A new venture between the Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (LMCRP), the Dales and Bowland Community Interest Company (DBCIC) and the Forest of Bowland AONB has brought about a further innovation for the Bentham Line. The Bowland Explorer, which is an integrated minibus service, will connect with Bentham Line rail services from Leeds and Morecambe at Bentham station, on Sundays from 7th May to 24th September 2017. At the other end of the route, the Bowland Explorer will connect with Clitheroe Line rail services to and from Manchester, Bolton and Blackburn (connections for Preston). The service will also operate on Bank Holiday Mondays in late May and August.
With the Explorer service starting early on Sunday mornings from Lancaster station, it can also act as a ‘Rail-Bus’ service between Lancaster and Bentham via Caton, Hornby, Wray and Wennington station, at a time when there is no scheduled train, before commencing its Bowland duties.
The Bowland Explorer minibus service will also provide a link to the Yorkshire Dales at Ingleton and Clapham.
In addition to the journeys to and from Lancaster station and Bentham the Explorer service will operate three return services through the AONB, two of them going through to Clitheroe and the third to Gisburn Forest Centre.
The Forest of Bowland AONB is planning a series of walks and country activities to complement the Bowland Explorer service at various points along the route during the summer. Numerous self-guided walks are available throughout the AONB along with the CRP’s award-winning Rail to Trail programme between and from the Bowland Gateway stations at Wennington, Bentham, Clapham and Giggleswick.
The new service has been made possible as a result of a successful bid for £4,500 to Northern’s, (Arriva Rail North Ltd.), Seed-Corn Fund by the LMCRP along with funding and in-kind support from the participating organisations.
The Bowland Explorer will enable both residents and visitors to enjoy an area of outstanding natural beauty and a national park, whilst at the same time linking villages and hamlets with the public transport network, in some cases for the first time in decades.
This is also an opportunity to open the Forest of Bowland AONB to a far wider audience from right across the North, including those from the major conurbations of West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, and to encourage visitors to make use of a ‘greener’ travelling option to explore this wonderful area straddling the Yorkshire-Lancashire border.
Full details about the service, timetable, fares and activities will be available from mid-April both in print, at stations and tourist information centres, and on the partners’ websites. Details can be obtained free by post from: LMCRP, Bentham Station Building, Station Road, Bentham, Lancaster, LA2 7LF or by telephoning: 015242 98940.