Martin’s Bowland Blog

Martin’s blog will cover things that have been happening in Bowland that may have been missed by the national or local press.

Suggestions and comments are always welcome from locals and visitors alike.

The views and opinions expressed in Martin’s blog are personal and do not represent those of the Forest of Bowland, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Lancashire County Council or any other partner in the Forest of Bowland Joint Advisory Committee. They are generally light hearted in tone and should be treated accordingly.

Martin Charlesworth - volunteer, and former Community Projects Officer for Bowland.

Please send any suggestions or comments to

Bowland sheep to star in Scandinavian witch crime investigation
Sun, 1 Apr 2012 6:34am

The Forest of Bowland AONB is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch trials this year and the Danish TV company that  brought contemporary crime stories to British screens is planning to delve into history, reopen the investigation into alleged witchcraft and attempt to solve the crime of murder of 20 innocent people from Pendle Forest. Danish Film Company DR1 had a worldwide hit series with ‘The Killing’ starring a Faroese sweater worn by actress Sofie Gråbøl in the role of Deputy Superintendent  Sarah Lund who will attempt to unravel the complex issues surrounding the original trial. The series is expected to comprise 20 hour long episodes and is being funded by local artistic production company Lancashiree Rural Features. It is being reported in Sweden that the real villain of the piece will turn out to be King James 1 which, if proved, will result in the replacement of the British Royal family with that of obscure Norwegian diplomat, Harald Sigurdsson, descended from King Harald Hardrada of Norway who died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. Harald (seen here with his family and friends) has said that he will maintain Britain’s stance of opposition to monetary union within the EU, ring fence oil revenues, increase the powers of the House of Lords and reduce the price of cod. He is confident that he can mastermind a peaceful bloodless ‘Velvet Revolution’ whereby the UK will become in effect a satellite state under the protection of Norway and ruled by the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.


Dear Friends............and an invitation to meet the Beast of Bowland
Fri, 23 Mar 2012 3:24pm

I had been on a Festival Bowland archaeology event last year with Geoff Morries (former County ecologist) and he asked me if I thought that setting up a 'Friends of Bowland' group would be a good idea. To cut a long story short, we agreed that it would, bought each other a drink and covered the back of an envelope with some ideas and here we are now recuiting! Check this link to find out more and be included in future communications. If you are reading this far then you are already a Friend of Bowland - your views and your help would be very much appreciated. We think that a volunteer co-ordinator could help develop ideas and plan activities. Is that you? Let us know. 

Moving on to furry friends....Geoff has planned a small mammal identification and recording event in Newton in Bowland on 20th and 21st April. This is not an invitation to bring a stray cat or dog, we're just wanting to see what wildlife there is in Newton community woodland. The event is being organised by the Friends of Bowland and the Greater Manchester small mammals group.



Show me the way to Starkey Manor*
Mon, 12 Mar 2012 8:40am

"There is a great old hall in the north-east of Lancashire, in a part they called the Trough of Bolland, adjoining that other district named Craven. Starkey Manor-house is rather like a number of rooms clustered round a gray, massive, old keep than a regularly-built hall. Indeed, I suppose that the house only consisted of a great tower in the centre, in the days when the Scots made their raids ... The deer used  to come within sight of the drawing-room windows, and might have browsed quite close up to the house if they had not been too wild and shy ... The Starkey Manor-house itself stood on a projection or peninsula of high land, jutting out from the abrupt hills that form the sides of the Trough of Bolland". 

Our learned Lord of Bowland, William Bowland, has drawn to my attention this all but forgotten story - "The Poor Clare" - by Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.  Gaskell's tale weaves together witchcraft, Jacobites and an Oedipal curse in an atmospheric portrait of the Forest of Bowland in the eighteenth century. Coldholme (Sykes?), the nearest settlement to the ancient moated Starkey Manor, harbours Bridget Fitzgerald, the "Coldholme witch", who finally becomes the Poor Clare of the story's title.  We even have a chaplain from Stonyhurst and a jaunt to Antwerp thrown in for good measure.
The whole ripping yarn can be read at
I don't suspect we'll find Starkey Manor on the map anytime soon (Lizzie seems to have a habit of cutting and pasting 2 real names to make a plausible sounding new one - Cranford of course and Skipford** for example in the Poor Clare short story) but I could be wrong.  Any local historians out there who might set the record straight?
*....I'm tired and I want to go to bed?
**I myself am from a village in between Pontefract and Castleford....or Ponte Carlo and Cas Vegas as I was told by a member of a Hull based skiffle group in Whalley village hall a few years ago - unlikely that these were created by Elizabeth G. More like Bernard Manning!
The forgotten Bowbearer
Sat, 7 Jan 2012 9:04pm

Richard EastwoodChristmas is a time when people far from home (perhaps sipping a gin and tonic in the Raffles Hotel, Singapore or watching the dawn come up like thunder somewhere on the road to Mandalay) fondly remember their roots and cast a fleeting thought for the ones left behind before chasing tigers and dressing for dinner. This crossed my mind as I opened the latest communication from the Lord of Bowland who sadly was unable to join the rest of us in and around storm lashed Bowland over the festive period.

William Bowland, our feudal lord, has done much over the past couple of years to re-awaken consciousness of our Forest's rich history.  His most daring act was perhaps to revive the ancient office of Bowbearer with the appointment of Robert Parker of Browsholme Hall.  Not uncontroversial in some quarters. William has also uncovered details of the hitherto forgotten life of Richard Eastwood, the greatest Bowbearer of the Victorian period, whose descendents still live in the Forest to this day.  
A photograph of Eastwood was unearthed and now sits on our Lordship page.  To this, we must now add a fresh and exciting discovery.  Tony Kitto at Towneley Hall has found a lithograph of Eastwood and today, for the very first time, we unveil it to the world - with due thanks to Tony.
Rumour has it that William has other plans afoot - a revival of his manorial court at Slaidburn in the autumn and perhaps even a return of the Perambulation of the Forest that last took place in the 1660s to pace out the boundaries of his noble demesne.

Information sought - useful reward!
Wed, 21 Dec 2011 5:57pm

Heelers are small, practical, workmanlike dogs that round up sheep (given chance) and snap at vicars. Not at all the sort of thing to carry round in a handbag or shopping basket - a distressing trend I have recently noticed. A friend from the west asks for my help in nailing a particular Bowland story that she has heard so I'll pass on this request with the added bonus of a seasonal offer of great value to anyone supplying evidence to prove the story.  

My friend has heard that a farmer on Pendle in the olden days had a pack of heelers that he used to set loose on Pendle to round up all the sheep thereon. Is this true? Perhaps she misheard and the heelers were used for the gathering of stray vicars or more probably non conformists - Wesleyans, Quakers, Inghamites etc. Anyway, we need to know the truth whether it be ovine or (un)orthodox!

And the prize will be a visit in the New Year from my friend Margaret and her heeler (pictured above in the Raffles Hotel after a tiger hunt) to rid you of visiting clerics (right) or children of relatives that have outstayed their welcome over the festive period. 


Fears of pharaoh's curse fuelled by fellside felicide find - will Julia be brought in to explain?
Thu, 8 Dec 2011 4:19pm

Lord Carnarvon was reputedly felled by 'the pharaoh's curse' a mere 4 months and 7 days after entering the tomb of Tutankahmun. This was on my mind as I read with mounting astonishment that a feline corpse has been found bricked up in a sealed room of a ruined Pendleside cottage. I hate to be beaten to the punch by the BBC on my own backyard but their programme this morning - see this link - explains all. 

What is undoubtedly true is that this strange find comes just as events to mark the 400th Anniversary of the Pendle Witches Trial are about to start in 2012. The Lancashire Witch Trials took place in 1612 and the Lancaster Visitor Information Centre will be keeping visitors uptodate with what is planned including the publishing of new books portraying the witches story, exhibitions, guided tours, public art and theatrical performances in Pendle and Lancaster and along the route which the witches were taken from Pendle Hill to be held in Lancaster Castle in 1612 before they were hung on the moors close to Lancaster.

I do not honestly know whether to start lighting candles for Julia Bradbury to come over the horizon on a white unicorn to explain it all to us (poor heathens that we are) or whether to stroke a few toads to keep her away. I'll sort out an on-line poll before the sun sets a second time over Pendle Hill. 

Health and safety legislation proposed for birds of prey?
Thu, 8 Dec 2011 11:24am

The health and safety at work act 1974 says 'All workers have a right to work in places where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. Health and safety is about stopping you getting hurt at work or ill through work. Your employer is responsible for health and safety, but you must help.' It places the responsibility clearly with the employer but says that individuals must play their part.


It strikes me that the independent e-petition calling for Vicarious Liability to be introduced in England makes a similar point about responsibilities relating to persecution of birds of prey - an individual (a gamekeeper for example) committing a specific act of disturbance of a nesting site is responsible for that offence but his/her employer (landowner) could also be responsible for an offence if they do not support a compliant working regieme for their staff. At present this is the case in Scotland but not England. The link to the petition is below. If you support its aims then sign it. 


Background from the RSPB here and the e-petition here.

Listen here to the RSPB speaking on the Today programme this morning about the last 4 breeding pairs of Hen Harriers - on the UU estate in Bowland.

On your farm - still worth a listen
Tue, 6 Dec 2011 12:06pm

One of the reassuring things about growing up in England in the 50s and 60s was to hear ’On your farm’ broadcast every Sunday morning from some farmer’s kitchen. The farms chosen all seemed to be fairly well to do. I don’t recall hearing too many hard luck stories. They were the days of growth through shrewd acquisition (getting your son to marry a farmer’s daughter might be a god strategy), selective plant and animal breeding, developments in fertilizers and pesticides and specialization. The main comfort of the programme was the homely fried breakfast shared with the presenter. The full works - bacon, sausage, black pudding, eggs (from the farm of course), home made bread and marmalade. The 'farmer’s wife' even got to speak sometimes about selling eggs or making jam or the Women’s Institute. If there was anything controversial then I don’t remember it. There were no farmers growing exotic vegetables in polytunnels for upmarket restaurants and no farmers with home counties accents on the Welsh borders. If the programme was from a farm in the Dales, the farmer had a Dales accent and was called Metcalfe or Foster. If you were in Lancashire then the farmer would speak like George Formby. In the Lake District, it was always raining and Beatrix Potter had lived over the hill. All the farmers sons worked on the farm and everything was rosy. 

I knew that the programme showed a sanitised version of farming and farmers. If they had gone round my Uncle’s farm, which they never did,  then they would have been subjected to a thoroughgoing analysis of rural philosophy, politics and economics littered with sufficient rude words and sounds to keep the vicar from visiting. My Uncle wore a wide brimmed hat (that was buried with him when he died) and referred to anyone who attended school after 14 years of age as ‘Professor’. He was not short of opinions and smelled of pigs and tractors all year round and additionally of soil, cabbages, peas, potatoes or straw according to season. It would have made excellent radio - for a late night adult audience.

In retrospect, those were the years when the landscape changed out of all recognition. Where I was born the mixed farm became a rarity and farmers made a better living specializing in growing wheat at the cost of flattening hedges and filling in ditches and draining wet fields. There was a chemical answer to nutrition, pests and weeds (insects and wildflowers?) 

Things have changed and ‘On your farm’ gets out and about into the fields and woodlands a bit more and discussion  of the fried breakfast no longer takes up the time. In fact several years ago I remember hearing the Duke of Westminster interviewed for the programme in his office on his Chester estate. The presenter described the scene, the small office and the cup of black coffee in front of the Duke. The interviewer enquired hopefully if the Duke was maybe going to have breakfast later. 'This is my breakfast.’ said the Duke to the deflated journalist.

Whatever changes the programme has undergone, the format of getting real people to explain their working lives in their own voices has not changed. As I listened to this weeks programme, I was cheered to hear Martin Colledge (the man who runs Forests in NW England for the Forestry Commission) explaining how grazing of felled areas in Whinlatter Forest is resulting in a return of native wildflowers. The twist in this weeks particular story is that the farmer who owns the cattle does not actually have a farm as such - he rents out his stock to graze sensitive areas. An excellent programme and if you weren’t awake at 6.30am on Sunday, then listen now! 

Pythons in Bowland?
Mon, 21 Nov 2011 9:36am

I received an enquiry recently about whether a subject was perhaps too 'political' to be mentioned in Martin's blog. I have to say that the answer to that is 'certainly not!'. I have been hankering  to tackle poltical issues but have never received encouragement - until now that is. So, where should I begin? The email I received seemd to say that pythons were about to be released across Bowland. On re reading, I realised that the threat was from pylons and not pythons. To cut a long story short, the proposed addition/expansion of power generation in the NW - nuclear and offshore - means that the National Grid is planning extra carrying capacity from the NW to other areas of the UK. The AONB will represent the protected landscape but as yet there are no firm proposals. The National Grid link here contains their latest statement and details of consultation. The AONB was part of the project that buried intrusive overhead lines in the last few years (the line over Waddington Fell and other locations) and it would be bizarre if this investment in the landscape were to wasted. Keep an eye on the National Grid website! 

Minor earthquake - no one injured!
Thu, 3 Nov 2011 11:45am


Drilling holes into Bowland shale in search of gas near Blackpool was not to blame for a minor earthquake recorded in Dunsop Bridge early this morning. Everything looks OK on this photo of Burholme bridge, doesn't it?

Landscape for life

Forest of Bowland

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