Although Beacon Fell is only 873 feet above sea level its summit dominates the West Lancashire plain, with Blackpool Tower clearly visible on a good day, while to the east Bowland hills are laid out in all their splendour.

No wonder the summit has been used as one of a chain of beacon hills since the Bronze Age.

By lighting fires on the summits, vital signals could be transmitted with surprising speed — providing of course that it was not foggy!

Beacon Fell was certainly made ready in 1588 when the Spanish Armada with its invasion force threatened England, and also between 1795 and 1815 when Britain was threatened by Napoleon’s French forces.

During the last war, between 1939 and 1945, Fell House Farm stood on the site now occupied by the visitor centre.

German aircrews had this farm on their maps and used it as a navigation point on their way to bomb Liverpool and Manchester.

The conifer trees were planted in the period from 1938 to 1959 in order to funnel water towards local reservoirs which provided supplies to the Preston area.

This is a wild and wonderful place with several paths laid out through the conifer woodland.

Here are squirrels and birds including owls and woodpeckers and lots of tall trees around which children can play in safety. This is truly a family day out with no fees involved.

Among the tree species are spruce, pine and larch. There is a simple way of distinguishing these. All you have to do is pull off a leaf.

Spruce leaves come off singly, pine leaves break off in pairs while larch leaves come off in lumps.

Thus we have S for spruce and single, P for pine and pairs and L for larch!

Larch is also the only conifer found in Britain which sheds its leaves in the autumn.

Pass the cafe on the left and ascend a cobbled path to reach a carved stone head on the right.

Throughout the woodland area there are a number of wooden statues with weird shapes and mythical animals.

There is a stone carving which shows an ugly face and lots of fun can be had by seeing who can make the most grotesque faces.

From this ugly mug bear left and the wide tracks change from cobbles to flattened earth.

Approach a post on the left. DO NOT go straight ahead here but turn sharp right and climb sharply up into the conifers.

Here is a hide and seek area for children and there are lots of cones on the ground.

Some, but not all, have been partly eaten by grey squirrels.

The intact cones can be collected and decorated and make excellent (and free) Christmas displays.

Approach the pond on the left. In the summer this can be covered in green duckweed but in the spring it is worth looking out for frogs, toads and newts.

Bear right at the pond onto a path which can be muddy after rain.

There is an alternative and dry route which winds its way in and out of trees.

Approach a marker post. To the left is the viewpoint at the summit, reached via a boardwalk.

Return to the marker post and go straight ahead. There is now a steep descent through an avenue of trees called Queens Grove.

Descend a set of wide and easy to negotiate wooden steps and the car park and cafe can be seen through the trees. Return to the starting point.