HEADING out of Higherford on the way to Gisburn is the hilltop village of Blacko.

The picturesque settlement has captured the hearts of Lancastrians, being awarded the accolade of Best Kept Village in Lancashire for 2011 and 2013.

Situated on an old turnpike road, now the A682 which runs through the heart of the village, Blacko is dominated by Stansfield’s Tower, known locally as ‘Blacko tower’, which can be seen for miles around.

The parish has a population of just 600 people and comprises mainly a large amount of moorland, pasture and woodland.

Although agriculture still thrives in the parish, the actual number of working farms has decreased considerably in recent years.

Until the 1970s, there was a cotton mill in the village, but a small housing estate now occupies the site Sixty years ago, the village had a post office, a Co-op, a butcher, a fish and chip shop, a cobbler and a garage, along with a social club.

Now village amenities include Blacko Primary School, a Methodist chapel, a barber’s shop and a beauty salon in the former village shop, plus three pubs; the Cross Gaits, The Rising Sun and The Moorcock Inn.

There is also a recreation ground, with an award-winning playground and allotments in an idyllic setting beneath the tower.

One of the crown jewels of Blacko is local beauty spot the Watermeetings, where Blacko Water joins Pendle Water, which is a popular walking route with ramblers.

The village is known for its community spirit, having an active events committee which runs numerous events including a traditional village show and family fun day.

There are also a number of charity groups, Blacko Hospice Committee which raises funds for Pendleside Hospice, and the NSPCC Committee.

County Councillor Paul White said: “Blacko is a beautiful area, with easy access to local towns, but with a real village feel. “It has a huge sense of community spirit, and its residents have a huge sense of pride in the village.

“That pride shines through with their success in things like the Best Kept Village competition. “It’s also great to see the primary school doing so well.

“There are some great community-minded people in the village who pull together for the good of the village, like the parish council and the events committee.

“They put on some great traditional events like the village show and family fun day, which really help to keep up the community spirit and are incredibly popular.”