Loving life in Barnoldswick
PUBLISHED: 10:29 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 18:06 20 February 2013
This border town is becoming a popular place for couples looking for the outdoor life and value for money. Vivien Meath, a 'Barlicker' born and bred, reports
Tucked snugly between the Yorkshire Dales, Ribble Valley and Pendle, Barnoldswick is often overlooked as a destination in its own right.
Yet to one born and bred there, it is hardly surprising that more and more people are choosing to call it home. As the town focuses on the second millennium, a new breed of Barlicker is moving in.
The former mill town which once boasted some 13 weaving sheds and a hotch-potch of chimneys, is surrounded on all sides by glorious countryside, a myriad of footpaths and heritage galore. Consequently, it has become the destination of choice for many active retired couples keen to bag a cheaper property in a location where much of what they want to do is on the doorstep - and without the crowds.
The town centre was remodelled in the mid-20th century, removing the dominant large Co-operative Society buildings and creating a vibrant traffic-free square with seats and plantings, now regularly used as a focus for community events and a popular spot for a chat.
The shops are almost all independently owned; small family businesses with the accent on service, quality and, of course, that friendly welcome for which Barlick, as it is fondly known, is famous.
There are two easily accessible, large, free car parks and at weekends one or the other is often utilised by visiting rambling groups, keen to stride out into the countryside before a bite to eat at one of the town centre cafes.
The railway station of my youth is long gone, but both Pendle Borough and Lancashire County Councils continue to invest in the towns infrastructure with imposing new bus bays one of the more recent additions.
Steeped in history, a 10-minute walk from the centre takes you via the Stream and Steam Trail into the original town, with Crowfoot Row, handloom weavers cottages built in 1829, the Forty Steps - are there 40? - and across to the Bancroft Mill Engine Trust. Run by volunteers, it is a working museum with free entry most Saturdays.
From March to early December the engine is in steam on many Sunday afternoons and there are home made refreshments as an extra enticement. Passing through the Colne Road estate, take a look at Town Head - once known as Club Row due to being built by Barnoldswick Friendly Society in 1829 - before heading down Westgate and Wapping, the latter the site of the original Saxon settlement, Bernulfswic.
The most prized church and a historians delight is without doubt that of St Mary le Gill. Situated on the Skipton side of town, it was built by monks from Kirkstall Abbey in 1157. The tower was added in 1524 and the interior boasts a three decker pulpit and Jacobean pews. At the end of a quiet country lane, the popular Ghyll golf course is a peaceful backdrop. A gentle stroll takes the walker back into town.
Barnoldswick - one of the longest place names in Britain without repeating any letters - is dominated by Weets Hill. Rising to more than 1,000ft, on a fine day there are glorious views across to Pendle Hill, the Bowland Fells and the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks. A signposted Heritage Trail has been developed encompassing special sites and sights.
For keep fit enthusiasts, West Craven Leisure Centre boasts two swimming pools, gymnasium and caf and, just a five minute walk towards the village of Salterforth, a new colourful community has sprung up with dozens of canal boat enthusiasts in residence at the towns marina, while Salterforth boasts a popular touring caravan site.
When I was a child, Letcliffe Park was a spectacular place with its imposing hedged bandstand, beautifully tended greenhouses, pitch and putt and caf. With its rolling backdrop and assorted garden rooms, it was a popular place for outdoor birthday picnics with additional treats, such as delicious penny ice lollies, sold from the small golf cabin. Much of what I regarded as special has gone and Letcliffe has been redesignated a country park. Picnic benches, childrens play area and trees occupy the pitch and putt, with signs of tepees on a recent visit as young children learnt more about forest life. The spectacular views over the rolling countryside and distant peaks of the Dales have not been affected by local government finance and Letcliffe is still a gem. On the other side of town, the easily accessible Victory Park is home to cricket, football and rugby, with sports pitches, skateboard area, revamped playgrounds dominated by a towering alien, and lots of space for children to play.
Rolls Royce and Silentnight are still the towns major employers, but they have been joined by a myriad of smaller successful companies.
Barnoldswick is certainly worth a visit. And if you do stumble across it on your travels - put an hour or two aside to dig a little deeper.