MORRIS dancers — dressed as crows — gathered at dawn on Winter Hill to welcome the start of summer.

The Stone the Crows Border Morris performed their annual dance ritual off Scout Road at 5am on Thursday.

Dancers dressed in their traditional costumes — complete with painted faces and feathers.

The tradition stems from the Celtic festival of Beltane, which is celebrated with dancing around bonfires.

About 20 people made their way to the Scout Road car park, including members playing traditional instruments.

They also had an audience of five people, who had braved the early morning rain to watch the spectacle.

Pete Howarth, aged 58, from Longridge, said: “We were very surprised that people had actually got up at that time to come and watch us, but it does give you a little sense of pride.

“The weather didn’t really play ball — it was dull and grey but it didn’t stop us. We got our feathers on and our sticks in hand and really enjoyed ourselves.”

Mr Howarth, who works at Blackburn College, added: “I needed a strong cup of coffee after the early start and there is no rest for the wicked as we had more dancing practice the following evening.”

The group also “did their bit” by picking up litter on the car park before dancing.

Group member Cllr Karen Lawrinson, who is also a member of Westhoughton Town Council, said: “It was disappointing.

“The car park was absolutely strewn with litter, so we started off our day by cleaning it all up.”

The Stone the Crows Border Morris has been in operation for 21 years and will be performing at pubs and festivals throughout the summer.

For more information about the group,