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.

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A sign for the times
Mon, 18 Apr 2011 10:49am

On Friday morning, William Bowland, our elusive Lord of Bowland made his first official visit to the Forest, stepping briefly out of the shadows to unveil a new road sign at Dunsop Bridge.

The directional sign, handcrafted by Padiham signmaker Duncan Armstrong, bears the name BOWLAND at its top and is located at the junction of the Whitewell Road as it heads west towards the Trough.

In 1974, with the abolition of the Bowland Rural District Council, all the signposts marked with Yorks WR (Yorkshire West Riding) or with the Bowland Archer had these markings removed by Lancashire County Council. 

The symbolic importance of today’s occasion wasn’t lost on our feudal master.  Having already gone on the record championing Bowland’s interests, he loftily proclaimed: “This is a sign for the times. A symbol of pride.  It marks a revival of Bowland’s traditional identity.  It is my hope that, as the opportunity arises, we shall see more signs bearing the name BOWLAND.  It is an honour for me to be invited to officiate at today’s ceremony.  This is an occasion that should make every Bowlander proud”.

While mercifully no forelocks were tugged at this event (there was some mild applause), it is certainly heartening to see our mystery Lord stepping up to the plate. Who says that feudal lords aren’t without their uses?

Bowland boss implicated in outrageous Scottish landscape scam
Fri, 1 Apr 2011 4:58am

As friends and colleagues of Don McKay, self effacing publicity shy head of the Forest of Bowland, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, gathered to bid farewell to him on Wednesday evening at his retirement party at the Inn at Whitewell, it was becoming clear that he was the agent of an audacious long term plan to prepare the Forest for Scottish rule. Papers released under the freedom of information act show that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (the last British PM to wear a moustache in public) conspired with Scottish Nationalists in 1963 to convert whole tracts of Northern England into blanket bog and heather in order to get the border between England and Scotland redrawn. The soon to be designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was identified as an area that would be sold to a resurgent Scotland in return for barrels of North Sea oil recently discovered by geologists in the North Sea off Aberdeen. In a plot line worthy of 'The Manchurian Candidate', the young Donald MacKay was groomed in various local Government posts in Lancashire as a sleeper to be 'activated' when he got into a position of power and influence. Since seizing control of the AONB some 25 years ago, he has stealthily but undeniably changed the landscape of Bowland from idyllic green pasture, rolling hills and tumbling streams where fine hay was made on long late summer evenings - as nostalgically described by Chipping poet Michael Neary in his many poems about the area - into a blighted area of peat bog, crag and beck where nothing grows. The change in landscape and biodiversity has been tracked by top scientists at the European Nature Conservancy over several years by satellite imaging, RAF photo recognisance and from the trapping of small mammals and the recording of plant species carried out by amateur naturists. The evidence of Scottish influence is damming -

  • Over thirty percent of the AONB area is now covered in blanket bog, heather and bilberry
  • Grouse beatings are at an all time high
  • Ticks, mosquitoes and midges have made many previously popular picnic areas into no go areas
  • Salmon, Highland cattle (see photo) and wild boar have been reintroduced at the expense of local breeds - Bowland Blue cattle and Grunsagill Black pigs
  • Last but not least the populations of land agents, ghillies and men (and sad to say women also) dressed in tweeds for no apparent reason are all out of control. 


Scottish draper's son, Mackaye, raised eyebrows recently when he supported an attempt by Caledonian MacBrayne to bid for the Knott End ferry and for the same company to put a paddle steamer on Stocks reservoir. It is too early to say how long it will take to unravel the complex web of interactions that have led to such landscape and climate changes in Bowland culminating in the last 2 winters of unparalleled Hibernian harshness but a fresh start can now be made. 

The history of Lancashire Cheese - part 1
Tue, 15 Mar 2011 1:48pm

Margaret Panikkar has been interested in cheesemaking since.......well a long time. You may have heard one of her very entertaining talks on the history of cheesemaking at Bowland Festival events or at a Local History Society meeting - but if not you can now catch up by buying her recently published booklet called 'Pressing the Cheese'. Cheese presses around here used to be made from wood; a huge stone, a ton or more, being used to expel excess moisture. A simple but effective mechanism for compacting milk curds! Most wooden frames have long since perished but the stones remain scattered around farms and the many conversions that used to be farms - used as milk stands, mounting blocks, corner stones for new buildings or as a lamp stand in one case. Margaret has been trawling through old inventories (the records used to calculate death duties) and also photographing and measuring the ones she and other people have found in the countryside for longer than she cares to say but has now written up the account of how they were used to produce cheese in farmhouses throughout Lancashire. Lancashire cheese was a very valuable commodity 'exported' to London by boat long before the era of trains. Lancashire cheese, after a period during the 2nd WW when production was forbidden, is again riding the crest of a wave of popularity. You can buy the book for £3 at Clitheroe or Longridge libraries or £3.50 (that includes postage) from the author Margaret Panikkar, Bromiley, Ribchester Road, Clayton-le-Dale, Blackburn, BB1 9EG.


No pulling punches - the Talbot may be in safe hands at last
Tue, 15 Mar 2011 10:39am

When I was a boy, I played rugby at school and as soon as you were tackled and brought to ground you let go of the ball. It was sensible to do this as there would be half a dozen much bigger and stronger lads trying to get it off you. I forget if it was the same rule then but nowadays you are penalised if you do not release the ball - just watch the 6 nations RU championship and see how much that happens. If only it were the same with the pub and hotel trade! The previous owners of the Talbot Hotel, Chipping held onto the place much too long in my opinion and any decent referee would long ago have blown the whistle on them and awarded a penalty. A sending off would not have been too harsh for an offence repeated at many locations!

I'm delighted to hear that there are new owners of the Talbot with a new plan so look out for news in the near future. 

Froggy weather
Wed, 16 Feb 2011 4:20pm

Around this time of year, a certain type of person's thoughts turn to the welfare of frogs and toads (and maybe the whole spectrum of Amphibian and Reptile life). If you are that type of person then you ought to be aware that the North Lancashire ARG - Amphibian and Reptile Group are holding their inaugural meeting at 7pm on Monday February 21st at Old Holly Farm Garstang - contact David Orchard, Chair of the Amphibian and Reptile Group of South Lancashire on 01204 529312 or 07817 373853. I don't know the dress code.........wellies and flashlight I suppose?

This Froggy photo is of a Common toad taken by Lorna

Support gathers in Gisburn Forest........
Mon, 31 Jan 2011 3:09pm

I've been looking for an excuse to use this photo which I have borrowed from a book called 'Looking East' by Mark Garanger. (And 'East' here does not mean Huddersfield, Halifax or even Hull). I don't know the context or where the shot was taken but maybe a Government inspector has just arrived in a 4X4 and started to explain about how all the fields must be ploughed, or the trees felled or the valley flooded.

Anyway, enough of that. In a completely unrelated way, the Government opened its consultation on the future of the 'Public Forest Estate' on Jan 27th and you can contribute here. The consultation will last 12 weeks and I do hope that the resultant report doesn't use too many trees. Dobrý den!

Return of the Whicker Man
Sat, 22 Jan 2011 3:42pm

My writ is in the post.

That Wicker Man moment
Thu, 20 Jan 2011 4:06pm

Some of you may recall the 1970s cult classic The Wicker Man starring Christopher Lee as the sinister Lord of Summer Isle. A recent piece in the Longridge & Ribble Valley News by Gillian Whalley described our own Lord of Bowland as Lord of the Fells.  Of course, in the Wicker Man, the Lord of Summer Isle is more than the laird. He also acts as the high priest of the “old religion", a pagan faith which involved lots of dancing and not much clothing which earned the film an X rating.

The weather has not been conducive to such activities but who knows when spring arrives? Check the Festival Bowland calendar for news of events and check Google for news of 'The Lord of the Fells'.


Godt Nyttår 2011
Wed, 5 Jan 2011 12:57pm

Here's a photo taken on 1st January by Morten Clemetsen, who led the group of visitors from Aurland to Bowland in October 2010. 

Before they came, I offered advice to the group of Norwegians about what to wear in Bowland in October - warm clothing, waterproofs and boots etc. They must have thought I was a bit soft but we've been having worse weather recently than they have!

Morten wishes us all a Happy New Year and I'm writing back to ask him politely to keep the snow there - we can always visit if we want to make snowmen. Alternatively we must learn to live in a colder climate; in which case they had better come over again and give us some advice......and I don't just mean on how to build a snowman.

Alice in Bitternland and other Christmas books
Wed, 15 Dec 2010 12:19pm

Morecambe Bay, taken from Arnside Knott looks particularly picturesque in this photograph taken last week by Tony Riden from the Arnside and Silverdale AONB unit there. Arnside and Silverdale AONB is our sister AONB - and we are just a bit jealous of her Bitterns and butterflies (and orchards). With 6 inches of powdery snow, the whole area looked like the film set of Narnia. All it needed was for the White Witch or Princess Lucy to turn up and enchant us - or in the case of Lucy, rescue us.

All the delights of the Arnside and Silverdale area are showcased in a new book compiled by the Landscape Trust.The book costs £8.00 including p&p, or £6.95 over the counter. It's a lovely book and I've already lost my copy by lending it out!

People wishing to order by email can contact Liza Henderson landscapetrust [at] arnsidesilverdaleaonb [dot] org [dot] uk or phone her on 01524 761034.


Here's a poster advertising the book.and another shot from Arnside Knott facing the viaduct. Spectacular!


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