Read all about Simonstone, Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 11:17 17 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:22 20 February 2013

Read's changing landscape

Read's changing landscape

Paul Mackenzie visits two villages which offer reminders of what makes Lancashire great Photographs by John Cocks

Lancashire is a great place. We all know that, but it does no-one any harm to have a gentle reminder every now again. It's great because we say 'mustn't grumble', it's great because we know how to have fun, it's great because we just get on with it, in spite of the weather, and it's great because of people like Barrie Wearing.

For 40 years he was an engraver, and a very good one at that, but then he fancied a change and now he's landlord of a pub where Meatloaf has eaten a 42oz steak. We Lancastrians don't just give people like Barrie a second chance we turn up in our coachloads to support them, we cheer them on and then we ask,

'Do you do any bigger steaks?' As it happens, he does. There's a 60oz t-bone which is available on request. We presume Mr Meatloaf told the chef he'd eat anything for lunch, but he won't eat that.

'Actually he was a tribute act from Leyland, but he's a real dead ringer,' deadpans Barrie. 'He travels around in a big motorhome with Bat Out of Hell on the side and he always has cars following him thinking he's the real thing. He's been here a few times and he makes short work of the 42oz steak.

It's too big for me though.' Accrington-born Barrie left school at 15 and worked for an engraver in the town for 25 years before launching his own business. But he added: 'I always had a dream of running a restaurant. When I go out to dine I can't be doing with having small piles of food in the middle of the plate drizzled with goodness knows what.
I want a quality steak with proper old fashioned vegetables.' And that's what Barrie serves, not that there's much room for the veg, mind you.

Barrie runs the Simonstone Hotel with his wife, their two sons and their sons' wives and he's proud of what they have achieved in spite of having no previous experience. 'We have a lot of lovely comments in the visitors' book about the friendly, relaxed atmosphere.'

And that friendliness is obvious all around Simonstone and its neighbouring village, Read. Motorists passing between nearby Whalley and Padiham could be forgiven for thinking the route was unexceptional, save for the stunning views across the east Lancashire countryside. If they were minded, they could travel the mile and a bit through both villages in just a couple of minutes.

But if they left their car on the free car park beside the main road and went for a wander, they'd find a pair of places where familiarity has bred no contempt, even though the village boundary is blurred almost out of existence.

It's true that at first glance the villages seem pretty quiet - unless Meatloaf's singing for his supper of course - but Peter Lambert, the chairman of Simonstone Parish Council, knows better: 'I was quite surprised when we moved here four or five years ago how much is going on and what a wonderful sense of community there is in the villages.

'Initially it does seem like a quiet place but we were given a Welcome to Simonstone pack of information with opening times for shops and contacts for the various clubs and societies around the village. And when our youngest child was born a bouquet of lowers was left on the doorstep by the church.

'That's what it's all about - making people realise it's not just a house in a village it's a home in a place they should help to preserve for future generations. As a parish council we are concerned with trying to bring people together again.'

And Peter, who became involved in the parish council by mistake when he phoned them to grumble about a letter asking him to cut his hedge, added: 'Historically there may have been some rivalry between the villages but although we try to maintain our individuality, the football team is Readstone United and the choir is the Readstone Singers.

Read has the cricket club and, and as of last year when it moved six feet over the border, Simonstone has the Post Office.' Then there's the Read Readers (ho ho) book group which meets at the library and Read Cricket Club which this year celebrates its 130th anniversary.

The club is the only one to have been a member of the Ribblesdale League since the start and they've won a fair bit in that time, too. The list of their honours shows a peak in the 1970s where they averaged a trophy a year and another successful spell just after the turn of the century when they became the first club for more than 60 years to win the
league three years on the trot.

The club was formed during the Great Strike of 1878, as industrialisation was busy changing the face of the region and many of the houses built in these villages at that boom time still bear the sooty evidence of the factory chimneys which were once such a common sight. St Peter's Church up the road in Simonstone was built then, too. It's an unusual church which doubles as the church hall and where chairs are put out for worshippers on a Sunday morning.

There has been plenty of building in more recent times as well, with more modern housing expanding both villages, almost to the point of merger. Anyone out for a shopping spree would be advised to look elsewhere, but the villages can boast the traditional butcher, baker and chip shop as well as the more modern bridal wear shop, sports injury clinic and beauty salon. And between gaps in the stone houses are some wonderful views over the hills, ancient forests and centuries old farmsteads.

The shadows of clouds dance across the fields in such a beguiling way it's easy to overlook the less than beautiful M65, the box-shaped industrial buildings and the towering aerials and to remember that the views are another reason why Lancashire is great.

Simonstone and Read Factfile

Richard Fort was the first president of Read Cricket Club which was formed in 1878. James Alfred Fort was the club's second president. Three Forts to be MP for Clitheroe between 1830 and 1983 when the constituency boundaries were changed

For centuries the Huntroyde Estate owned most of the land around this area and although the estate still exists, it is much smaller today, covering a third of the Simonstone Parish Council area

The 18th century Simonstone Hall was built on the site of a 12th century mansion

The blacksmiths at Trapp Forge use traditional techniques and count the royal family among their customers

The Higher Trapp Hotel, up the hill from Simonstone, this year marked the 30th anniversary of its parent company by planting 30 saplings in their grounds with help from St Peters Junior School pupils

Read Cricket Club are due to finish their season with a home game against Earby on Saturday September 13

The Civil War Battle of Old Read Bridge in 1643 resulted in the downfall of the Lancashire Royalist cause

Alexander Nowell, the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral during much of Elizabeth I's reign, was raised at Read Hall the historic seat of the Nowell family

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