Not a footpath in sight, not a stile climbed, not a fell summited, and you will be pleased to hear not a church visited. Oh! Well, maybe just one. My heel is playing up just when the weather is bucking up. Not to be defeated, I drag my bike out of the garage and do a few short rides around Longridge. So today I was ready for a longer ride. Out to Bashall Eaves, Cow Ark, Chipping, Whitechapel and back, about 29 miles (47 km) or so.
Cycling brings a different aspect to one’s locality. No flowers to identify, no birds to watch, no passing conversations. Just the tarmac ahead and that steep ascent looming. Today I concentrate on the inns that I pass, past and present. In the Ribble Valley and Bowland we have been lucky to have had an excellent selection of quality establishments. Rural inns have a long pedigree, their names tell us much of the local history. Unfortunately the country inn has suffered from economic pressures and several hostelries have bitten the dust. Covid has had a serious effect on the hospitality business.
On my corner is the Alston Arms, now The Alston which has had several reincarnations since its establishment in 1841. It has survived the COVID lockdowns and seems as busy as ever with locals, a large outside seating area has helped. Strange that I have not visited since over two years ago, when it was the favourite venue of my friend developing Alzheimer’s disease. She always ordered the same — fish, chips and mushy peas. And they were good!
The second one encountered on the road is the Derby Arms, recently reopened after a period under a fish franchise, The Seafood Pub Company, It looked open today for lunch, so all is well, hopefully. The area around here was part of the Derby Estate. The Stanley Family, Earls of Derby, established lands in Thornley here, hence the pub’s name.
Along the way through Chaigley I pass the former Craven Heifer Hotel. The Craven Heifer became a popular pub name, particularly in the Craven area, so I don’t know how one popped up in Bowland. This hotel was a regular eating place at the end of the last century, it closed Christmas Eve 2008. Since then, it has been a private residence.
On the way down to the Hodder I passed these gates which are normally locked. Today they were open, and I had a quick peep into their lands, with a lake and a large house in view. No idea who lives here. Chadswell Hall.
I stopped off at the Higher Hodder Bridge, the river was as low as I’ve seen for a while. Just up the road is the former Higher Hodder Hotel. This was another hotel with a long period of serving good food and ales. It became well known to the fishermen casting in the Hodder below. I noticed on an old photograph a petrol pump in its forecourt, those days are long gone. Its demise came in 2001 with a severe fire from the kitchen. Bought by a local businessman and converted into apartments. It still has problems with erosion from below where the Hodder flows, undermining the banks. One day it may all fall into the river.
At the next crossroads I knew of an ancient milestone but had never stopped to investigate, Today I had a good look at it. There was lettering on two sides with mileages. On the West face To Preston 10M. To Gisburn M8. On the North face
To Lancaster 16M. To Whalley M3. 1766. It turns out that this is Grade II listed.
The next pub is the Red Pump in Bashall Eaves. This had been closed for some time when it was resurrected by the present owners in 2014, who turned it into a ‘gastropub’ with accommodation including recently added Glamping Yurts and Shepherd Huts. I notice that it has restricted opening hours, so calling in for a pint is not always possible. The pub has a connection to a murder mystery that was never solved.
Some serious pedalling has to be done climbing the road towards Browsholme Hall who have got in on the café scene. No time to visit today. On through the strangely named hamlet of Cow Ark and soon I’m freewheeling down the road which follows the line of the Roman Road from Ribchester to Carlisle and back over the Hodder at Doeford Bridge.
The Gibbon Bridge Hotel is a little farther on and has a history only going back to 1982 when the family diversified from farming to catering. Over the years the hotel has grown and particularly in recent times with the focus on weddings. They still do a good lunch in the dining room, with magnificent views over the gardens and Chipping Vale.
Chipping at one time had three pubs in the village. The Talbot has been closed for years and is looking in a sorry state. Opposite, the Tillotson’s is now open again but has annoyingly random hours, they were missing trade today as lots of tourists were wandering around the quaint village.
The Sun has had a renaissance and is now thriving both as a locals’ drinking pub and a reliable eatery. It is reputedly the most haunted pub in Lancashire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA1MZp3WYdI I couldn’t resist a wander around the churchyard looking for Lizzie Dean’s gravestone.
I now head out to Whitechapel on narrow lanes under the shadow of Beacon Fell, When I first came to this area in the early seventies a curiosity was the Cross Keys Inn run by a farming family. It had irregular hours depending on work on the farm, a quirky bar, a good pool table. Late night sessions were common. At times, if the landlord was busy elsewhere, there was an honesty box for the drinks you had consumed. The inn was known, tongue in cheek, as The Dorchester! It closed over a decade ago but was bought by a local builder who has restored it along with accommodation units and has recently reopened it. Again, as the case with many of these rural pubs they are not open every day, particularly at the beginning of the week, but it is good to see it trading and I’ve promised myself a pint there soon.
Down the road is yet another Lancashire village, Inglewhite, centred on a village green and a cross. The pub here is called The Green Man and has a date stone of 1809. Green Men go back to pagan times and are a fairly common inn name — the sign here depicts a typical Green Man. This pub has been closed off and on for several years, reflecting the difficulties of successfully running a rural inn. Let’s hope it stays open for the foreseeable future. It was not open today!
Homeward-bound now with tiring legs, I pass the last rural pub — Ye Horns Inn. An 18th century listed building that closed four years ago. It had been run as a family business for decades, famous for its Goosnargh Roast Duck reared down the road, and its unique wooden panelled snug located behind the bar. New owners have developed the site with residential properties, but hope to reopen the pub soon. I await with bated breath. Another unique feature here is the men’s urinal across the road from the pub. Not sure how many drunken patrons were run down on this precarious crossing.
It is strange that my trip around all these rural inns didn’t involve any alcohol intake but as you saw several are closed for good, others concentrate on dining and others have limited opening. With a bit of organisation and forward planning, a right good pub cycle could be achieved around the eight trading pubs— but whether it would be legal or safe to ride a bike at the end of it would be debatable.