it is time to enjoy the superb views especially over the Fylde to Blackpool Tower. Below Ward's Stone Breast you attain the highest elevation for the walk


and there commences a long but gentle descent to Lower Lee. Close to another luncheon hut the track reaches a junction with a track coming down from Grizedale Head. Turn left and continue the descent.


After passing Lee Plantation on your left the track turns right to reach the drive of a handsome house.


Turn left and continue to Rakehouse Brow - the road connecting the Trough of Bowland and Lancaster. Turn left.

3. Just before Grizedale Bridge turn right


through a gate to take a footpath that soon joins the Tarnbrook Wyre back to Stoops Bridge. (Be aware that two footpaths originate at this point - yours is the one closer to the bridge.)


When you reach the road in front of the primary school turn left for the car park.