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.

  The Cobbled Corner Café has not reopened — it was a favourite with cyclists.

   The Dog and Partridge just outside the village dates from the 16th century but closed in 2018 and is up for sale for residential development. Sign of the times.

  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.


    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      A string of Bowland hamlets, most are too small to be considered villages, yet country inns have played an important role in them all.
      I’d driven past that milestone many times without stopping, intend to return with better light to show the inscriptions..

  1. conradwalks.blogspot.com

    A well chosen theme. I agreed with your list of cons at the beginning and would add the difficulty of knowing what traffic is coming up behind. At my age even if I could turn my head and neck enough my deteriorating balance would probably cause me to fall off; all that especially after the fall recently on one of our walks when I attempted to compress my head back down into my body – a bit like the reverse of taking the cork out a bottle of red. When I had a bike I tried using mirrors but their usefulness was only marginal. I hope you progress with the heel and then return to the more peaceful enjoyment of walking, and in the meantime, may you be free from punctures.

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      I know what you mean about trying to look over your shoulder whilst staying upright. The lanes I choose are the quietest around, but even so traffic whizzes by.
      Need another ‘theme’ for my next excursion.
      The heel is making slow progress.

  2. Array

    My bike’s neglected and probably unrideable now. I just haven’t the nerve for it on the roads any more. A fascinating tour as always. It’s a similar story with the rural pubs in West Lancs. So many have gone since the crash. The ones hanging on seem to have gone upmarket to attract the wealthier punter – others, centuries old watering holes, either boarded up and keeping strange hours.

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      If in doubt, stay off the roads.
      I find old pub names fascinating, with a wealth of history behind them. I become annoyed when, say, The Red Lion is rebranded as Le Rouge Wine bar. Sacrilege.
      There is a website for lost pubs of Lancashire.

      1. Michael Graeme

        I’ll check that website out – I think I know the one you mean. Yes, re-branding is tasteless – that after they’ve knocked out most of the original fittings that have likely been there for hundreds of years. The Robin Hood, the Windmill, the Bridge and the Black Bull, are just four near me that have gone. Three closed, and one turned into a securely gated des-res.

        1. conradwalks.blogspot.com

          Talking of re-branding I notice they have seen it necessary to rename the Smart Motorways in view of their appallingly dangerous reputation (ask BC here.) they are now calling them Electronic Motorways (I think) or something similar. It is an insult to our intelligence.

          1. bowlandclimber Post author

            No more smart motorways without hard shoulders will be able to open without additional safety measures in place, the government has said. It said any new “all lane running” roads would need radar technology installed first to detect stopped cars. (April 2021)
            No matter how fast the technology detects a stopped car, it won’t stop that lorry bearing down at 70mph.
            I wonder what ‘smart’ ideas Boris will come up with on Tuesday to deal with the continuing Covid crisis this winter?

          2. Michael Graeme

            I’ve not heard that one. Smart, they definitely aren’t. They worry me. It’s dangerous enough to be broken down on the hard shoulder, but how anyone can think taking the hard shoulder away is a good idea puzzles me.

  3. ms6282

    I used to do quite a bit of cycling round there donkeys years ago. Couldn’t cope with those hills now – unless, perhaps, I got one of those electric bikes – but thst would be cheating, wouldn’t it?

  4. shazza

    That’s a good way of seeing the countryside. I didn’t know that there had been so many pubs around those lanes. I would have to be a cheater and hire an E Bike to do that many miles I am afraid. 🙂

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      I’m reduced to writing about pubs, half of which are closed!
      The heel isn’t healing quickly, so expect more cycling ventures. I was intending to do some cross-country multi-day routes, but I’ve opened a cat hospital in my kitchen, which will keep me grounded for a while.

  5. Eunice

    Now there’s a pub crawl with a difference, doing it by bike – you could wobble home afterwards 🙂 Sad to see the Cobbled Corner cafe is closed, my ex and I often stopped there for coffee and cake when we were on a Sunday drive round that area.


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