I always thought of Darwen as a lesser Accrington, along a similar “A” Road winding down to civilisation (Bolton and Bury respectively). Like Much Wenlock, it’s a place you have to want to go to a lot, rather than one you pass through. At least Accrington has the Oswaldthistle Mills for old folk to go to.
Mahatma Gandhi visited in 1931, presumably for higher reasons than my own visit.
My enduring image of Darwen was of a riotous Sunday afternoon in the Greenfield, a short-lived Guide entry of the community local variety. I can still recall the quality of the Taylors Landlord 20 years on. The Hopstar Brewery Tap was the current Beer Guide regular, with something of the micropub feel about it.
Most of the town’s near 30 pubs and clubs seem strung out along the endless A666, looking basic rather than shabby.
Conversely the pubs in the villages south of here, in Entwistle and Edgworth, always seemed surprisingly smart, and the Black Dog in Belmont must be Holt’s smartest house. We stayed in the Strawbury Duck near Turton 20 years ago, which must have bust our accommodation budget considerably.
The scenery round here is as good as anywhere in the UK. I’d walked to the Jubilee Tower before, and the walks around here and at Tockholes are it’s strongpoint.
Today I explored the town centre, not seen at it’s best from the A666 but enjoyed on foot in a pedestrianised shopping area. This is the view from the Wetherspoons;
There’s more to the town than I thought, though it’s a bit scarred by the concrete necessities of car parks near the indoor market.
Once again, the most impressive building is the Wetherspoons, albeit a sight clearly best seen at night.
Darwen folk were clearly very proud of this recent restoration of the Methodist chapel, and this is one of the best Spoons interiors in their whole estate.
My experiences in Wetherspoons are a bit up and down at the moment. This one was immaculately clean, and served a good Adnams collaboration brew (NBSS 3.5). Staff were coping well with what looked like a wedding party but actually were lads on their way to the Grand National.
The leisure centre is in a gem of modern architecture, with some of the best use of coloured glass I’ve seen. It reminded me a bit of the interior of neighbouring Blackburn’s marvellous cathedral.
Thwaites have the monopoly of pubs in the town but, as in Blackburn and Chorley, have no pubs in the Beer Guide to demonstrate their brewing excellence.
The star turn, however, was Deli Carla. This Italian deli served a salami and sunblushed tomato ciabatta the lady proudly called the best sandwich in Darwen. It was actually the best in Lancashire, and the espresso was great too.