By Ecc! It's lovely in Lancashire's Eccleston
PUBLISHED: 20:12 24 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:26 20 February 2013
Photographer John Cocks soaks up the festive atmosphere in Eccleston
When we printed details of a walk which starts and ends in Eccleston, earlier this year, it prompted a local man to write us a letter. He had lived in the village all his life, he wrote, and although he regularly enjoyed days out all over Lancashire, he had never really explored the beautiful countryside on his doorstep.
Having tried the walk, he went on, he was eager to find more routes in and around his village and was wondering why he had previously chosen to drive elsewhere to find a good walk.
In fact, he neednt leave the village at all;
For great walks, good shops or friendly pubs - if it isnt in Eccleston then you probably dont need it.
Theres another thing the people of Eccleston have in spades: pride in their village.
Parish council chair Bill Mason, said: Eccleston is probably the friendliest village in Lancashire. I moved here from the Midlands in the early 1970s and what struck me then was how friendly it was - and it still is.
The thing I particularly like about living here is that you can get everything you need from the village - we have a doctor, a dentist, supermarket, DIY shop, butcher, baker. It might cost a few coppers more but I think its worth it to support those local shops.
The locals are also determined to fight against what they see as inappropriate developments in the village, such as the proposal to build 82 new homes on the site of Sagar House, the former headquarters of the Pontins holiday park business.
The site, on the southern edge of the village, certainly looks in a sorry state since the company relocated to Ainsdale but Bill, a retired engineer, said: Were not against development and we all accept that the site will be developed, its a matter of making sure the development is suitable and in-keeping with what we already have in Eccleston.
It would also be good if the development on the Sagar House site including something for the village. If the plans were to include some allotments for the village, then Im sure people would be interested. There is a real need for allotments, we have a waiting list with 62 names, but no plots. The nearest are in South Ribble and they have a waiting list with about 90 names.
Bill, who is now in his second year as chair of the parish council, is also a volunteer countryside ranger in the Forest of Bowland and has recently been presented with a pair of waterproof trousers to mark his 25th year as a ranger.
Just across the road from Sagar House is Bygone Times, one of the most interesting and eccentric places in the county. Housed in a converted textile mill, it sells antiques, curios and just about anything you can think of. And while it is full of surprises, it is just one of the unexpected retail treats to be had in Eccleston. As well as all the village stores youd expect to find there are some shops you might think belong in a city centre in the Carrington Shopping Centre, another converted mill building.
And although shoppers in Eccleston already have plenty of choice, they will soon be truly spoiled. A farmers market and craft centre is due to open in time for Christmas in the grounds of Heskin Hall, just down the road.
Angela Davies, who is one of the owners of the complex along with business partner Sarah Speak, said: Were hoping to be at least partly open in December, but there will be more here early in the new year.
Well have people working on all sorts of crafts - card-making, embroidery, wool spinning - as well as tea rooms, a deli and bakery and an antiques shop. Some shops, such as Hepplestone Fine Arts which is currently based in the Carrington Centre, will be re-locating to Heskin Hall as well, so well have a real variety of shops here.
The new complex will also house a tea room and a butchers shop selling Aberdeen Angus beef, venison and water buffalo from local farms and Angela, a former BT manager who is originally from Tarleton, added: The water buffalo meat is like beef but it is much lower in cholesterol and fat so can be a healthier alternative.
Heskin Hall itself is a splendid Tudor building and although Eccleston isnt a typically pretty English village, it has much that is aesthetically charming. Many of the homes in Eccleston are terraces of Accrington brick and at this time of year, as the winter sun sits low in the sky, the rich reds of the brickwork add some warmth to the scene.
And although the 14th century walls of St Marys Church pre-date Accy Noris they have the same effect. Huge slabs of sandstone were to build the church, which is the third to stand on the site beside the river Yarrow since the first was built there about 900 years ago.
St John Rigby was born in Eccleston in about 1570. He was executed in 1600 for refusing to repent his Catholicism. He was canonised in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. His grave is in St Marys churchyard
Three buildings have stood on the site of Eccleston Hall and the current building - now divided into apartments - was built in the 17th century. An army of archers raised by Lord Eccleston helped rout the French at the Battle of Agincourt.
The Rainbow House charity was launched in Eccleston in 2001 to help youngsters with all manner of conditions and disorders. The charity, founded by Joanne Mawdsley whose two sons suffer from a rare condition called Carbohydrate Deficient Glycoprotein syndrome, also now has a specially-built school at Mawdesley. To donate call 01257 823276.
Eccleston Institute - known locally as the Insti - was founded in 1895 and now has teams in snooker, dominoes and darts leagues as well as a full events programme. Contact them on 01257 452401.
For more information contact the Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board,
which is based in Chorley, on 01257 226600 or go to www.chorley.gov.uk
Where is it? Lancashire has a few Ecclestons. Great Eccleston and Little
Eccleston are on the Fylde and theres one near St Helens, but this Eccleston sits on the B5250 about five miles south of Leyland
Where to park? There are some free onstreet parking places and theres parking at the Carrington Centre
Where to eat? The Original Farmers Arms pub serves good, honest food and there are some nice restaurants too. Try Verdes on the main street near the Carrington Centre