Explore Lancashire's biggest forest and discover its flora and fauna.
Minimum time 1h00
Distance 6 miles (9.7km)
Suggested map OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale
Start/finish Cocklet Hill car park; grid ref: SD 746550
Trails/tracks mainly broad forest trails, some narrow paths and stony, bumpy trails
Public toilets none on route
Tourist information Clitheroe, tel 01200 425566
Bike hire Pedal Power, Waddington Road, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 2HJ, tel 01200 422066
Recommended pub The Hark to Bounty, Slaidburn
Notes Maps are useless in Gisburn - follow the Purple Trail. Stony trails and overhanging vegetation
© Automobile Association 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
Gisburn Forest is well signed across the surrounding countryside, but the start is best reached along the B6478 from Slaidburn (south west) or Long Preston (north east).
1 Set off along a narrow path from the car park, to a sharp left-hand bend, then descend, before climbing gently to pass a barrier, and reach a broad forest trail. Turn right, and about 100 yards (110m) later, when the track forks, keep forward. Before reaching a group of buildings (Stephen Park), leave the broad trail and turn right at a waymark onto a very narrow path that follows the edge of an open area, and finally heads back towards the buildings.
2 On reaching Stephen Park, turn right on a broad trail, which immediately forks. Keep left, climbing gently, and then heading downhill. Continue following the main trail as it weaves a way through the forest to a barrier coming up to a T-junction, where the three main forest cycle trails divide. Here turn left, pursuing the Purple Trail.
3 Continue to the access to Hesbert Hall Farm, and there branch right, passing a barrier into a short stretch of dense woodland with a clearing ahead. Now make a long descent to cross a stream, beyond which the track rises to a T-junction, where the Red and Green route rejoin. Turn left.
4 The broad trail eventually leads on, after winding through the forest, to another T-junction. Here, turn left, descending, and following a bumpy route that brings Stocks Reservoir into view. Eventually, just before reaching a road, turn left at a waymark post onto a narrow path through mixed woodland to reach the road, which now crosses an arm of the reservoir.
5 On the other side, leave the road by turning left up a steep and narrow path - you may have to dismount here. Follow this through woodland, steep in places, and finally emerge at a broad forest track at a bend. Keep left and then forward, and climb to another barrier giving on to a T-junction. Turn right, and 100yds (110m) later turn left, having now rejoined the outward route, which is retraced to the start.
Gisburn Forest is Lancashire's biggest, covering 3,000 acres (1,215ha). It was opened in 1932, around the same time as Stocks Reservoir, alongside it. The reservoir is huge, formed by damming the River Hodder and submerging the village of Stocks in the process of providing drinking water for the towns of central Lancashire. When it's full it can hold 2.6 billion gallons. Gisburn Forest and Stocks Reservoir are favoured places for birdwatchers. In springtime, keep an eye open for visiting osprey, which quite often use the reservoir for on-the-wing food supplies on their way northwards to Scotland at breeding time.
You will almost certainly spot members of the tit family, notably great, blue and coal tits, and may be lucky to see a great-spotted woodpecker. This is a good time, too, to look for orchids: Gisburn is renowned for its common spotted orchid, which flourishes in the damp conditions.
Forests like Gisburn are known for mile after mile of conifers with scarcely a decent view. But at Gisburn, more and more broadleaved trees are being planted, and areas are being cleared to allow for good views. The trails in Gisburn are waymarked; this route follows the shortest, the Purple Trail. Maps can't keep up-to-date with what is happening on the ground, so waymark chasing is the best way.