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With Coronavirus here for the foreseeable future, I think many people are looking for different ways to get out and about safely. For us, that means altering how and where we go out walking.
I make no secret of the fact the Lake District holds a special place in my heart and has done for nearly 20-years. It’s the first place Ian and I went on holiday together and it’s the place we return to regularly for short breaks and days out hiking. Each time we move house, we joke about how we seem to be getting closer. It’s no coincidence though, it’s intentional. And one day in the not too distant future, hopefully we’ll find ourselves living somewhere slap bang in the middle of the luscious rolling hillsides I love so much.
As much as I love the lakes and I often dream of calling it home, the Coronavirus pandemic has made us rethink how and where we go hiking – for now. With its picture postcard views, hiking, biking, and running trails, water sports, climbing and off-road activities, it’s no wonder the Lake District is a popular location for outdoor enthusiasts. Which is why, since lockdown restrictions have eased, we’ve found ourselves exploring areas a little closer to home. Areas that still offer outstanding countryside to explore but are a little less crowded.
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Forest of Bowland is less than an hour away from where we live and is classed as an area of outstanding natural beauty – or AONB – and there’s 46 AONB’s in the UK altogether. Popular with hikers, bikers, and trail runners, we’ve been up there a few times in the last year or so. We last visited in the middle of August for Ian’s birthday, which also happened to be our first venture out walking anywhere, since lockdown restrictions eased. I know everyone has their own ideas about COVID-19, but for me, I’ve taken the whole thing pretty seriously and heading out into heavily populated areas, isn’t something I’ve had an interest in.
Cue Stocks Reservoir.
Skirting around the edge of Gisburn Forest, Stocks Reservoir is an 11km circular walk that takes in luscious countryside and woodland, with magnificent views of the reservoir. Construction of the reservoir started in 1921 and took 11-years complete, flooding the village of Stocks-in-Bowland and many surrounding farms to make way for it. Even the local church was taken apart and rebuilt half-a-mile away, while the bodies from the graveyard were dug up and then re-buried at the new site! <shudders>
It’s a low-level walk that only takes a few hours if that. In August we turned up at around 9am to the car park on School Lane, and there were only 2 other cars there. Our plan to get there before it got too busy, worked well.
In the Lakes, depending on where you walk, you can end up stuck behind people, or playing a game of cat and mouse – overtaking people and vice versa at regular intervals. But we were nearly half-way round the route before we saw anyone else. A group of 3 older men who greeted us, but kept their distance when passing, were doing the circuit in the opposite direction. We also passed them again a little later on, just as we were nearing the end of the walk, and aside from a few trail runners, we didn’t see anyone else. This made it a pretty perfect walk overall. It felt safe and comfortable, and it was good to get out without having to worry about coming into contact with large groups of people.
Apart from the scenery, woodland, and wildflowers, what I like about Stocks Reservoir, is that if you turn up during the week, there’s a chance you won’t see anyone else other than locals walking their dog. At a weekend, if you turn up early enough, you’ll be back at your car eating your sandwiches just as everyone else is trying to find a parking space. That’s what happened to us in August. I felt a little smug knowing that I’d already done an 11km walk, while other people were still snoozing or wondering what to do with their day!
Has anything changed for you since lockdown? Has the pandemic made you think about how you visit places, or have you fallen back into your old regular routine? I’d love to hear.
Tips and Advice When Visiting Stocks Reservoir:
- There’s a small pay and display car park on School Lane. Prices are £1.50 for 1 hour and £3 for all day (Correct as of September 2020)
- Not sure where to walk? There’s a board with the walking trails on, next to the ticket machine
- There is a small picnic area at the start of the Stocks reservoir walk and more picnic tables a few minutes down the road at Gisburn Forest Hub
- Toilets are available at Gisburn Forest Hub and car park
- Approximately halfway around the walk, there is the Stocks reservoir café where you can get hot and cold food, cakes, tea, and coffee etc
- As with any walk, make sure you wear appropriate footwear and clothing. Even on a low-level walk, the weather can change. Look at the forecast before you go, and if the weather looks a bit questionable, make sure you have appropriate clothing in your rucksack
- Take drinks and snacks
- If it’s been raining a few days before, the track can get really muddy and messy! Keep an eye on the weather for the days before, so you know what you’re letting yourself in for!
- At the weekend, turn up early to avoid coming into contact with too many people