The Autumn months are when the Ribble Valley is at its most beautiful, and sociable! The spectacular landscape becomes awash with changing colours, dazzling dawns and sensational sunsets, all signalling that winter is not far away.
As the nights draw in and the temperatures drop, don’t be tempted to go into hibernation or you’ll risk missing out on heaps of amazing Autumnal adventures.
Featuring everything from welly walks and spooky talks to parkin baking and Christmas (shhh!) wreath making, we’ve listed our five-favourite must-do activities here. Enjoy!
1. Go for a Walk
There is a very good reason why the Ribble Valley has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and if you pull on the wellies and stride out over hill and dale you’ll soon find it out.
The local area offers a range of great walks suited to both Sunday strolls and serious rambles, all offering plenty of opportunities to kick the leaves, snap the scenery and reward yourself with a roast (all the best walks involve a pub!).
A favourite has to be the famous Tolkien Trail, a six-mile walk which starts and finishes at the war memorial opposite The Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green village and takes in stunning Stonyhurst College, historic Cromwell’s Bridge as well as scenic stretches of the River Hodder and the River Ribble.
We also particularly like one in nearby Mitton that starts and finishes at The Aspinall Arms. It’s just 3 miles long but takes in some fantastic scenery and historic Mitton Hall, now a country house hotel and worth popping into to admire the amazing interiors.
2. Get Spooky
There are many spine-tingling tales of witches and witchcraft associated with the Ribble Valley, the Pendle Witch Trials is just one, and with All Hallows Eve approaching on 31st October now is the time to put your nerves to the test.
Whilst nothing beats some spooky fireside tales told by torchlight, if you fancy leaving the ghastly ghoul impersonations to the professionals there are many Halloween themed half term activities taking place across the county.
We liked the sound of Samlesbury Hall’s wickedly funny witch, Janey Southworth, who will be telling spooky stories, running spell making workshops with perfectly putrid ingredients and staging a terror fuelled picture hunt around the Hall and grounds. It runs from Monday 28th to Thursday 31st October and is free to attend. There are also evening theatrical events at the Hall which include supper or a three-course meal aimed at adults and older children. Take a look at the website for details.
3. Have a Blast on Bonfire Night
Make it a 5th of November to remember with a trip to an organised bonfire and firework display near you. Whilst home staged displays allow a front row seat, there is far more fun to be had (and less chance of injury and upsetting the neighbours) if you head out to a professionally staged event. As well as having enough budget blasting bangs to rival New Years’ Eve, it’s a great opportunity to snap up some seasonal goodies from local stall holders. Nothing beats treacle toffee and a thick wedge of Parkin for conjuring up childhood memories of bonfire nights gone by.
This year our eyes are on Gisburn Park Estate’s event on Saturday 2nd November. Starting at 4pm and costing £10 for adults and £5 for children aged 4 – 16 years (under 4’s free), it includes a Tipi Village with stalls selling hot food and sweet treats, hot cocoa bar, Ribble Valley Gin bar and Bowland Brewery bar selling beer and wine. There are also fire dancers, a sparkler area, live entertainment and the obligatory bonfire and firework display.
If you’re not able to venture out to celebrate bonfire night this year, stock up on the sparklers and make your own Parkin instead.
4. Gaze at the Stars
One of the many benefits of being surrounded by miles of gorgeous countryside means limited light pollution. On a cloud free night, the skies over our heads host an exciting world of legendary figures and mythical beasts, such as The Great Bear, Orion the hunter, Pegasus the winged horse and Taurus the bull. These magical constellations, and many more like them, can be best viewed from five dedicated viewing points within The Forest of Bowland, now granted official status as a Dark Sky Discovery Site. You can view an interactive map of the locations online.
Pack a flask of hot cocoa, a couple of camping chairs and some warm clothes and head for the hills. The Forest of Bowland hosts regular star gazing nights organised by local amateur astronomer Robert Ince.
Or you can organise your own, all you need is a smart phone or tablet and a star gazing app (we like Google Skymap).
With the arrival of Autumn’s darker skies, Robert Ince claims that fainter objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy come into view and are just visible with the naked eye (a faint blotch just above Pegasus).
5. It’s never too early to start…
..planning for Christmas. Yes, we know, but the annual John Lewis advert will hit our screens anytime soon and before you know it, we’ll be decking the halls and ho-ho-hoing all the way down to the butchers to place the pigs in blankets order. So why not give in to the urge for some festive frivolity and book your place on a Christmas themed event.
No well-dressed front door can be seen this Christmas season without a beautiful wreath to adorn it and it’s even better if its homemade with fresh materials. Holmes Mill in Clitheroe is hosting a Festive Wreath Making Masterclass on 8th December run by self-confessed craft addict and Kirsty Allsopp aficionado, Dee. Two three-hour sessions will be staged at 10am and 2.30pm with materials, mince pies and mulled wine included. Tickets cost £35 and can be booked online.
Ditch the high street and do all your Christmas shopping in the hallowed halls of Stonyhurst College as The Great British Christmas Shop is back on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th December. Starting at 10am until 5pm it offers
chef demos, food, drink, gift and craft stalls with a huge serving of Christmas cheer. Taking place largely inside, there are also hot food
and bar stalls outside. Tickets cost £6 for adults, £5 concessions and £3 for children or you can purchase a family ticket for £19. Right now, you can get early bird discounted tickets on online.