Broughton in Furness needs more visitors - but not too many

PUBLISHED: 00:16 12 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:26 20 February 2013

Shaun and Christina Bryant, left, with Darren and Lara Napton at The Broughton Village Bakery

Shaun and Christina Bryant, left, with Darren and Lara Napton at The Broughton Village Bakery

The Lancashire market town of Broughton in Furness needs more visitors - but not too many, writes Roger Borrell Photography by Kirsty Thompson

Of all the far flung outposts of the Lancastrian empire, Broughton in Furness has been flung further than most. It may be a mere 17 miles north of Barrow but its almost 100 tortuous miles by road to the countys southern extremity.

Closer, probably a mile away, is the River Duddon, which rises around Wyrenose Pass and chuckles through spectacular scenery into the beautiful, wildlife-rich estuary. This haven is famous for its sunsets and Duddon Mosses, a site of special scientific interest and home to deer, lizards, adders and barn owls.

On a sunny day the estuary bursts into view as you approach the town from the east. Estuary becomes a river so lovely it moved Wordsworth to write sonnets and it is this stretch of water that forms the western boundary between the County Palatine and Cumberland.

Of course, some bureaucrats try to tell us that this fine market town is part of some mythically land named Cumbria, but you only have to chat to the locals to know this is as Lancashire as tripe and onions.

We bump into parish councillor Jeff Barker on Griffin Street. Of course this is Lancashire, he says. The creation of Cumbria has done no good at all. A plain speaking Lancastrian.

Another chance meeting displays some Lancashire wit, too. Broughton is a lovely place but its not full of visitor attractions. Its not for the hard of thinking

There is evidence of a settlement at Broughton going back at least to the 11th century and the church of St Mary Magdalene has its roots in Saxon times. Farming, particularly wool, made its fortune in years gone by and the grand three storey town houses in the square are an echo of those bountiful times.

The set of stocks in the middle are probably a reminder of the fact that this was also a town infamous for illegally distilling hooch. The moonshine industry, housed in yards, was a means of avoiding the excise men.

Today, a legal tipple is available in several excellent pubs, such as the Manor Arms, once a favourite of Watership Down author Richard Adams, and the 16th Century Black Cock Inn. Another town centre tavern, the Kings Head, was shut at the time of our visit and looking a little forlorn. Lets hope it bounces back.

The shops are small in number but high in quality. For instance, the Broughton Village Bakery wouldnt look out of place in a thriving French town. The sumptuous display of cakes, pies and breads are all made on the premises and as Lancashire Life arrived the previous owners, Lara and Darren Napton, were handing over to the new incumbents Christina and Shaun Bryant.

After four years running the business they are heading to Laras native Australia for the birth of their first child. For Christina and Shaun their new baby will be responsible for a fair degree of sleep deprivation, too.

Christina said: It is been a long term dream to do this. I worked at Witherslack Residential School and Shaun was in the prison service in Lancaster. He took redundancy and since then hes been getting experience working in cafes.

Now, reality has kicked in and hes starting work at 4am making everything from scratch. You cant get anything fresher than our bacon rolls made that morning! So far, it has been great. The customers have been very welcoming. Shaun adds: Broughton is a great community. Its a place we are really looking foreard to getting involved with.

The bakery uses Fair Trade materials and the provenance of the meat and vegetables is in no doubt. It comes from a couple of yards down the street at Melville Tyson, a business with two shops a greengrocer and adjoining high class butcher.

Happily, Broughton has managed to keep hold of its Post Office and its worth a visit just for the good natured banter from Diane and Alan Bath. They both agree that times have been tough for local traders with three disappointing summers depressing visitor numbers in this less well trod part of the Lakes. But being downhearted is not in their nature.

They are hoping to expand the retail side of the business by specialising in model railways and they want to develop this into a garden railway. Its a hard life running a Post Office, especially when it includes a sorting office. That requires them to be on duty from 5.30am to 8pm.

Nevertheless, Diane still finds time to get involved in fairs, fetes and meals on wheels, inspired by the Hairy Bikers. Daughter Carly Holland, whose wedding featured in Lancashire Life, also helps out but much of her time is taken with new baby, Honey.

Broughton is definitely tea shop territory and prominent in the centre is the appropriately named The Square Caf. The business is owned by Jane Rousseau, who decided to swap the erratic life and long hours of a film and television camera operator for a slightly more sedate existence for her and eight-year-old son, Alfie. We can still work eleven hour days but now its on my terms, she says. I love cooking I really enjoy sitting and watching people eat the thing Ive made.

Her father John is a highly regarded landscape photographer who has lived in Broughton for more than 30 years. Their work - Jane paints - adorns the caf walls along with Alfies running vest numbers. Hes a promising fell runner.

Broughton is all about compromise, she adds. We dont want hordes of tourists or to become another Hawkshead, but need enough visitors to make a living. Because if we fail to do that you will lose the heart of the town youll lose things like the schools and the Post Office.

Happily, all the building blocks required to make up a successful, thriving community remain in place in Broughton.

Lets hope it stays that way by attracting a few more people curious about this lovely corner of Lancashire. Just dont all rush at once.

Brilliant Broughton

Where is it? From Junction 36 of the M6, head west on the A590, a sharp right at Greenodd onto the A5992 and the A595 takes you to Broughton

What is there to do?
Theres a Christmas Market on December 11 check with Elaine Knowles or one of her colleagues in the fine old tourist information centre (01229 716115). There are some terrific local walks, some interesting shops and Duddon Mosses.

What about refreshments?
The Square and Broughton Bakery are certainly worth a visit, some excellent pubs and a recommended restaurant.

The print version of this article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

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