A RIBBLE Valley history expert has expressed his concern about traditional ancient village inns closing down in the borough.

Simon Entwistle, who leads ghost tours around pubs in the Ribble Valley, said it would ‘break his heart’ if more historic pubs were to close in 2014.

The Punch Bowl Inn, Hurst Green, closed in October, following The Craven Heifer in Chaighley in 2011 and The Hodder Bridge Hotel’s closure in 2005.

The Aspinal Arms in Mitton also closed recently and could be converted into flats if planning permission is granted.

Mr Entwistle said the haunted Ribble Valley Inns were a ‘key part’ of tourism in the borough and that they needed to be preserved.

He said: “It breaks my heart to see these lovely old inns close for the last time.

“People come from as far away as Norwich, Liverpool and Nottingham to visit these inns with my tours and that would be lost forever if more of these historic inns are shut.

“As part of the tour we visit Slaidburn’s Hark to Bounty Inn, which dates back to 1743.

“You can see that the arrival of tourists to this rural village has a big impact on trade there and that’s very important to maintain.”

Jocelyn Neve, landlady of The Assheton Arms in Downham, which dates from the 19th century, said: “It’s very important to keep old pubs going in the Ribble Valley because they attract a lot of trade and people to the area.

“We are very lucky here in Downham to have such an old pub and a lovely location and it helps bring people to the village. While we are not in any danger of closing down, it’s relatively normal for pubs to close down at this time of year.”

The Punch Bowl, which dates from the 1720s, was recently sold and is famous for being visited by highwaymen Dick Turpin and Ned King in the late 1730s.

The ghost of ‘Old Ned’ is said to still roam the pub.

Turpin and King reportedly arrived at the pub in 1738 from Essex and stayed for three days before Turpin left for York, with Ned staying behind to stalk the nearby roads.

Ned, who was helped by the pub’s landlord Jonathan Brisco, met his end in 1741 when he was captured by the army and hanged from a tree outside the pub.