Gravel Riding in the Forest of Bowland

The Forest of Bowland is one of our favourite places to ride in the UK. We sent our local riders Joel & Dave to ride the route of our Glorious Gravel event on a mild September day. Traffic was unusually heavy as they encountered two other cyclists and two cars on the day! Here is how they got on…. 

Without being another article or person to start talking about the dreaded virus or lockdown if there’s one thing that the whole situation has highlighted, it’s the need to get out and explore what the UK has to offer!

A prime example is the Forest of Bowland; an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is a unique and captivating part of the countryside. Expanses of sky above dramatic sweeping roads, gravel trails and open moorland, criss-crossed with dry stone walls and dotted with picturesque farms and villages, all waiting to be explored!

There is no better way of escaping from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and partaking in some of the most peaceful and remote cycling in the country.
The route starts in Wray about 20mins east of Lancaster. Wray has understated character with a mix of cobbled streets and 17th century yeoman’s houses with cottages and alleys dating back to the 18th century. Also, interesting, if you visit in May you’ll find the village inhabited by scarecrows during the annual scarecrow festival! I digress…
The route starts by road and heads east for approximately 13km before turning south along a stunning open and exposed single laned road where vehicles are vastly outnumbered by sheep and the odd fellow cyclist. The road enjoys the unbelievably remote far reaching views as it heads towards Gisburn Forest for the first bit of gravel and single track.

There is a sharp left hand turn to enter Gisburn Forest jumping straight into some rock strewn single track with some tree roots thrown in for a short section. The riding then snakes around the forest on blue and green trails with a few little technical sections and some steep gradients. After a good gravel blast round the forest there are some delightful fireroads that lead back out onto the road towards Slaidburn.

Slaidburn is a very traditional village on the banks of the River Hodder possessing a 10th century Angel Stone carving and the 15th century Church of St Andrew. We will however keep slightly more with the times and we’ll stop to visit the quaint Riverside Tearooms for a brew and cake!

After a quick refreshment the ‘café legs’ wont have much time to complain as the route heads to the highlight of the ride, the exciting Salter Fell road which hugs the contour of the Boland fells and rolls up  for a good 15-16km. The road isn’t open to cars or vehicles and other than the noise from sheep and cows… not a sound! The track is technical in places – we had 47mm tyres but you can escape on the grass verge like on a cobbled section of Paris Roubaix.

The terrain is a mix of gradients with mainly steady rolling sections but the odd steep climb pops up to keep the body warm and lungs in check only to be richly rewarded towards the end by a fantastic flowing fast non-technical descent.
The trail starts with an old very narrow paved road and whispers suggestions of the glorious views that could be lurking around the corner.

Those suggestions start revealing themselves as the meandering secluded and stunning trail opens up ahead. After a gate the trail becomes rocky and pretty technical in places. Bigger tyres will be nicer on this section but there are opportunities to dodge the rocks by riding the grassy verge a little. As the trail reaches its highest point the rocky sections disappear and there is some stunning fast flowing gravel riding where it becomes easier to look up and take in the vistas of the sweeping trail disappearing into the far reaching Boland moorland.

After the fun final descent off the fell road there is one last sting in the tail with a short climb by road and then a nice short drop back into Wray!

Come and ride this brilliant route for yourself. It’s approx 50% road, 50% gravel with a mix of singletrack in the Gisburn Forest & the glorious Salter Fell Road. There are technical sections and fast gravel sections with regular feed stops & a beer at the finish line. Sign up for the ride here – https://sportivebreaks.com/gravel-rides/forest-of-bowland/