Bowland's Built Environment

Our vision is that, "Every change in the built environment of Bowland should conserve or improve the character of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty."

We will achieve this vision by -

  • Encouraging visitors to respect the countryside and follow the Countryside code, protecting property, including roadside verges, plants, animals, taking their litter home and leaving no trace on the landscape
  • Encouraging land owners to maintain and in some cases reinstate traditional boundaries; hedges, dry stone walls, ditches and the like
  • Encouraging and providing information for home owners to alter, extend, repair and reinstate features of their property, curtillage and gardens taking note of locally distinctive design using local materials and craftsmen where possible
  • Working with planning authorities to improve information given to householders and businesses by the agreement and implementation of Supplementary planning guidance
  • Working with highways authorities to reduce signage clutter and lighting pollution reinstating and/or repairing locally distinctive signage and lighting where appropriate

Purpose of the AONB with respect to the built environment

Our purpose is to conserve and enhance the beauty of the area, which includes the pattern of settlement and built environment; including the villages, the houses in them, the churches and graveyards, the roads, bridleways and tracks that link them, the signs that tell us where we are, streetlighting and other lights, the verges and roadside railings, the hedges and walls that border the roads and divide the fields.

'Locally distinctiveness' in the Forest of Bowland

The aim of these following examples is to showcase features that are distinctive to parts of the Forest of Bowland, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are many pressures on domestic and agricultural buildings and on the infrastructure of roads, bridges, gates, walls and hedges that have grown up since they were originally designed and built. Suffice it to mention the expectation for bathrooms/showers and garages for domestic properties and the increased size of agricultural machinery necessitating wider access to fields. It is unrealistic to think that these pressures can be entirely resisted so we would like to conserve what we can and change what we have to in a way that is sympathetic to the neighbourhood and tradition of the area.


The following three photographs show the villages of Downham, Bolton by Bowland and Calder Vale. These villages are all in conservation areas where development is controlled. The character, however, of each of these the villages is different; there is no one style of village or settlement that is 'right', villages generally develop their particular character over time. Downham is picture postcard pretty but has the air of a working village related to the agricultural business of the Downham estate and nearby Downham Hall. Bolton by Bowland is  a larger village with two village greens and some grand old houses as well as cottages. Calder Vale on the other hand is an industrial village that was created for the industry that grew up around the stream that could be harnessed to provide power - originally for a paper mill and latterly for a cotton mill. Calder Vale was developed over a much shorter time than Downham or Bolton by Bowland and the neat terraced houses were built as workers cottages by the original Quaker mill owner.

 Downham   Bolton by Bowland                                                      

Downham - left, note the absence of road markings and obtrusive signs. The street lighting operates on reduced power at night. Bolton by Bowland - right has a similarly absence of clutter.

Windows, roof, chimney stacks, doors

The key visual featues of a house are the roof, the windows, the doors and the chimney stacks. The houses/cottages in the following three photographs are particularly pleasing in that they have grey slate roofs, windows that are regular and in some cases  to the original sash pattern, original chimney stacks and pots and doors that are 'appropriate'. It is particularly difficult with windows and doors as they are subject to replacement. However, uPVC is far from ideal, being subject to discolouration and degradation over time, and wood remains a sustainable alternative.

Bolton by Bowland house

    Newton in Bowland


   Cobbles in Chipping

Cobbles are the original hard wearing road surface for well used roads and drives. Tarmac has been laid over most cobbles but those that survive should be cherished!

Stone setts on the left in a private drive are probably not original but complement the look of the house. The cobbles on the right are in Chipping where they fit perfectly.


Quirky features

There are some features of houses that have no current purpose. Sometimes it is better to retain them than blank them off or brick them up.


This doorway and weather vane are no doubt unique.  It would be a shame to change them.

And if you have a Hotel, why not fly the flag:  An old photograph of the Inn at Whitewell

Inn at Whitewell

Traditional boundaries - hedges, walls and railings

"Dry stone walling in Britain stretches back at least three and a half millennia, to the village of Skara Brae in the Orkneys, and the Iron Age brochs of northern and western Scotland.  Dry stone walls are found in Britain, and elsewhere, where large quantities of rock and stone are found above the soil, and especially where trees and hedges do not grow easily because of the climate, elevation, strong winds or thin soils.  This is why dry stone walls are most prominent in northern and western Britain, and often at the higher altitudes. Today dry stone walling is prospering with an upsurge in interest in the environmental value of walls and the growth in prestigious garden, landscape and artistic projects.  Dry stone walls are an important feature of the British landscape which should not be taken for granted. As interest in environmental issues increases, dry stone walling sits comfortably within these parameters, being a sustainable product made from natural materials.  Although initially appearing more expensive than fencing, with regular maintenance a dry stone wall could stand for 100 years and at the same time offering shelter and habitat for a wide variety of animals, birds and plants."

Extract from dry stone walling association website.

In Bowland, dry stone walls are one of the most immediate and visual parts of the landscape. They vary in styles from one part of the AONB to another depending on the underlying geology of the area and not least the individual preferences of the landowner and then the personal style of the waller.

Left. A hedge laid in the Lancashire and Westmorland style, primarily to fence in sheep rather than cattle, being approx 1 yard high and 1 yard wide.  Right. A dry stone wall made unusually of river cobbles in this instance as the wall borders a brook where cobbles are plentiful. Walls like stone built houses will reflect the particular geology/stones present in the local landscape. It is better to not import stone for these purposes from another area.


 "Hedgerows help to define the uniqueness of the British countryside and are an important wildlife habitat. They require sympathetic management if we are to preserve them for future generations. The National Hedge Laying Society is dedicated to improving the understanding of hedgerows and improving the standards of hedgerow management throughout the UK."

Extract from the hedgelaying association website.

The Forest of Bowland, AONB promotes and supports reinstatement and repair of traditional boundaries with Natural England through it's Traditional Boundaries programme of work. The AONB works with partners to promote training in hedging and walling and organises courses and competitions.

Advice on traditional skills and information about contractors

Dry stone walling association - mid lancs branch

Lancashire & Westmorland Hedgelaying Association


Iron railingswere erected by Lancashire County Council from the 1930s to the 1970s to assist with vision and safety on bad bends on narrow rural roads. They are part of our traditional boundaries and where they have been repainted in white (sometimes green), they make a great contribtion to the landscape. Local people and volunteers have been active in repainting railings in several villages in Bowland.

Wildflowers have survived on verges but need appropriate maintenance which must be specific.

The various habitats of Bowland support their own unique families of wildflowers. Some roadside verges retain much greater variety than the fields and meadows that they border. This is due to the intensification of agriculture after the second world war that lead to land drainage and improvement on a massive scale by the use of artificial fertiliser. This lead to increased production at the expense of biodiversity.

Annual species should be left to set and distribute seed before being cut down and the debris removed. Other species may need additional measures. 'Special verges' are designated by Lancashire County Council and Craden District Council.

Special verges have recently been marked with a triangle containing the letters 'SI' drawn on the road; one triangle at the start and one at the end with arrows to indicate the direction. These markings are for the use of verge cutting contractors. Some of these Special Verges are also designated as Biological Heritage Sites (also know as BHS).

Traditionally managed species rich meadow

Most meadows have been improved and there is little biodiversity of plant life, however there are a very few meadows in Bowland where farming practices have remained unchanged and wildflowers still grow in profusion. Agro environment schemes are helping support traditional farming practices that protect these meadows in Bowland.

Some of these sites are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The location of SSSI sites is shown on the Lancashire County Council mapzone website - MARIO on the 'Countryside' map layer.

Special habitats for special plants

Blanket bog and bog rosemary





Trees and Woodland


Isolated trees in the landscape and hedgerows are present in some parts of the AONB, in particular in ancient parkland and in the estates. Efforts should be made to retain these where they are present and advice should be taken before significant pruning or felling. Trees may be listed and this should be checked before work takes place.

Right. An unusual avenue of trees near Chaigley. Left. This particular Sweet Chestnut tree, shown left, is in a small park at Galgate, in Ellel parish. It is puzzling that such a tree has been planted in this location but the answer can be found on old maps of the area that show the surrounding area to be parkland related to Ellel Hall which is now demolished. The tree was part of the parkland and has just been enclosed by later housing development. The Forest of Bowland is surprisingly short of tree cover and as a consequence, any large tree planting scheme affects the typical landscape.

Road signs


The signs shown here have been restored to how they looked at a certain point in time; originally, signs would probably have been wooden. The one on the left is at Bolton by Bowland when that village was part of Yorkshire's West Riding prior to 1974. It complemets the tranquil village green.

The sign on the right at the entrance to Barley village is to a pattern that was common in Lancashire. It raises expectations that the village will similarly be something special; and you would not be disappointed. One complements the other.

The Forest of Bowland AONB is keen to work with County Highways departments to retain and restore selected signs and to remove any unecessary signs that state the obvious or are otherwise redundant and clutter the landscape.

Mile stones, boundary stones and bridge markers

There are several important mile stones and boundary stones within the AONB. Some are monuments listed on Lancashire County Council's Historic Monument Record (HMR). Cast iron 'WR' (signifying West Riding) markers exist beside some bridges in that part of the AONB that was once part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, around Slaidburn, Newton and Dunsop Bridge.   Markers and stones should not be removed and advice should be taken on maintenance from the AONB unit in the first instance. Highways should review whether new signs are needed should old ones be in place.


Street lighting in rural areas is less of a safety issue than in towns and cities but energy conservation and light pollution concerns have increased in recent years. Opportunities to reduce light pollution by reducing power and/or street lamps should be taken where possible. Yellow lighting looks particularly inappropriate in the AONB and should be avoided where possible.

Domestic 'security lighting' can also be intrusive and we recommend that homeowners should respect their neighbourhood and resist installing systems that will make their properties stand out; whether in villages or in isolated situations. Timers should be used to switch off unnecessary lights and the intensity and colour should be reasonable.

Here is a lovely external light attached to the Austin and Paley designed church at Scorton.

What about the brickworks and the slaughterhouse?


There are buildings and structures that may have been shunned in their day and thought of as ugly when they were built but have now become part of the landscape and would be missed if they were summarily demolished or taken down. The towers that support the aerial runway for the brickworks at Claughton for example (left) or the slaughterhouse at Newchurch (right). It is hard to think of modern day structures that may also stand the test of time but some may do.

Different can be good!

If houses are built at different times by different people; and this was generally the case before whole streets were planned and built, then each house will look different and this can certainly be a positive thing. The houses in this picture share a roof line but that's about all. The doors and windows appear to have been built for a different breed of person. Neither looks better than the other though and it would be a mistake to alter one into the other. Diversity gives a village a distinctive character.




But consistency where it is appropriate.

A planned village has a character too and in the case of Calder Vale, for example shown here, this row would not look as impressive if some slate roofs were replaced with terracotta tiles and if some people converted their front gardens into parking spaces.

Provision for wildlife

Gardens can be a really valuable resurce for wildlife and we would recommend everyone with one to consider making allowance for and encouraging wildlife. A key point for people thinking of adding to buildings and/or repairing or converting them is to continue to provide nest sites/roosts and to provide them where possible. It is relatively easy to provide nest sites and roosts for birds and bats and here are some links for that and for other conservation/wildlife organisations -

The RSPB has an excellent site on wildlife and Bird boxes. If you want to know more about the important species for Bowland then search elsewhere on our website.

Swift conservation

Bat conservation trust

Amphibians and reptiles - 'Froglife' for frogs, toads and lizards

Butterflies and moths - the butterfly conservatiion trust

Fish and invertebrates - this site is for the Ribble Catchment Trust and has really useful and informative sections on river ecology

Mosses and Lichens