WARWICKSHIRE is Shakespeare country, Haworth has the Brontes and the Lake District owes a lot of its popularity with tourists to Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.

People come from all over the world to see the landscapes that inspired literary classics. As you stride on to the moors at Haworth following the Bronte Way there are even footpath signs in Japanese to guide oriental visitors who might be looking for Heathcliffe!

With this sort of backcloth it is good news indeed then that the Ribble Valley is going to make the most of its connection with JRR Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The fantastic success of the first film over the past two months has already brought dividends on the other side of the world.

Tourism authorities in New Zealand have reported a big increase in bookings by people eager to see more of the countryside where the epic was filmed on location.

But the real inspiration for Middle Earth, we are told, was nearer Clitheroe than Auckland because Tolkien regularly visited Stonyhurst College where his son was a classics master and walked beside the River Ribble.

Now Ribble Valley council officials are devising Tolkien walks to market the link and bring desperately needed tourism income to an area devastated by foot and mouth disease last year.

We know that the visually the Ribble Valley is a gem which far too few people outside East Lancashire are aware of.

No one would want the area to become a Hobbit theme park or as crowded as parts of the Lake District in mid summer.

But there is massive scope for managed growth by exploiting the connection to bring in prosperity through tourism.