The underrated hills of Bowland


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My Christmas mini-tour of Britain took me to Lancashire for the height of the festive season. I was on the Fylde coast, more famous for its illuminations and fairground attractions than its ranges of hills and mountains.

Immediately east of the M6 is the Forest of Bowland, however, a wild jumble of hills rising, in parts, above the 500-metre contour. I had been here only once before. That was to cycle. I remember passing through Longridge and crossing the Trough of Bowland, but that was about it. Even in the nine months I spent on a journalism course in Preston, I ignored these hills. The Lake District was a far more attractive proposition.

Fair Snape Fell was the objective on Christmas Eve, reached via a track that contoured Parlick, before an easy climb on a wide, muddy path, rising into mist, to a windswept plateau adorned by a trig pillar and cairn. ‘Beautiful,’ my companion remarked a couple of times. It was. This was wild, high country offering resplendent views of Lancashire. Years of preconceptions and underrating these hills had been smashed in minutes.

The half-mile tromp to the true summit of Fair Snape from the lower 510-metre top was a far greater navigational challenge than any I had faced in the Lakes the day before, following bearings in thick mist, crossing a terrain pockmarked by waves of peat hags. The highest point, close to a falling down fence demarcating Wolf Fell, was lonely and anonymous. The mist prevented any view.

We ran downhill, returning over Parlick, Fair Snape’s lower but shapely neighbour. There was a magnificent, very runnable descent from here. Grassy steep (but not dangerously steep) slopes bring the runner back to the road very quickly indeed.

Boxing Day was a more sedate affair, venturing over Longridge Fell. It was a family affair and we turned back before reaching the summit. The ground was saturated. I’d have happily continued. The others didn’t share my penchant for cold, wet feet, unfortunately.

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