I NIPPED over into the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for this walk. It's not a walk of constant and unending wonderful vistas, most of it is in Gisburn Forest, but it does have a few smashing views, including Stocks Reservoir and the brooding Pendle Hill, and one spectacular 360 degree one from the top of Whelp Stone Crag. It sets off from Tosside next to the former Dog and Partridge pub, which is currently up for sale, in the centre of the village. A steadily climbing track takes you into Gisburn Forest, and then up to Whelp Stone Crag before heading back along the edge of Holden Moor, into the forest again for a nice, downhill walk back to your starting point. A couple of words of caution, Gisburn Forest, now managed by the Forestry Commission, has been turned into a very popular destination for mountain bikers. There are several routes around the park, for both walkers and mountain bikers, with the bike routes very well marked. All the bikers I came across were very friendly - but do be aware if you have a dog, to look out for people on bikes emerging out of the woods at speed. That said, all the crossing points are well marked. Once you get off the main forest path, there are lots and lots of other paths heading off in all directions - the Forestry Commission says on its website, walkers are free to walk throughout the forest, but I would certainly avoid those paths which are clearly for cyclists, and there are plenty of others to go for. For more details about Gisburn Forest, visit the website forestry.gov.uk/gisburn.

Step by step:

1 With the former Dog and Partridge on your right, take the gravelled track (footpath signposted) next to it and follow it into Gisburn Forest. The track remains gravelled and passes some old farm buildings on left. Stay on track - ignoring a track that goes off to left. You will pass through a cycle picnic spot, continue along track. Just past the cycle pit stop, the track goes downhill, and passes a farm down off to right, before entering a more densely wooded area. Pass a semi derelict barn on right, and after about a quarter of a mile, take the gravel track off to right. There is a waymarker post on left just before turning, but the arrow seems to have gone.

2 After quite a steep uphill climb and just before the track starts to curve and go downhill, take the grass track off to the right. It is quite a wide track, grassed, but wide enough to take a farm vehicle. Follow the track uphill to meet the drystone wall at the top. Go left here, and make you way towards the crag, which you will see emerging in front of you. There is a cycle path here - but best to keep off it and stick to the wall. You will need to make you way around the left of the outcrop of the crag before going through a gate to get to the crag itself.

3 Climb up to the trig point - it is well worth the climb. And then, head back down the way you came, but instead of exiting by the gate, with the wall on your right, head back towards the forest to a stile close to the wall ahead of you. Don't go over the stile, back into the forest, but stay on the signposted path, which follows closely to the wall (on your right). It is quite a boggy walk over the moor, and stick with it, repeat signs are not much in abundance. At the end of the wall, you will come across another stile into newly planted woodland. Follow the path, which is not the best, but still clearly a path, until it emerges into a clearing.

4 Go right here, onto a gravelled track and stay on it until junction with another track coming from right.

5 Turn left and follow track. You will eventually rejoin track from start, follow it back to your car.


Area: Forest of Bowland AONB

Start/finish: Tosside

Distance: About six miles, allow three hours.

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate

Terrain: Forest tracks and paths, moorland

Livestock: Sheep on moorland, dogs need to be under close control. Wildlife, including deer, in forest.

Stiles/gates: None in forest, but a couple of tricky stiles for large dogs to negotiate on moorland.

Refreshments: Tosside

Parking: Tosside on road, limited because of mountain bikers, car park in Tosside itself.

OS Map: OS 103 (Blackburn and Burnley, Clitheroe and Skipton).