Quite a lot of posts from Northumberland now, courtesy of Mrs RM’s faultless driving and the fact you can at least rely on pubs to be open on Sundays.
First stop Stamfordham, in the wilderness between posh Ponteland and posher Corbridge, and a couple of miles from Hadrian’s Wall (which one day I’ll walk).
The village is really just a few terraced streets either side of a giant sloping green, slightly reminiscent of Reeth. If the Premiership footballers (or they are till May) live in Ponte, goodness knows who lives here.
No-one was up at 11.45 on Sunday morning. I like having villages to myself.
Improbably, the Swinburne Arms is one of two surviving village pubs.
Even more improbably, the door is open at 11.50. So I go in, expecting to be greeted by a booming “We’re not open yet !” like BRAPA was in Boldon on Saturday.
Or greeted by folk in pashminas sipping coffees before lunch. There are coffees being drunk, but only by brightly coloured gentlefolk (top) from the 17th Prudhoe Cycling Chapter.
“Aw reeet” they say.
The Swinburne isn’t a Prosecco and Peroni pub.
US readers will be astonished to hear we talk about the weather while I wait for the landlord to bring the teacakes. They tell me it’s “bitter“, I reckon it’s mild.
I like the beer range a lot, and can read the pump clips, but go for the middle one. Only now do I notice it’s a gentle pastiche of a certain well known bottled ale (not Punk IPA).
I only had a half; I’d told Mrs RM I’d be back within 5 minutes (she was in the car trying to get internet). But the early opening gave me another 10 minutes to savour that cool and complex Alnwick Brown Ale, which was (drum roll) an NBSS 4.
You won’t see a better head on a beer today.
On my Grand Tour of the Pub, two other elderly cyclists said hello (they looked 75, but cycling ages you fast, they were probably 30).
They insist I read the hilarious sign on the wall, clearly believing it unique to the Swinburne. I resist the urge to tell them I saw it at the George in Devizes only last week, and assure them I am only the second of those from the excluded list.
They tell me the pub opens up when they get there, and basically survives on their custom (the beer quality suggests it sells more than coffee and tea cakes occasionally). The power of the grey pound.