The Cultural Landscape of the Forest of Bowland and the Lune Valley, Lancashire, England

The project area is located in northeast Lancashire and includes the Forest of Bowland and the Lune Valley. The Forest of Bowland covers over 800 square kilometres of what has been described as ‘one of the best preserved (and least accessible) moorland landscapes in England’. It is an area already supported by EU funds, but whose cultural landscape is under-appreciated both publicly and amongst archaeologists. It is an area under threat of change that requires better-informed and more effective approaches to management.

The central upland core of the Forest of Bowland is formed from alternating bands of shale and sandstone of the Millstone Grit series. The harder gritstones form the fell tops while the softer bands of shale have been eroded to form low scarps and incised valleys or cloughs, which typically sustain pockets of ancient woodland. The extensive upland fells comprise the largest expanse of blanket bog and heather moor in Lancashire, which is managed as sheep pasture and for grouse shooting. In contrast, the Lune valley comprises a broad, flat river floodplain divided into regular fields of verdant pasture. The Bowland-Lune landscape provides a complementary survey area, as resources from both moorland and valley were required to sustain communities.

Evidence of human activity in the landscape is diverse and monuments include prehistoric settlement enclosures, Roman roads, and in the Lune Valley motte and bailey castles. There are also numerous examples of small-scale industries dotted throughout the landscape e.g. quarrying, limekilns and coal pits. However, compared with other parts of the county the archaeological resource of the survey area is little understood.


Since 1994, English Heritage (the national agency for protecting and promoting the historic environment) has been carrying out a programme of historic landscape characterisation (HLC) throughout England, in partnership with individual county councils. HLC is a GIS map-based technique designed to produce a generalised understanding of the historic and archaeological dimension of the present-day landscape. It serves a variety of uses, such as education, research, land-management and CAP-linked agricultural environmental incentive schemes, spatial planning and environmental impact assessment.

An HLC project for Lancashire was completed by Lancashire County Council in 2000, and the central theme of the English EPCL project is to test and extend the methodology of this. The first step will be to build upon the existing datasets through the addition of new information layers, which will allow the creation of character sub-types as well as allowing detailed analysis and interrogation of the HLC.

The project will address the following broad themes that have relevance at a local, national and international level:

  • the relationship between broad historic landscape character and HLC and individual sites and monuments
  • the character of historic dispersed settlement, and the relationship between settlement pattern, historic land use, natural resources and historic landscape character
  • the assessment of time-depth in the landscape
  • the scope of HLC for predictive modelling of archaeological site distribution, location and survival
  • using HLC/SMR to define visibility, sensitivity and perception in today’s landscape
  • using HLC/SMR to define rarity and vulnerability of historic assets


An important aspect of the project will be the inclusion and consultation of local communities. Comprehending the general public’s awareness of their surroundings, perceptions, emotional responses and even the mythological associations of an area, is essential if the cultural landscape is to be fully appreciated and understood. Forums will include public meetings, parish councils, schools and local interest groups.

Building upon the public consultation and data gathering stages an output of the project will be the promotion of the survey area. This will include both physical and intellectual access to the Forest of Bowland and the Lune Valley, in the form of two new footpaths and appropriate interpretation, and the creation of a web site that amongst other things will allow the viewer to experience a virtual fly-through of the study area. This will be particularly useful for areas where physical access is restricted.


A significant development of HLC, will be its application as a management tool. By identifying what is characteristic or important in an area, a framework for sympathetic management of local distinctiveness and historical diversity can be devised.

The project aims to:

  • produce guidance for sustainable management and conservation, for use by local government, land managers and the general public
  • establish management priorities to be integrated with other programmes of work
  • enable the targeting of funds to appropriate projects.

For further information click here


Project team:

English Heritage

Lancashire County Council


This document has been printed from

© 2005 Pathways to Cultural Landscapes

With the support of the Culture 2000 programme of the European Union