Planning a day out in Clitheroe
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 June 2014 | UPDATED: 12:21 10 June 2016
As summer approaches, now is the perfect time to start planning days out. Rebekka O'Grady visits Clitheroe to find the places that will keep you busy for the day
Lancashire has more than its fair share of picturesque places but Clitheroe manages to combine that quaint market town feel with a real vibrancy. This is no sleepy hollow.
The general economic decline has hit many small towns, but the ‘capital’ of the Ribble Valley has bounced back with some new businesses joining more familiar establishments – a combination of which makes for an interesting day out.
After being closed for nearly two years, Clitheroe Castle reopened after a £3.5 million investment. The interactive museum is now a big draw to the town, with thousands visiting from across the north.
‘The refurbishment is better than I could have ever imagined,’ said its manager, Rachel Jackson. ‘A lot if work went into looking at our target audience and making sure we hit it so that people would return. The museum has something for all ages, children especially love it. The team here really aim to look after visitors and make sure they enjoy their time.’
Walking around the museum, it is clear to see little expense has been spared in appealing to the younger audience. Families can borrow a museum ‘explorer’ backpack for free, encouraging children to engage with the exhibits as explorers of Clitheroe’s history, looking the part with Indiana Jones-style hats and magnifying glasses in hand.
‘Each room relates to Clitheroe - from the geology of the town, to the industrial movement and all the way up to present day. The historic element is really interesting and easy for children to absorb and learn via fun DVDs and recorded items. There’s plenty to interact with and pick up. We’ve even caught a few of the adults dressing up in the costumes and clothes! The whole museum really is a touchy-feely have-a-go place.’
Rachel, who started her career at the museum in 2002 as a volunteer while studying for a geology degree, found herself staying permanently as the manager after the redevelopment. ‘I was asked to run the education programme and then I got into teaching. From visiting schools, I realised I got a kick out of working with kids.
‘From Penrith to Cheshire, we have had around 35,000 pupils visit every year. The whole redevelopment into the castle and museum has been amazing - not just for us, but for the town itself. It’s a fantastic place with fantastic people.’
From the castle and you will find yourself in a bustling high street. Don’t be afraid to take a look down the side streets and courtyards, as here is where you will find some of the newest businesses. Swan Courtyard is home to Paint Pot, which recently moved here from nearby Backridge Farm.
The business which is run by mother and daughter, Dorothy and Claire Tierney. Said Dorothy: ‘We thought it was just the right time to move the business into this prime location. We had gone as far as we could in a rural setting, so we are excited to see what working in Clitheroe brings us.’ The Paint Pot runs a paint your own pottery session, where you can personalise your own ceramic pot, which is then glazed and fired.
Further down Castle Street, you will almost miss the tiny corridor that leads to Jan Curtis and her wonderful collection of cheese. At the end of this narrow walkway is Cheesie Tchaikovsky, a deli and café that features a delicious array of cheese, chutneys and artisan crackers – an ideal place for a spot of lunch after walking around the town.
They have been trading for over ten years, but only moved to their current location in this hideaway courtyard four years ago. ‘People use Clitheroe as a destination to buy specific items, and it’s nice to see it as a foodie destination,’ said Jan. ‘There are quality shops here, and the smaller streets such as this are buoyant with independent business, which is amazing to see especially as many young professional couples are setting up shop here.’
Jan, who studied catering at college, went on to a career in fashion, textiles and millinery before deciding she wanted to set up her own business. ‘I knew it had to be a deli focused around cheese. However over the years I have added different elements such as the bread making classes and a café. It is hard work and involves dedication, but I love it.’
It was Jo Harding’s love for reading that brought him to establish Clitheroe Books nearly 20 years ago. ‘I used to work in Blackburn, but visited Clitheroe one bank holiday and noticed the town didn’t have a second hand bookshop. The next day I handed my notice in and started my business.’ Jo and his partner now live above the bookshop after converting it into a liveable space. ‘I think people who live in Clitheroe are the luckiest people in the world. It is a beautiful town with low crime rates’
One of the art centres based in the town, Platform Gallery, runs four exhibitions each year and is currently in the midst of their Open Craft exhibition, where over 100 pieces from artists across the north are displayed in this vibrant and eclectic show until July 12.
‘We have a selection of textiles, pottery, wood, furniture, glass and jewellery featured,’ said Stephanie Hibbert, gallery supervisor. ‘It’s great for local artists, especially as we also run the Ribble Valley prize, for Ribble Valley based residents, where they can win the opportunity to showcase in an exhibition at the gallery in 2015.’
The public also have the chance to vote for their favourite piece in the People’s Choice award. It’s not only exhibitions that Platform Gallery has to offer. A number of local souvenirs and gifts are available to purchase and various workshops take place at the gallery in unison with exhibitions, and these are great for children to get involved in.
‘We have a great relationship with local schools, and also have a craft table within the gallery space for children,’ added Stephanie.
Clitheroe works on many different levels - visitor attractions, independent shops, art and a great little market. It won’t disappoint.