Clitheroe and Downham

Now I’ve more free time I’ve been thinking about getting myself an e-bike. I used to do a lot of cycling at one time – more than 15 years ago to be honest, but my bike, a decent hybrid, has hardly been out of the shed since then. I’m not sure that the old legs could cope with the hulls around here these days so an e-bike does sound appealing. But they’re not cheap, especially some of the ones I’ve been looking at. The Ribble Hybrid AL e Trail has particularly caught my eye, but it’s expensive, costing £2000 more than the non-electric equivalent. Can I justify the cost? Well I thought I should go and take a look. The company have a showroom on the outskirts of Clitheroe, an hour’s drive away, so it seemed sensible to go and have a look. And given a decent weather forecast we decided to make a day of it. No, not a day in the bike showroom but after sussing out the bike we spent the rest of the day in and around Clitheroe.

First stop was Holmes Mill, aformer textile mill close to the centre of town that’s been convered into a food hall, beer hall, brewery, hotel and cinema.

We parrked up and had a look round the food hall. Lot’s of tasty stuff on display, much of it local produce from Bowland and the Ribble Valley.

The food also serve light meals and drinks so as it was midday and we aere starting to feel hungry so grabbed a table outdoors – it was already starting to get busy – and ordered a couple of “planks” from the menu. They arrived promptly.

Well fed, we drove the short distance into town centre and parked up. The next destination was Clitheroe Castle which stands on a prominent hill surrounded by 16 acres of park land in the centre of town. Clitheroe is a pleasant market town with mainly independent shops and is the home of a certain WordPress blogger! We had visited the Castle before, but that was a long time ago when our offspring were very small and we took them to see the castle. I think the last time I was in the town properly (not counting driving through it or visiting a client on the outskirts) was when I was conducting some research in the Library for a project which investigated the impact of the local cement work’s plan to burn waste solvents to fire the kiln during my studies for my Masters.

On our way up to the castle we passed one of the markers for the Lancashire Witches’ Walk, a 51-mile (82 km) long-distance footpath between Barrowford and Lancaster, opened in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the trials of the Pendle witches.

The poet laureate,  Carol Ann Duffy, was commissioned to write a poem for the trail and Ten cast iron tercet waymarkers, designed by Stephen Raw, each inscribed with the name of one of those executed (in this case Isabel Robey – who was actually from St Helens but was hanged with the women from Pendle) a verse of the poem the have been installed at sites along the route. This was the fourth marker on the trail,

A short steep climb and we reached the castle

The Norman keep – the second smallest in England – was built in the late 12th century and was garrisoned by a small company of troops to keep an eye ont he strategic route along the Ribble Valley.

On a fine day there were good views all around from the battlements surrounding the kep

Looking towards Pendle Hill
The view towards the Bowland Fells
The hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance

There are several other buildings in the Castle grounds that house the town museum It isn’t free entry but decided to visit. As with many local museums it’s exhibits are mainly aimed at children (I bet they have a lot of school visits during the year) but we found plenty of interest, particularly about the history of the castle, town and local industry.

A recreated Victorian kitchen in the museum
A textile work in the museum rembering the Pendle Witches

There was an exhibition of paintings and other exhibits on the theme of cycling (quite relevant given the original reason for our trip over here) in the Steward’s House – this is the building where the landlord’s representative lived.

The castle site remained in private ownership until 1920, when it was sold to the people of Clitheroe for a consirable sum to create a war memorial. We though that the landlord was rather mean spirited, and could have donated the castle and the land to the town, but that’s the landlord class for you. The town raised more than they needed to pay off the landlord so the surplus was used to create the pleasant park.

A very poignant memorial

We returned to the car and decided to drive over to the small village of Downham, a few miles away. It’s a very picturesque, small village at the bottom of Pendle Hill. The properties are all owned by the Assheton family who rent or lease them out and they don’t allow residents to install overhead electricity lines, aerials or satellite dishes. This has made the village a popular location for filming period TV programmes and films, including the BBC One series Born and Bred. More notably it was the main location for the 1961 Bryan Forbes film, Whistle Down the Wind.


I’ve been there several times, last time a couple of years ago with the offspring, but this was a first for J. We’re both fans of the film and so after stopping for an ice cream at the small cafe / shop, we went for a short walk where I was able to point out the main locations used in the film.

The farmhouse where Hayley Mills and her film sister and brother lived with Worsall Hill behind. The hill features at the beginning of the film when the children are seen running across and down it.
The barn where Alan bates playing the runaway murderer hides.
Pendle Hill seen across the fields during our walk

After returning to the village set off back to Clitheroe where we’d decided to eat out, but as it was a little too early, we decided to drive over to the riverside Brungerley Park where ther’e a sculpture trail. There isn’t a car park but given the time of the day (early evening) we had no trouble finding a place to park on the road close to the entrance to the park.

Here’s a selection of the sculptures, including some by Halima Cassell, who’s work, complex geometric scultpures, I rather like.

Common Comfrey by Halima Cassell
As The Crow Flies by David Halford
Fir Cone by Halima Cassell
Otter by Fiona Bowley
The Ribble King by Matthew Roby
Sika Deer by Clare Bigger

We spet a good hour or so meandering through the park on a mild evening but it was time to go and get something to eat! We’d decided to return to Holmes Mill and eat in the Beer Hall, where it looked like they had a decent “pub grub” menu. They also have a very extensive beer menu, including a range of Bowland beers that are brewed on the premises.

The beer hall – I took the photo during our earlier visit – it was surprisingly busy in the evening when we returnedgiven that it was a Wednesday. I bet it’s heaving at the weekend.
The mill engine that used to power the textile machinery.

The food was pretty good – and very filling. These is the lamb kebabs I ordered

Feeling stuffed after our meal it was time to set off for home. We’d had a very enjoyable and busy day. I think I really out to get out into the Ribble Valley more often.

19 thoughts on “Clitheroe and Downham

  1. I’ve never been to Clitheroe, though the AA route ‘from Manchester to the Lake District avoiding the A6’ my Dad got took us within a couple of miles of it. My most prominent association is with the town’s most famous short comedian: I grew up on things like The Clitheroe Kid on radio and credit my ability to follow long and complex statements to listening to Danny Ross as Alfie Hall. It looks a nice place: if it’s got a railway station I’ll put it on my list.

    • It does indeed have a station – trains from Manchester, I think.
      And like you I grew up listening to Jimmy Clitheroe – Sunday dinner time if I remeber right, but, then, it was a long time ago.

  2. You capture Clitheroe very well here, Downham too. The town seems to have remained optimistic and prosperous in spite of everything we’ve been through this past decade or more. I compare it with my nearest town (Chorley) which is looking terribly shabby, while Clitheroe is still a place that feels good to visit.

    I’ve had a hankering for an ebike myself, but they do seem a bit pricey.

    • Most towns are like Chorley. In Wigan the big shops have either shut completely (Debenhams, H&M and Menzies) or moved to the dreaded Robin Park retail park (M&S, Next). We need independent shops and reduce the rents so they can afford to “set up shop”.

    • I’m still dithering about the bike. I wonder whether I’d use it enough to justify the cost.
      They’re heavier than a “normal” bike due to the weight of the motor and battery. So, on a longer ride, if you ran out of juice, they must be harder work to pedal. Ribble bikes state up to 70 miles, but the ramge depends on how much you use the motor and at what level, so I doubt you’d normally get that. I’m thinking of hiring one for a day and aeeing how it goes (but probably won’t be able to hire the particular bike I fancy)

      • Coincidentally around the time you were posting your message I was in the Brennand Valley talking to a couple on e-bikes. I asked them what they thought of them and they told me they’d hired them from – guess where – Dunsopp Bridge. So when I got to the village, after the obligatory stop at Puddleducks I popped into the shoop to enquire! I’ll be giving them a try soon!

  3. That seems a pretty good day out, I would do exactly the same if I was a tourist here! Nice that you visited the Mill. It’s pretty impressive isn’t it! I live so close by that I don’t actually go very often. Long overdue a Downham visit I think. Was the Whistle down the wind sign at the farm? I’ve never seen it.

    • A good day indeed. And I found out about the Mill by reading your recent post!
      The Whistle Down the Wind sign is in the small information centre at the end of the car park. In the same building as the loos – the men’s are a real pigsty – and I really do mean a real pigsty!

    • I think there would be logistical difficulties walking the trail, but it would be a good route.
      As for the bike, still dithering. It’s not cheal and would I get enough use of it to justify the outlay?

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