Facebook logo
View our photo gallery View our news page View our blog
Dig The Peat: Bowland Fell Runners: Fell Running in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire

Latest News

Dig The Peat

For more information about Bowland challenges contact - Andy Walmsley

For personal accounts of peat dug, click here


Here is a summary of the current long distance challenges in Bowland (last update: 1st October 2013).


The 1500s round including all tops (with one contour ring) and trigs now has 19 tops. Extra tops were “discovered” on the map in 2002 by Les Orr, Ian Roberts and Andy Walmsley. The total distance of the round is now about 41-42 miles, with 6200ft of climbing.. Les Orr, Terry Houston and Alan Heaton completed the first 1500s run (including the two-contour tops and some of the one-contour tops) some years ago.

Andy Walmsley made 2 attempts in 2002. In Feb (when the round included only 16 tops) he covered 15 in 12:40, omitting Grit Fell after being benighted on Wards Stone in claggy weather. A later, solo unsupported round during the summer failed after Baxton Fell due to niggling injuries.

After an aborted attempt in appalling weather in Dec 2002, Andy Verden and John Rodgers completed the first successful round of the one-contour tops – the 1500s Integral - In Feb 2004. They had the blessing of clear weather and much frozen ground, but suffered with cold feet and a bitter wind. Despite this they finished in 12:05


This 30 mile end to end route was devised by Ian Roberts, and he (with Paul Dickinson) also completed the first crossing as a mid-winter walk at Christmas 1996 taking 15 hours from Giggleswick to Chipping. They had true winter conditions, with hard frost and occasional blizzards (!) but pronounced it a memorable outing.

In June 1997, Andy Walmsley took up the challenge and covered the course on a damp and chilly day, finishing strongly in 6:59 after a fairly steady first half.

Having eyed up the route for a few years, Les Orr had a storming run over it in April 2002. On a wet and rainy day, with heavy going underfoot, Les smashed the record – finishing in an excellent 5:52.

Most recent crossing was by the irrepressible Duncan Elliot, who tackled it on a hot day in June 2004. See his account.


Devised by Duncan Elliott, this is a slightly shorter neater version of the full 1500s round taking in all the 1500 footers with OS trig points (eight of them). The route measures about 30 miles/5060ft and is a more pleasing route than the 1500s Integral in some ways because it avoids the awkward out and back legs to collect outlying tops. Thank goodness Great Harlow has no trig point! Duncan himself did the inaugural round in pleasant spring weather on 4th May 2002 taking 8:38 for a solo unsupported run.

After lying fallow for almost a decade, the 1500ft Trigs was repeated on 5th Feb 2012 by Graham Lund and Dan Clark. Encountering wintry conditions, with considerable snow, a lot of mist, and some ice,  Graham and Dan completed the route in a very impressive 8:32. See their account below.


Devised by Ian Roberts, this mega route has, as yet, received no attempts. At more than 60 miles it is obviously the biggest ultra challenge currently available in Bowland, and could be made even bigger with the inclusion of additional tops which lie just outside the main massif. This would extend the distance to some 80 miles. Any takers?

THE BOWLAND TOP SIX (or Bowland 1600s)

This is a lesser route devised by Andy Walmsley. It covers the six highest hills in Bowland (i.e. all those over 1600ft). Although originally planned as an end to end from Fell Foot to Tarnbrook the first completion was a circuit by John Rodgers on 29th December 2005 based on Tower Lodge in the Trough of Bowland. John’s route was 32 miles and over 5000ft of ascent and occupied him for 7hrs 30mins on an extremely cold day. (See his account).

The end to end version (24 miles / 4500ft) has not yet seen any completions but plans are afoot..


This excellent route of about 23 miles/3500ft was first suggested by Ed Fisher of Lancs & Morecambe AC in the mid 1980s. Ian Roberts made a winter attempt on it at the end of 1986 starting at Quernmore Post Office and finishing at Dolphinolme Smithy. Using an easy walk/jog kind of approach, this outing occupied Ian for over 9 hrs. The best route would seem to Start at Quernmore PO and finish at Scorton PO.

After much reccying and talking within the club, Andy Verden became the first person in recent years to run the route on December 15th 2005. With typically heavy going underfoot, Andy finished in 5:13 – a good time (See his account). As the weather improved in May, Bowland long distance newcomers Stewart Forsyth and Richard Davies had a run over the route (though they unfortunately had a claggy day which caused some navigational difficulties). Their time was 5:56 – still a creditable performance over this deceptively tough route.

After a delay of almost  two years, news has filtered through to 'peat central' that a record-breaking run was achieved over the route on 2nd May 2010. The day after the Coniston Fell Race, Mike Johnson and Chris Reade had a leg-loosening run over the route and shattered the record, recording 4:26.20, which is still the fastest time clocked.  


Duncan Elliott, scheming and map-fondling as ever, came up with a ‘Wyresdale Circuit’  as an alternative to the above, starting and finishing at Abbeystead church. On June 11th 2006 (a hot and dusty day) he completed a lonely round of this longer route in 6:38.

On April 10th, Alan Lucker and Ian Cookson set off together to tackle Duncan's circuit. They separated after a while as Alan was determined to do the round in a "self torture style". Thus, he got round in an excellent 4:52.50 (this timing to the second is catching on!) while Ian completed in 'about' 6:30.  Alan's report is available here http://alanlucker.blogspot.com/ 


This route (and the one below) is the brainchild (children?) of Duncan Elliott, who did the full route from Dunsop Post Office up to Whins Brow, Wolfhole Crag, White Hill, Baxton Fell (described by Duncan as terrible!) and Burn Fell on 30th March 2003 taking 3 hours 59 minutes. The route measures 16 miles/2650ft.

In July 2010, Karen Nash of Preston, looking for something different to get her teeth into, completed the route in 3:38, thus unwittingly setting what is the fastest time to date. 


Also devised by Duncan Elliott, this 16 mile/2750ft route starts and finishes at Smelt Mill Cottage (near Dunsop Bridge) The only recorded run around this one was by Andy Walmsley in June 2002. An earlier attempt had foundered at Fiendsdale Head due to lack of food and water but, better prepared the second time, Andy achieved his aim of breaking three and a half hours, finishing in 3:26.


This is a circuit encompassing the watershed of both the Langden and the Dunsop valleys, starting and finishing at Dunsop Bridge. The route measures about 26 miles and 4200ft of climbing – a different kind of mountain marathon! Duncan (who else) trogged around this one in 2004 setting an inaugural time of 7:22 (see the link for his account.

Andy Walmsley had a run over the route on 12th June 2005. He enjoyed good conditions for the first half and had hopes of setting a fast time but then ran into rain and mist by Brennand Tarn. General knackeredness set in after White Hill and the traverse of the infamous Baxton Fell was very slow. In the end he was not far inside Duncan’s time, finishing in 6:56, but at least ‘kept his hand in’ as a Bowland trogger!


...is a run from Bowland Fellrunners’ traditional starting place, Fell Foot, to the geographical centre of Great Britain – and back! Incidentally, the central point is not in Dunsop Bridge, but is on Brennand Farm a couple of miles away near Whitendale Hanging Stones. Duncan has now marked this point with a post and cairn.

Duncan ran this route on a warm day on 12th July 2003 in 5:40 and has calculated the distance as 21 miles with 5050 feet of climbing


This is only a short run by the standards of those above (only about 13 miles/2000ft), but worthy of inclusion as a unique route, encompassing the south-western limits of the Bowland/Bleasedale area. It is another Duncan Elliott invention, and he did the inaugural run over it very early in the morning on 15th June 2003 in a time of 2 hours 33 minutes.


Covering the skyline of the Stocks Reservoir, this is a moderate route of 21miles/2700ft. The idea was floating around in the mind of superpioneer Duncan Elliott, but the inaugural run around it was actually snatched from him by Yiannis Tridimas and Alan Duncan who, after being inspired by Duncan’s article in the BFR Newsletter, had a casual jog round it on Midwinters Day 2003 taking 6 hours including “sightseeing” on a cold, bright day with snow on the tops.


Nick Hewitt brought this route to the party, saying he used to use it as his ‘regular’ run home from work (!) at Lancaster Uni to Tatham Fells. The ‘allcomers’ route needs to have a modified start and finish (obviously) and the suggested route is from Jubilee Tower to the Great Stone of Fourstones. This gives the run a unique start on the top of a tower and a unique finish on the top of a boulder! In between, it traverses all the tops of the Bowland skyline as seen from the vicinity of Ireby Fell or Ingleton (about 19 miles). There have been no recorded completions of this route.


A variation on Nick’s route above, this run goes from Giggleswick PO to Quernmore PO, so it coincides with a long stretch of the Bowland & Bleasedale Watershed Traverse. Mike Johnson did the first run over this route “on sight” in January 06 (with no special preparation or reccying) finishing in 4:56.30 – see his account.

On May 11th 2008, Richard Mellon ran the route in the opposite direction (Quernmore to Giggleswick) in a new record time of 4:25 on a hot and sunny day. Richard had good conditions underfoot for the run but suffered slightly with a lack of water (a perennial problem on long Bowland runs)!


This is a slightly dubious entry in Dig The Peat as it travels well outside the peaty heartland of Bowland and into lowland farm country, complete with nettles and privet hedges. Perhaps a new page, called ‘Dig the Cowpats’ is needed…. Only joking chaps!

This one was inaugurated as a Bowland run by Duncan Elliott and Steve Cox, who ran the entire length of the River Hodder on August 22nd 2006 in 6:08, including finding the way over much of the ground (see their account). Now that it’s been fully recced I can see the 6 hour barrier being broken – perhaps as a winter run, when lush vegetation is less of a problem!


Another Duncan Elliott Production, this is a route from Wray Church to Chipping Church, taking a fairly direct line across the heart of Bowland. Duncan had done some reccying of the route (and no doubt a lot of map-fondling) but the route was partly made up on the day – fully in the spirit of the Bowland Exploration Group! The route was completed on 29th August 2007, a dry sunny day, and took Duncan 4:52 for approximately 20 miles and 4000ft.


Having identified 8 plane crash locations in Bowland, Duncan Elliot got together a small group of fellow peat-diggers (Andy Crook, John Gilbert and Andy Walmsley) and inaugurated this new run around all eight of them on August 10th 2008. The route measures 27.5 miles and 4200ft. The group had torrential rain at first but the weather improved as the day went on and the latter half took place in pleasant conditions (though still wet underfoot). They were supported by Gill Ponsford at Tower Lodge, where they had a 15 minute feed before continuing. Andy Walmsley dropped out at Woodyards but the remaining trio completed the route in 9:18.


Tony Wimbush of ‘Over The Hill’ series fame has inaugurated a route of his own - “THE BOWLAND DOZEN” (12x400metre trigs). This route is 50 miles and 6500ft and was completed by Tony in 12:35. See www.gofar.org.uk for details.


On 30th of August 2010, Duncan Elliott completed a round of all the Bowland Marilyns as a bike/run combination. He had a good day for it and completed the route in just over 10 hours. See his account below 


On October 3rd 2010 Duncan was at it again, this time completing a "compact" 20 mile circuit of Roeburndale. Dunc chose another lovely sunny day for this expedition, thus perpetuating  his reputation as the Bowland 'weather wimp'  See the attached PDF for his description of the run.


On 19th June 2012, Duncan Elliott inaugurated yet another new Bowland Challenge, this time a bike/run route round the 5 Trigs of the Chipping Skyline. I don't have any figures for the run (with Dunc it's all about the experience - quite rightly) but Duncan spent a very pleasant evening completing this route and adding to the growing list of his imaginitive and original challenges in Bowland.

See his illustrated account below.


A new route by Duncan Elliott (who else?), touring Bowland via some of the more runnable tracks (33 miles and 5800ft of climbing. See Duncan's account below. 


This is a short (ish) end to end route, covering the westernmost ridges (mostly in Bleasdale, in fact). It's another Duncan E invention and can be done on a Summer's evening with a little cycling. See Duncs account below for a possible plan (11 miles/1700ft).


That man Elliott has been at it again... this time inaugurating a double traverse of Bowland (South-North/North-South). His route was completed on Saturday September 28th 2013 - a lovely sunny autumn day - and measured 41 miles and 6800ft. Duncan hasn't reported a time but says he "took it steady with stops to eat etc. See initial write up attached. A full report is to follow as part of the upcoming Book of Bowland! 

Dig the peat!

See also:

These files will open in a new window. You can download Adobe Reader free here