A MAN from Darwen has succeeded in a bid to have Druidry recognised as a religion.

Phil Ryder, of Richmond Terrace, led the campaign as chairman of the trustees of the Druid Network, a nationwide fraternity of followers of the Pagan practice.

Druids made the move after being told they could no longer accept donations without being registered with the Charity Commission.

Now, after a four-year fight, the commission has recognised Druidry as a religion, meaning the practice also qualifies for tax breaks.

Mr Ryder, 54, a former St Thomas Aquinas RC High School pupil, said: “It took us more than four years, but we finally got the Charity Commission to accept that we exist to advance religion.

“We have got about 350 members, but it has been estimated that there at least 10,000 Druids in the UK, so we are not insignificant.

"There tend to be more Druids down south than in the north, because that is historically where they have been concentrated.

"But there are still quite a few in Lancashire.”

Druids worship spirits they believe inhabit the earth and forces of nature, such as lightning and thunder.

Awareness of the environment is believed to have led to a rise in the number of people becoming Druids.

Popular spots for Druid worship in Lancashire include Sunnyhurst Woods, in Darwen, and Pendle Hill, according to Mr Ryder.

He said: “I became a Druid almost without knowing it when I started taking an interest in nature-based religion.

“Then about 10 years ago I started getting more involved with other Druids.

“As a religion, it is very misunderstood.

“We do not dress up in white robes, or anything like that.”