Sunday, 3 May 2015

BRAPA - Cleveland Rocks!

It was a grey May Saturday morning as escaped Tour De Yorkshire in York to arrive in the market town of Stokesley.  This was the latest leg of the 'North Yorkshire challenge', where I'm trying to tick off every pub in the Good Beer Guide in this incredibly vast & varied county.  Living in York does NOT make it any easier.  Alphabetically speaking, Carlton-in-Cleveland was the next in the book, so it was a case of combining that with other nearby pubs.

Arriving into Carlton, the main focus of today's BRAPA pub ticking.

Like so many North Yorks trips, I found myself (rather randomly) getting a bus from outside the Buck Inn in Northallerton, or did I, as the entire town centre had been consumed by a temporary fairground, including dodgems and a very impressive looking ghost train!  Luckily, I had time to spare to locate the replacement stop.  The true course of BRAPA never runs smoothly.....

636 - Spread Eagle, Stokesley - Despite a slight delay, I was in Stokesley for 11:30am with a bitter wind whipping around the town.  Stokesley was in that blueprint of traditional North East market town with one long main street, market stalls, cobbled areas, and most importantly,  traditional pubs!  This first one took too long to get warmed up, literally, as the wood burner had been lacking in attention and despite the month of May upon us, it was freezing.  This was a Marston's tied pub so the ale was limited, but the Hobgoblin Gold was a contender for pint of the day, such was it's quality.  I've been in plenty of Spread Eagle's but this is the first where I've seen actual spread eagle carpet, a happy quirk!  As the customers started to arrive for lunch, the wood burner was given a poke (or whatever they do), a couple of barmaids said 'hi' to me so staff points there, whilst an old man told an anecdote about Jo Brand and naming children.  I helped three old women wearing dark glasses (the granny mafia?) to move a very heavy iron table, and they'd just sat down as I finished my pint - nothing personal ladies, I can assure you.  

Spread Eagle - right in the middle of Stokesley market place
The sun had briefly appeared so I took a gentle stroll along the pretty River Leven, chatting to a few ducks on the way, wondering if they'd appreciate some real ale to go with the bread that kids were indiscriminately chucking at them.  Time for my next pub.

637 - White Swan, Stokesley - This pub is home of the 'Captain Cook' brewery, and one of the most pleasing asides of BRAPA is the opportunity to try new ales I don't normally see in York.  Right from the off, this pub oozed quality with a lovely welcoming huge fire I got myself in front of and a lovely old fashioned furnished feel, gentle old-style music topped off the perfect ambiance and the staff were friendly.  I went for a Black Porter, and it felt a bit like it was 10:30pm, such was my relaxed state.  In truth, I could have chosen from 7 or 8 ales, mainly Captain Cook ones.  A man near me ordered a very nourishing looking pie - but as usual, my schedule was too tight to take such liberties.  The pub started to fill up, the clientele quite diverse but nice to see quite a few younger drinkers coming in.  Pub of the day?  I'd say probably so.  

A pint of local brew in front of the fire at the White Swan
The original intention had been to walk the 4 miles from Stokesley to the pretty little village of Hutton Rudby, but my earlier bus had shown me a lack of pavement of a busy road.  This combined with my tight schedule, further long walks and the weather (now spitting with rain) meant a taxi made sense.  I had some chat with my female taxi driver about Tour De Yorkshire but being a woman, she had to concentrate hard on her driving (I'm joking!) so it was a bit sporadic.  

638 - King's Head, Hutton Rudby - We were back on with the Marston's here, this time I went for a Sunbeam which for me, is the Hobgoblin Gold of Banks'.  Not sure I enjoyed this quite as much but this could be due to how cold the pub was, if anywhere needed a fire or wood burner, it was in the long main bar, but the barmaid knew it so I didn't labour the point.  I was the only customer in, and she was a nice friendly easy young lass to chat to despite her lack of love for football meaning she couldn't join me in laughing at Newcastle Utd (2-0 down v Leicester within minutes).  On a different note, she admitted her friend fancied Ed Milliband and was one of his twitter Milli-babes or whatever they are called.  The outside area looked good, they even have a TV out there for the smokers, and apparently a snug area but I didn't get that far.  A local chap came in to watch the match, so I felt a bit less bad about leaving the pub.  Must be hard for these little village pubs to drum up trade, so I can only hope this one was thriving by 3pm.

King's Head's are always better when they are Henry VIII instead of Richard III

639 - Blackwell Ox Inn, Carlton-in-Cleveland - A long but rewarding 2.5 miles later, I was in Carlton on the edge of a national park, I'd go as far as to say I actually enjoyed the walk, especially as the pub at the end of it was the key one of the day.  Like so many rural North Yorks pubs I've visited since BRAPA began, there was a real 'food leaning' here and the constant clatter of cutlery and various conflabs between barmaids, chef and watiresses seemed to back this up.  Having said that, the majority of diners were 'coming soon' with reserved tables being set out, and it was reasonably quiet with just a few couples winding down after lunch.  The beer range was decent, and I had a Roosters ale which with a name like 'Blackwell' must have been brewed specially for the pub.  I was feeling my least sociable here, so retired to a raised area and smuggled a protest chicken n stuffing roll I'd earlier bought from Thomas the Bakers in Northallerton!  The crumbs gave me away.  Amazingly I had a phone reception so could do a bit of 'housekeeping' before I went on my way.

Beautiful scenery, decent pub - page 4 of the North Yorks section of the GBG complete! 
640 - Black Swan, Kirkby-in-Cleveland - I finished with a flourish here after a slow start to life in the Black Swan.  It had been another fair 2 plus mile walk, and some locals at the bar had seen my walking some some recognition of my dedication to BRAPA at least.  It felt very much a locals local when I first arrived, and I took my pint of Wainstone's Kirkby (presumably again a house beer) to a bench seat where I then shuffled backwards and forwards to try and see the scores coming through on Soccer Saturday, which maddeningly were not going well for Hull City!  Typical.  My ale itself, whilst great quality, was a bit too bitter for my taste (which is rare for me), surely I hadn't had enough already?!  I then started talking to locals and staff alike, my first opportunity in ages to explain BRAPA and it was so nice to have such a pleasing end to my day out, especially as it allowed me the chance to hand out my 'cards' which I'm still not always remembering to leave in pubs.  Definitely the friendliest pub of my trip, and it probably felt as real and homely as any today, certainly joint with the White Swan.  

Friendly community pubbing in Kirkby (you an even see my bus stop in the distance).
And for once, the bus journey back went smoothly.  Even better, a direct train to York was arriving at the station in Northallerton just as I was walking up the ramp.  And I didn't even need a York Tap pint so it was fish & chips, snooker and bed.  Pretty much a textbook BRAPA day! 

Onwards & upwards, I've got plans for a new Hull pub tomorrow before the match, and then perhaps a Greater Manchester day out on the 5th but undecided.  You'll be the first to hear about it.



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