One of the most admirable aspects of the BRAPA quest to complete the Beer Guide is the consistency with which young Si goes through his recent Saturday routine;
- Get up at 5am
- Walk to York station
- Buy a pasty
- Get irritated with fellow travellers on train to Kings Cross
- Catch a connecting train to a dull Buckinghamshire town
- Walk/hop/bus/taxi to 6 pubs
- Eat pasty in secret in one of those pubs
- Get abused in Scottish Stores
- Get the train home
- Have a pint in York Tap
- Write 2,000 magical words
This is heroic behaviour that I can’t compete with. But after a couple of months doing Hampshire – travelling past the roadworks on the M3, staying in guesthouses with shared bathrooms, and sneaking Chinese takeaways back, I know what it is to form a routine.
And now that routine is North Yorkshire, a county that needs a steely determination to complete if you live in Cambridgeshire (or Strathclyde). Even living up there, it’s taken Si ’till this year to reach exotica such as Chop Gate and Giggleswick.
For me, it’s meaning a relentless series of trips up the A14/A1 and a base in a particularly insalubrious part of Middlesbrough from which to test local bus services..
But as you’ll see, it’s starting to pay off. Less than a dozen to go now to finish the whole of Yoorkshire, which I might just get done before the new Guide comes out in September (August in London) and puts me back 70 or 80 steps.
And some good, if quiet pubs, on the edge of the North Yorks Moors, on a pleasing little arc below Staithes, which you know about.
Starting in Hinderwell during their Scarecrow Festival.
Rarely have I seen more impressive paper mache people, or fewer real people, on a small linear High Street. I kept moving, lest I was judged in the “Best Pub Ticker About To Be Eaten By Locals” category.
The Brown Cow looks my sort of pub; tucked into the terraces, traditional pub seating, “unimproved” interior, just two localish beers on the bar. And Open All Day.
But just one family in the bar, compiling a cheap food order that seemed to consist entirely of chips and childrens meals ordered (with some embarrassment) for the adults, who were clearly escaping Middlesbrough as they called their youngest “Babby“.
The walls held darts trophies, a “Pub of the Season Award” for Autumn ’08, and a lifetime of nicotine stains. I liked it, even though a decent Pennine beer (NBSS 3) was served in a Carling glass. Clearly, had Mrs RM been with me, I’d have ordered her the Battle Axe. (It’s a top beer).
As the soundtrack here reminded me ,”Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe” but a bit more lunchtime trade would clearly help the Brown Cow.
The Black Bull in delightful Ugthorpe was even quieter; just me paying for the electricity while I was there enjoying a half of the mysterious Isaac Pond No.22 (NBSS 3), served by a charming young man taking a break from filming the “All Creatures Great and Small” remake. Possibly.
Actually, my appearance caused the electrics to blow, never a good sign. Another unimproved pub, but with an altogether smarter that I can only assume folk visiting from Whitby were saving for their evening repast.
Completing the hat-trick of disappointingly quiet Moors pubs, the Board Inn in Lealholm has the most authentic tourist look, and a 9am opening time that almost persuaded me to tip up there for a Spoons like morning pint.
This is in the heart of “Heartbeat” country. My mum was once handed her sandwich in the Beck Hole Inn by one of the gruff Yorkshire bobbies from the show, and still talks about it.
The Board Inn is no Beck Hole. Pub Curmudgeon may wish to comment on the seating in the main bar. Getting to the hidden pumps was a veritable assault course.
Never mind that, says Mudge, “No beermats !”
I stood up to down another decent (NBSS 3) half of Black Sheep, dodging questions about dining and accommodation.
The scenery, at least, was stellar.
Three pubs on the edge of one our tourist honeypots at the end of July, in a year when everyone is having a staycation due to euro rates, and three virtually empty pubs at lunchtime. My three halves seemed to be the entirety of the cask pulled, though all three were Beer Guide standard.
You worry for pubs, let alone for cask. And worse was to come.