We recently took a day out to Forest of Bowlad by train and bus. Did you know that you can get to the there without changing from Manchester Victoria on Northern railway? I didn’t until recently when Northern got in touch. They told me that there is a bus service running over the summer that goes from Clitheroe Station. It’s called the Bowland Explorer.
Those of you who know me well or at least are regulars of the blog will know that I am a huge fan of taking public transport to adventures. It kind of makes it feel like you are going on holiday rather than just a day out. The bonus is that you actually get to look out of the window at the scenery. Much better than watching the road for the next passing point while keeping an eye on the intermittent sat nav.
The Forest of Bowland
The Forest of Bowland is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that lies in Lancashire. It is more than just a forest though, there are reservoirs, hills, valleys, gushing streams and green views for miles. We have been meaning to get their for a long time, but just never found the incentive to drive there. Finding out that we could get there by train and bus gave us just the nudge we needed.
Despite the rain we’ve been having, we decided to head out on our day trip to the Forest of Bowland on Sunday. Fingers firmly crossed for at least some dry moments. The Bowland Explorer (the bus service I mentioned earlier) runs each Sunday and Bank Holiday, so it helped to make our decision.
Both breakfast and lunch picnic in hand we wandered into town to Victoria Station. Sunday’s are strange in Manchester, so eerily quiet and the station was surprisingly just as deserted. Even the train felt like it had been put on only for us. We usually just get the train from Piccadilly as we’re used to doing it, but seeing how calm Victoria is, I think we might reconsider.
Living in the city, you never see a station as empty as this! Ever! Finding it so deserted and quiet was a pleasant surprise. The train was just as calm and we got six seats to ourselves to spread out, relax and enjoy the trip.
Watching the world go by
I think my favourite thing about taking the train is being able to watch the world go by. Seeing different places and scenes and usually (wrongly!) trying to guess where you are up to on your journey. You get comfortable seats, leg room to stretch and you can even have your picnic en route. You can’t do that when driving.
As you can imagine, we had a whale of a time watching the world go by. It is around an 1.45 hours, but it flies by as you watch the houses and countryside whoosh past. Before we knew it we were in Clitheroe Station, excited and curious about the next leg of our journey. The next bit was finding the Bowland Explorer bus.
The Bowland Explorer bus
Before leaving home we made sure to check the train and bus timetables as the service is limited, so you need to make sure you get the right times. Otherwise you could be stranded in Clitheroe. Because of the schedule, we chose to do the Stocks Reservoir circular walk (8 miles) as it was close on the route and would give us the maximum time to enjoy the area.
We wandered out into Clitheroe and over to the Information Centre. Although we had the timetable to hand, it was a bit unclear as to where we got the bus. A little concerned with the timing being so tight, we opted to asking in the information office. Unfortunately they weren’t sure of the stop either, but assured us we were in the right place. Just as we came out the mini coach pulled into the interchange. We chased after it like kids after the ice cream van! The friendly driver greeted us, probably wondering why we were so eager, and helpfully gave us the best priced ticket and information about collection time. By this time, we were elated to be on the bus. For some reason, since we went on a coach from the airport in Dublin, we have been so excited about buses and coaches!
As the driver took us away from the village, I became increasingly pleased that we were on the bus and not driving as the view was stunning. While the driver expertly tackled the roads, we enjoyed the scenery from the seat behind.
Our discussions of whether we could walk to the reservoir were quickly dispelled. We arrived at Stocks Reservoir after half an hour on the bus. We bid farewell to the driver and headed on our merry little way.
Feeling peckish we decided to get onto the route and then stop for lunch. Luckily, it wasn’t long until we came across the start of the reservoir, which proved the perfect place to picnic.
Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk
After enjoying our lunch and taking in the sights and sounds of the reservoir – only the odd fisherman bobbing on the water and the sound of distant sheep – it was time to get started on the circular walk. With only around three and a bit hours to complete the walk, we had no time to spare. We had already eaten (literally) into some of it with having lunch.
As you might have noticed, the sun was shining! There wasn’t even a dark cloud to be seen, which was a very warm welcome to the Forest of Bowland.
We started the walk from the Untitied Utilites site rather than the visitor car park due to it being a closer stop on the bus. More time to adventure outdoors then. The walk takes you around the whole of the reservoir, up and down hills, through wooded areas and over bridges. It is a nice varied one with plenty to see along the way. I have to say that it is also incredibly well-marked, so even without a map, you’ll be able to get around safely and easily.
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
No matter how many places that I visit under two hours from Manchester, I am still in awe. You just wouldn’t believe that you could live in a big city, yet have access to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Plus the other national parks, peaks, moors and more. All while having the convenience and bustle of city life. Best of both worlds, I reckon.
Anyway, you can tell why the Forest of Bowland got AONB status. It is absolutely stunning and the perfect place to take in some green life. And you know what? It is places like this that make the amount of rain that we have worth it.
You’d be surprised about the amount of time that you can spend looking into the distance, getting up close with nature and generally enjoying the fresh air. We were so much into it that when we spotted the time we had to pick up pace to cover the final five miles before the Bowland Explorer returned to collect us.
Around the hills
The area around the reservoir might not seem to hilly until you realise that you have reached a height of over 250 m in a short space of time. It is definitely a bit of a cardio workout at times, but worth it for the views.
Picking up pace a little bit and trying not to take quite as many photos ( so hard!!). We climbed up the hills, wandered down and crossed the water again at the tip of the reservoir.
The home stretch
As we veered back towards the reservoir we could see the fishermen that were once on the other side to us. We knew that we weren’t far now so slackened our pace a little. Mainly to cool down a bit as the sunshine was a lot more intense that you would imagine for an overcast, and supposedly rainy, day. Despite our limited timescale, we had more than enough time to make it around the 8 mile walk, snapping and filming along the way.
Just by the fisheries is a little cafe and shop, so were able to restock on refreshments for our train ride home too. And all with plenty of time to slurp down a tea before the Bowland Explorer arrived to take us back to the station.
Just as we boarded the bus the clouds darkened and the rain began. How lucky we had been to enjoy the sunshine all day! The bus journey was as fun for us as the last one and we found ourselves spotting new things on the way back. All very exciting to discover somewhere new.
Once at the stop, we headed straight for the train with precision timing. Only a few minutes to wait and we were on our way on the Northern service to Manchester. This time one of the older trains which meant that we got a better view of the scenery through the nice big windows.
A day of public transport
It really does go to show that you don’t need to have a car to enjoy the countryside and a fun day out away from Manchester. I have discovered recently that Northern is the second largest rail operator in the UK and they are providing train journeys for us northerners! It can only mean that there are even more days out that need to be had. Plus, you can buy your tickets on the move on the Northern app, so there are no excuses not to get out and about.
After our adventures, I was personally pleased to not have to drive home. It gave me the chance to browse the pictures in my camera, have a read and enjoy looking through the window. A luxury that you do not get when driving. Then a short walk through town, onto the bus and delivered (almost) to our door.
Days out from Manchester
So if you fancy getting out of Manchester for some fresh air in the Forest of Bowland, how about making it on a Sunday or Bank Holiday? That way you can make use of the Bowand Explorer bus, get Northern trains to yourself (almost) and take in as much scenery as you want to. We had an amazing time and there are plenty of other walks in the area too. It is great that you can do it in a day too, but if you’re there for a bank holiday, I’d be tempted to stay over night and make the most of it.
We are planning our next trip up there now, maybe with a spot of camping… so keep your eyes peeled for our next adventure to the Forest of Bowland by train.
Have you been to the Forest of Bowland? Did you know you can get straight to the Forest of Bowland by train from Manchester Victoria? Will you be taking a trip to explore the gorgeous countryside and reservoir?
Let me know in the comments below.
HINTS: The Bowland Explorer bus meets the trains to and from Manchester and it is marked on the timetable. We got the 11:40 am bud from the station and returned on the 15:55 pm bus with plenty of time to meet the train. It also leaves from bus Stand 5 which is to the left when you exit the station under the bridge.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Northern. I received compensation for writing this post. However, as always, all photographs, content and opinions are honest and my own.