I can never get used to the absence of Cleveland as a Good Beer Guide county, for surely there can be no less Yorkshire a town than Middlesbrough.
In contrast Norton, a mile over the A19 to the west, feels like the archetypal small North Yorks town, despite being firmly Durham. I’d describe it as a mini-Northallerton, but I’m not sure who’d take most offence. I walked past a new housing development called Marmaduke Place, entirely appropriately.
Norton hardly registers on my Navigator Map, squashed between the contrasting neighbours Stockton (home of banked Bass) and Billingham (home of the Synthonia). Like the former, it has a wide, handsome High Street, but it’s The Green with it’s duck pond at the top which distinguishes Norton as a cut above. They both sell parmos, though.
A large village is dominated by a posh Independent School, whose clearly skiving pupils always seem to impede my purposeful progress on my visits, dithering outside some chi chi boutiques and bakeries.
The posh shops peter out to a plethora of pasty purveyors to the south of the pond.
I had an hour to kill before the Unicorn opened, during which time I discovered 3 things;
1) Street art is alive and well in Norton
2) It’s not just Simon Everitt who eats his Greggs pasty in the local Wetherspoons
3) Norton has an unexpectedly thriving pub scene the GBG is struggling to keep up with.
Besides that newish Spoons, there’s a new Head of Steam, a new micro (Hyde’s), a Tapas Bar, and a craft-leaning place (the Hambletonian).
In contrast, GBG17 offers the trad George and Dragon (Old Peculier and Pedigree advertised), and the ultra-trad Unicorn, outside which a group of impatient veteran drinkers had gathered at 11.58am.
The Unicorn is my sort of pub. A front bar with plain seating round three sides, cheese and biscuits on the bar, Black Sheep and Theakstons. Or Magnet on keg, of course.
As fine an advert for Masham as you could want, the Sheep was cool and tasty (NBSS 3.5), not for the first time this year. I sense I was the only half-pint drinker of the day.
“If you can’t enjoy your food what’s the point ?” – to a clear case of Parmo excess
“I suppose you’ll be wanting my money now” – counting out pennies one by one
“This beer’s worth getting out of bed for”
Lovely folk, rewarded by a TV screen showing Isabel Oakeshott with the sound off (top).
Gorgeous multi-roomed pub too, but as you’ll know I’m not nosey and I’ll leave Simon to explore those rooms for you.