Thursday, 17 May 2012

Thursday Tour - Clitheroe (and an astronaut)

Clitheroe is a small market town in the Ribble Valley and is a base for tourists visiting the nearby Forest of Bowland, designated as ‘an area of outstanding natural beauty.’.

One of Clitheroe’s ‘claims to fame’ is that its castle is reputedly the smallest Norman keep in England. The land between the rivers Mersey and Ribble was granted by William I to one of his supporters, Roger of Poitou, who may have built the keep around 1086. It seems more likely, however, that it was built by Robert de Lacy about a hundred years later, as the centre of estates in the area. On one side is a large hole which according to legend was the result of a giant hurling a huge boulder from Pendle Hill. A more prosaic explanation is that the during the English Civil War, the Royalists deliberately damaged the castle, so that it would be of no use to the Parliamentary forces.

Another link to past royalty was the ill-fated Lancastrian King Henry VI. On the run after being defeated by the Yorkists at the battle of Hexham in 1464, he was recaptured near to Brungerley Bridge which spans the River Ribble on the outskirts of Clitheroe.

My personal link with Clitheroe is because of the Girl Guide Training Centre, called Waddow Hall, which stands on the opposite bank of the river to the town. I’ve lost count of how many training weekends I attended there.

Probably my most abiding memory, however, is of a Commonwealth event ten years ago. We had several hundred girls from all over the world camping there – and it rained! Not just a few showers but almost non-stop rain for over a week! The campsite became a sea of mud and the girls had to be evacuated to the house, where their sleeping bags and rucksacks covered every inch of spare floor.

During that event, too, we had a guest speaker who just happened to be Canada's first woman astronaut. One afternoon I took her into Clitheroe as she wanted to do some shopping. Believe me, nothing seems more surreal than driving down Clitheroe’s main street with an astronaut in your car!


  1. I think she would have been a fascinating person to talk to! Wish I'd been in the back seat!

  2. She really was, Jen. I became quite friendly with her, and we kept in contact for a few years.