Don’t underestimate Darwen. Sitting in a valley between Bolton and Blackburn, this market town has much to offer.

A place with several thriving independent business – perhaps not surprising in a place that was once at the heart of the Industrial Revolution – you can get everything from vintage fashions at My Vintage and veg box stars and eco friendly refills at Earth Evolution to a whole host of traders selling great food and all of life’s essentials – don’t miss local favourites Turner’s or Leemings Butchers or Deli Carlo, a delicatessen, café and cured meat shop facing onto the Market Square.

Property prices are relatively low compared to the national picture, coming in an at average of just over £150,000, meaning there are opportunities to buy a solid property for a good price. Terraced properties – there are plenty to choose from the streets and lanes leading up steep hills from the centre, offer great value for money with spacious homes selling for an average of £114,000. Some detached homes fetch and average of £177, 000 with detached homes selling for more at around the £279,000 mark.

The town also properties of your dreams – a recent sale attracted attention as it tipped over the million-pound mark. For £1.25 million not only could you get a seven-bedroom property in a stone barn on the Darwen/Edgworth border, but it also came with its own stables/workshop

Great British Life: Looking up to Jubilee Tower from Darwen. (c) Kirsty ThompsonLooking up to Jubilee Tower from Darwen. (c) Kirsty Thompson

They say it’s location, location, location and geographically, you’re well placed for being within easy reach of Bolton and Blackburn, close to the major motorway networks – the M65 is the nearest. Manchester, on a good day, is around a 40-minute drive with regular trains running from Darwen to the city – all making Darwen a good spot to set up home. There has been good investment in the town of late, including at the new public space with The Weavers Bird sculpture from artist Liam Hopkins, at its centre, too.

Take your boots with you and head to one of several pretty walking routes near Darwen. For a saunter, stroll or run the Entwistle and Wayoh Reservoir walk is a circular route with bird-spotting opportunities and plenty of fellow walkers to say hello to. Little legs will enjoy the short but fairly steep walks up to Darwen Tower. You’ll be done in less than an hour and be rewarded with far-reaching views of the county.

Great British Life: Chef Dan Jolley. (c) Blackburn with Darwen CouncilChef Dan Jolley. (c) Blackburn with Darwen Council

Hidden gems

Darwen perhaps isn’t the first place you would think of when it comes to discovering great food but don’t underestimate the small town’s credentials. As well as being home to some fabulous butchers, bakers, delis and brunch spots, it is also home to CDJ Restaurant. It was founded by chef Dan Jolley who has worked in some of the finest Michelin star restaurants in the world as well as being private chef to Liverpool Football club players, including Mo Salah.

Originally from Blackburn, he admits he only ever chose home economics class at Darwen Vale because he like a girl in the class. But a year later he was working with Nigel Haworth at Northcote. Since then, he has worked at London’s Helen Darroze at The Connaught and with the Fine Dining Team at Liverpool Football Club.

Now, he runs his restaurant in Duckworth Street, where he also prepares meals for the Liverpool aces Mo Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold, as their private chef.

‘I really wanted to do something really good and local,’ Dan adds. ‘I want people to be able to experience really good food right here on their doorstep.

Great British Life: Bold Venture Park, DarwenBold Venture Park, Darwen

Boom town Darwen

A place once at the heart of the Industrial Revolution – Samuel Crompton lived here for part of his life – the former India Mill was one of the area’s most important textile buildings, manufacturing cotton. And industry has continued to thrive in the town with everything from the manufacture of bath and shower trays to acrylic glass being produced here.

Some of the most notable are Shaws of Darwen, a company dating back more than a century now producing handcrafted, fireclay sinks. Once the home of Architectural Terracotta Limited, this arm of the business was sold off and two former employees founded Darwen Terracotta and Faience.

Today, this world-renowned business may have moved slightly down the road to Blackburn but is still proud of its Darwen roots. The company has created striking architectural designs for some of the best-known buildings and projects in the UK, Europe, north America, Canada and Australia – think Eden Project, Royal Albert Hall, Whitworth Art Gallery and Blackpool Tower as well as Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex plus many more.