Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Postcard from Lancashire (1)

Sunday, 5th March 2006

Being positioned where we are in the Yorkshire Dales, it is very easy to travel to the Lake District or drop down into Lancashire and the Forest of Bowland. Thus, after a leisurely morning of reading the Sunday Telegraph and revising the final draft of a short story for a competition in the BMA News (with the promise of a week’s holiday in Sorrento, Italy for the winner), we drove to Slaidburn for lunch.

The drive there was rewarded by panoramic views of the hills of Lancashire, particularly Pendle Hill, still liberally covered with snow. The landscape in Lancashire is generally softer than that in the Yorkshire Dales, the fields being rolling green swathes, with fewer dry-stone walls and an increasing number of hedgerows. Sheep abound, as they do in most of these northwesterly counties, and at this time of the year, there are an ever-increasing number of lambs.

The village of Slaidburn is known as the capital of Bowland, a title that dates back to when the area was a vast hunting forest. Beyond Slaidburn is the road to Dunsop Bridge and the start of a beautiful drive through the Trough of Bowland. For many people, Slaidburn is not in Lancashire at all, but the West Riding of Yorkshire. Such territorial spats aside, the fact remains that it is a splendid village with a delightful country inn called the Hark to Bounty.

The Inn has a fascinating history. Dating back to the 15th century, it used to be called The Dog. However, at some stage in the late 19th century, when the local squire (who was also the parson and kept a pack of hunting dogs) stopped off after a morning’s hunting, the pack outside kept up a raucous noise. The story goes that the squire’s favourite dog was distinguishable above all the rest, causing the squire to remark ‘Hark to Bounty’. From then on, the pub was renamed. The Inn was also once the home of the Forest Courts and still has the courtroom preserved on the first floor. Family run, it is an establishment that serves a warm welcome, good homemade food and an attractive selection of real ales (including Theakston’s Old Peculiar), making the drive there most satisfying.

The return journey found us stopped in a lane for a short period, whilst a cock pheasant decided whether it preferred the left or right hand hedgerow (or was it playing chicken?). A little further, our patience was rewarded with the rare sight of a weasel as it scurried across the lane.

Overall, a marvellous way to spend a wintry Sunday.

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