There is a ‘new’ circular walk around Stocks Reservoir, promoted by United Utilities, from the Gisburn Forest car park and judging from the amount of people seen today very popular. I came across it on a walk from Slaidburn. New paths have been created giving a varied route with fantastic views and close to the water wildlife viewing hides are available. Stocks was constructed in the 1920/30s by the Fylde Water Board by flooding the upper Hodder valley, the surrounding farmland and the hamlet of Stocks-in-Bowland. 500 men worked there and a narrow-gauge railway was built to transport materials. According to the information boards, numerous attractive houses were lost but the church was rebuilt above the water. For more fascinating reservoir facts click here.
I always enjoy the Roman road from Cow Ark to Newton, I drive this way to reach the Slaidburn area and as a scenic route to Yorkshire. As you crest the hill the Bowland Fells are prominent to the west and straight ahead is unmistakable Ingleborough, if you are lucky and the day clear. Today I was debating a walk up Croasdale to Bullstones but I knew I would be tempted onto the boulders which wouldn’t be good for my shoulder so I opted for a walk up to Stocks reservoir.
Slaidburn is an interesting old village to wander around. Most of the property has been owned by one family for over 200 years and little has changed, narrow streets, hand-loom weavers’ cottages, an historic pub, village shop, YHA, war memorial and the River Hodder. I must admit to have not visited the C15th church on the outskirts.
This morning I used the village car park and adjacent cafe as my starting point and walked out on a lane heading to Bentham which seemed very popular with cyclists who have a lot of climbing ahead. A style leads into a field and a climb over a hill which you realise is Limestone, there are a lot of Reef Knolls in the area. A string of Dale’s like meadows parallel the Croasdale Brook, each having a stone barn in various states of repair. These reminded me of the phrase “were you born in a barn?” that was constantly directed at me as a child for leaving doors open.
Climbing out of the valley the views across Bowland improved with every step. Newly sheered sheep were out in the fields creating a loud communal baaaa. The short stretch of road walking was virtually traffic-free and there seemed to be a ditch and dike running alongside, no idea of its origin. Up on Merrybent Hill, Ingleborough raised its head again and the vast extent of Gisburn Forest was spread out below.
A line of Alder Trees followed a stream downhill off the road and this is where I met up with the Stocks Circular walk and a stream of people. Flags had been laid over a boggy stretch and where last time I had precariously crossed the Hodder on stepping stones there was a new  footbridge. Shamefully the stepping stones seemed to have disappeared.
Onwards and upwards past the deserted New House with its outside well. The lane leading down from here gave views of Stocks Reservoir with Totridge Fell in the background. All to soon I was into the forest but the path has been improved and winds its way nicely through mixed woodland.
Alongside the start of the water I went into one of the hides, opening up the flaps I had a perfect view of the Hodder snaking into the lake; unfortunately without binoculars, I struggled to identify most of the birdlife except for the numerous Cormorants. Nonetheless it was a good place to eat my lunch.
Continuing on I reached the car park with all the information boards and more people doing the circuit. The causeway was crossed, on the water little boats used by fishermen seemed to be having a hard time in the brisk wind. In the past I’ve walked on the road past the re-sited church but now a path winds off through the trees to keep closer to the reservoir. The next mile on open ground above the water gave magnificent views across the reservoir with the Chipping Fells ahead and behind to the forest. The signed walk brought me up close to the dam wall with the splendid waterboard house above. Not wanting to cross the damn I found a bit of a path upwards to join the track down to Hammerton Hall, a commanding three gabled Elizabethan house. After Holmehead Bridge crossing the Hodder fields headed towards Slaidburn. I was reminded of a previous trip down the Hodder when not checking the map we forded the Croasdale Brook in a direct line under the view of the farmer who said we were on private land and sent us, humiliated, back across the river. Today I found the correct path to the right to reach the bridge and road back into the village.
Sorry, this has been a long-winded blow by blow account of today’s walk but there was so much of interest. I have every intention of returning soon, with binoculars, to walk that shorter signed Stocks circular.