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What the locals really think of the Ribble Valley

PUBLISHED: 16:53 15 May 2015 | UPDATED: 20:19 03 October 2015

Pendle Hill seen from Clitheroe Castle

Pendle Hill seen from Clitheroe Castle


Just what is it that makes the Ribble Valley such a captivating place? We spoke to a selection of people in the know

James Warburton James Warburton

James Warburton should know all about the Ribble Valley - there are few corners where he hasn’t lived. He rattles through them…‘Chatburn, Downham, Slaidburn, Waddington, Grindleton, Worston and now West Bradford. You could say I was always a bit restless!’

The one constant has been his commitment to the valley itself, a place he came to as a young man and built up a formidable business in the hospitality industry. ‘I’ve never strayed far. When you find somewhere you like, you want to stay there.’

His company, James’ Places, stretches from the Tudor splendour of Mitton Hall to stately Eaves Hall, famous old pubs such as Shireburn Arms, the Waddington Arms, the Lower Buck Inn, Clitheroe’s The Emporium and, further afield, to the Royal Hotel in Kirkby Lonsdale and Falcon Manor, at Skipton. The company has now taken charge of Bowland Brewery.

In each place, he credits the tremendous talent he has on his team. ‘This company isn’t about me – it’s the buildings and the people who work in them. It’s not a chef-driven, personality-led business – it’s all about the people who bust a gut each day to make it successful.’

He started off with just three staff when he took over The Emporium in Clitheroe. That wine bar and café with retail spaces sowed the seeds for an enterprise that now has 300 working full and part-time. Now he’s finishing off plans for what could be his most ambitious project to date – the restoration and conversion of Holmes Mill in Clitheroe.

The brewery, with an increase in output of tenfold, will be the centre-piece of a building which will provide the town with a boutique 30-bed budget botel, beer hall, cookery school, function room, smokehouse, bakery, deli and offices.

It a significant show of faith in a part of Lancashire that has become a hothouse for economic revival, mainly thanks to food, leisure and hospitality.

‘The Ribble Valley is filling up with people who are choosing to live here and are prepared to pay extra for the pleasure,’ says James. ‘That means they come with a positive attitude.

‘The long established people are terrific too. There is some new blood coming in but the good thing is that the Ribble Valley hasn’t lost it identity. The towns and villages are all different but you can tell they are linked.

‘Tourism has been on the rise but it’s not intrusive – it’s still predominantly a working environment.’

Alistair Sheret, Michael Ranson, Janet Simpson, Craig Bancroft, Hilary Shepherd, Joycelyn Neve, Joseph Byrne, Amanda Dowson. Alistair Sheret, Michael Ranson, Janet Simpson, Craig Bancroft, Hilary Shepherd, Joycelyn Neve, Joseph Byrne, Amanda Dowson.

Alistair Sheret, of Longridge Gallery and the town’s business group.

‘The profile of the Ribble Valley is certainly very high. In Longridge we have become known for our specialist independent traders and that’s quite draw for people from the surrounding area. People get the choice but they also get a level of service they don’t experience in the multiples. We care about our customers because they keep us in business.’

Michael Ranson, the outgoing Mayor of Ribble Valley.

‘I think the Ribble Valley has some of the most magnificent scenery and views – it’s got the hills, the moors, the rivers and the fields. It’s just an idyllic rural area. There is a great contrast between all the different kinds of countryside. If anyone doesn’t know the area I think there is an awful lot here for them to explore and discover.’

Janet Simpson, proprietor of the Gibbon Bridge Hotel.

‘The Ribble Valley has a natural beauty all year around - whatever the season. The peace and tranquillity make it an ideal bolt hole for anyone wanting to escape from Manchester, Liverpool, Preston or Leeds whether you are wanting to walk, cycle or cruise around the country lanes. I certainly enjoy taking my vintage car out and about, taking time out to stop and admire the views

Wiswell-born Craig Bancroft, partner in the Michelin starred Northcote at Langho.

‘The Ribble Valley is such a vibrant place and there is such immense choice with great restaurants, hotels, and pubs. The countryside is beautiful but largely ignored. It’s our best kept secret. In recent times, the ease of communication means it has become a bit of a playground for affluent people from the Manchester area. It’s a very sought after place to live and the quality of the schools has become a major influence in drawing people in.’

Hilary Shepherd, who runs the long-established Whalley fashion house, Maureen Cookson.

‘In the past ten to 15 years it has become a tremendous place for eating out but long before that it was noted for its fantastic countryside. It really is a beautiful place to live and work. There is tremendous strength in our communities and we are fortunate to have so many independent retailers. Whalley has been an anchor for that.’

Joycelyn Neve, whose Seafood Pub Company runs the Derby Arms, near Longridge, and the Assheton Arms in Downham.

‘It doesn’t get much better than the Ribble Valley. The food and drink scene is enormous – there is so much choice on offer. When friends come up from London they can’t believe it.’

Joseph Byrne, the youngest member of the team at Byrne’s Wine Merchants in Clitheroe.

‘I think there’s a lot going for young people in the Ribble Valley. I really enjoy living and working here. I love the fact there are so many different villages and eating our here is really special.’

Amanda Dowson, of Mrs Dowson’s Ice Cream and chairman of the Ribble Valley Tourism Association.

‘Tourism is our biggest growth industry and we want to push forward letting people from the outside know about the Ribble Valley, and to stop them automatically heading for the Lakes.

‘They need to know we have brilliant hotels, inns, restaurants and B&Bs, amazing food producers plus a host of visitors attractions from Bowland Wild Boar park to the Clitheroe Castle. And once we get them here, we want them to stay longer.’

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