A NEWLY-COMMISSIONED minibus service is set to open up popular corners of the Forest of Bowland this summer.

Bosses at Community Rail Lancashire (CRL) are to team up with the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team, based at Dunsop Bridge, to promote the Bowland Explorer service.

A successful application has been made by CRL to rail operator Northern’s Seed-Corn Fund to cover the £4,500 cost of running the route on Sunday between May and September.

For East Lancashire travellers, the terminus is at Clitheroe, linking up with rail services from Blackburn and Darwen.

Stops at Waddington, Newton, Slaidburn, Stocks Reservoir and Gisburn Forest are envisaged, en-route to the likes of Ingleton, Clapham and Bentham, through to the Yorkshire Dales.

Travellers from Lancaster and Preston can connect with the Carnforth to Clapham line to the north.

Project officer Sandra Silk, of the Forest of Bowland AONB, said: “It links up with a number of our downloadable routes, so if people want to hop off and on the bus, they can do.”

The forest team has already devised two attractions around the explorer service, the first being a family-storytelling walk through Gisburn Forest on Sunday, June 11, from the visitors centre.

On Sunday, September 11, a ‘Bowland In Miniature’ event, offering adults and youngsters the chance to try their hand at tile-painting, is also on offer at the Gisburn venue.

Plans are being pulled together for similar attractions on the second Sundays of July and August.

Three return services will run on the Sunday, with two going through to Clitheroe and one to Gisburn Forest.

A CRL spokesman said: “The Bowland Explorer will enable both local residents and visitors to enjoy an area of outstanding natural beauty and a national park, while 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 up 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."