Monday 13 September 2021


North Yorkshire.  It is a bugger to pub tick.  Even when you live there.  When I completed it in full, back in 2017, Mummy BRAPA made me solemnly swear that I'd leave it alone and pursue other counties.  I solemnly swore.  

But when Daddy BRAPA says it was a nice convenient area to chauffeur me around on those blank international weekends, when we are both at a loose end, and lacking direction, well .... you can't look a gift horse in the mouth, can ya?  

It isn't even that rewarding pub-wise.  York is great of course.  But the majority of the more rural 'pubs' can be rather dull and dining driven.  You have to get north of South Northallerton before anyone behind a bar will treat you like a human being, usually.  

11am non-Wetherspoons openers are always fraught with danger, even if every source says this is when they open.  So we were in luck as we sat in a pub carpark eating our breakfast, to see a barmaid appear, pub keys jangling in hand, having a bit of banter with an old bloke who moved sneakily from one car to the other, the oldest dogger in Richmond perhaps? 

Time to go and investigate (not him, the pub) before we got drawn into anything regrettable.  

Distinct lack of sun.  Oi, Holly Hill I want my money back!

Holly Hill, Richmond (1939 / 3368) would prove to be one of the stronger pubs today, a nice unpretentious out of towner, sat on a hill, helped by our friendly hostess, who I'm assuming is also called Holly Hill which definitely helped her during her job interview here.  A smashing pint of Wensleydale Gamekeeper is easy to adapt to, despite the flask of coffee we've just shared, and the presence of Colin gets us chatting with the locals when a farmer who used to be a publican shouts "grown man taking cauliflower around the pubs with him, there must be a story there!"  And despite making the faux-pas of admitting I like cats more the dogs (which was somehow relevant to the backstory of BRAPA, but upset Holly) , all is well as the bloke reels off about 600 pubs in the local area he wants me to try despite them not being in the GBG.  Richmond is difficult enough on its own, I came here last in 2016 and it is one of those towns which puts a different pub in the Guide every year.  This though, I'd like to think, could become a regular entry.  Top place.

Down into the hustle and bustle of Richmond proper, Dad wisely parking off centre, giving me an uphill Taylor-esque walk to pub two, always best to make me work for it, can't go getting lazy can we?

It is market day in what I'm pretty sure is a 24/7 market town, the funfair is also in town for added mayhem, and isn't it nice to see Toyah still keeping herself in the public conscience? 

Dad takes the outside pub photo, but says he's off to look at the castle, fearing this might not be the most 'exciting' pub of the day.  I lurk outside til 12:05, unaware they've opened already, two groups walk past and say "cooo, no.29, must go there one day" but for now just walk straight past.

To all intents and purposes, No. 29 Alehouse & Gin Bar (1940 / 3369) (the Wine doesn't feature in the GBG) does look a bit dull doesn't it?  BUT there will be no further unfair criticism from me because Mr & Mrs 29 and a very welcoming pair.  She raves about the Rudgate I've ordered (Two Styrians and a Doctor), and I agree, pint of the day!  Behind her in the kitchen area, Mr 29 is chopping garlic, eggs or onions (as we saw in Oxspring, I don't know the difference) and he shouts a cheerful hello, and looks up, me terrified his fingers are going to end up in the lunchtime stew.   She then starts taking photos of this rare gin they've just got in, for their social media.  But when I press her on the issue, turns out she didn't wanna waste a drop, so what we see in the photos is actually water!  Wow, the tricks of the pub social media trade were learnt here.  I tell her gin is the one spirit I kind of enjoy, but then go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like 'Gordon's is the only one I've tried!'  That kills the conversation, and it is time for me to leave.  Interesting to see on Martin's recent blog about this place, he had a very similar experience. 

I can see Dad waving from the top of the hill (why is Richmond so gosh darn hilly?) but before I can reach him, I'm intercepted by a moustachioed Welshman, his wife, and their bored looking teenage son.  "Boyo, do you know where the Wetherspoons is?"  Why do these folk pick on me?  "Oh yes, I know this one!" I say casting my mind back to 2016, and with a bit of help from Google Maps, I point them in the right direction.  Random moment of the day.

Back at the car, we drive off to our most northerly pub, not far from Darlo in fact ...... 

Brownlow Arms, Caldwell (1941 / 3370) is the name, the worst pub of the day, if you can call it a pub, restaurant might be more apt.  You could suggest it made the 2021 GBG by default of the fact that the lovely Stanwick in Aldbrough St John was closed and being refurbished when the decisions were made.  No staff person in sight.  I go for a wee.  I return.  Dad goes for a wee.  Still no one.  I try and get some banter going with a group of locals about how bad the service is, but they are trying to enjoy their lunch and not talk to weirdos like me.  Finally I go and stand at the other bar, peer into the kitchen where about 500 white shirted staff are, and a bloke with the countenance of John Terry and a sly grin oozes into the bar area, pint of ale for me, coffee for Daddy BRAPA.  "Do you want milk or cream?" "Cream".  Sly wink.  So typically Terry.  We're all Wayne Bridge aren't we?  When the drinks arrive, Dad praising the large mug, we soon realise our drinks are of similar temperature.  Can't be good can it?  "Down them and move on!" shouts a voice in my head, or was it Colin?  

No time to relax anyway, a sense of urgency was needed and time for the chauffeur with the mostffeur to put his foot down as I note pub #4 closes mid afternoon, even on a Saturday!  

I'd say this was a very rare occurrence, but it happened recently at the glorious Three Horseshoes, Duton Hill, and I also noticed it at the weekend at the also glorious John Bull in Alnwick.  Did that mean this would be glorious too?  Let's go in and find out .....

Defib and a broom getting in the way - two ticks on the rural N.Y. bingo card

Well maybe not glorious, but reassuringly trusty and true, like Kevin Sheedy's left foot, Chequers Inn, Dalton-on-Tees (1942 / 3371) was I think a Marston's, which you don't get too many of up here (do they own Jennings now?  I can't keep up) and I was sad to see we were the only customers.  I like to imagine the locals knew it was closing soon, so didn't think it was worth the bother, but as soon as the evening session kicks off, 6pm ish, they'll all be down here in their gladrags dancing the night away.  The barmaid was a canny lass, and I get a pint of Dizzy Blonde (in a Boondoggle glass!), an ale I haven't see in ages.  Looking at the pump clip, she's no longer simply posing in a skimpy red dress, but very much like Elsie Mo, she's in a second world war fighter plane (fitting as this is pub 1942) - wot a coincidence!   It isn't always an ale I enjoy, but kept well here.  Other than that, Dad's comment 'quietly comfortable and homely' was accurate, but shows how pubs need people to be truly 'BRAPA eventful' as you cannot always rely on a fixture or fitting falling on you sadly.  

We were cooking on gas now and up to my fifth pub already.  As he did back in Richmond, Dad takes the photo and then gives this one a swerve, going for a walk around the village. 

Beewsing, East Cowton (1943 / 3372) is the name, and a bit of a culture shock as there's huge gaggle of locals, gregarious bar staff and a visiting lycra cycling gang being quizzed about everything apart from the one burning question I have "when are middle aged blokes in lycra going to be banned from pubs?"  Bulges you just don't want to see.   Although they are all very friendly, Colin and myself are not the centre of attention (boooo) so I slope off to the back left hand corner where the pool table is looking in need of some company.  I search for a coin that will fit, but coins for pool games are at a premium in these increasingly cashless days.   The Purity Mad Goose (another ale I'm not always a huge fan of) is joint pint of the day with the No. 29, meaning Dad has missed the two pubs with the best beer!   The pub is a bit confused, hugely traditional on one hand but features like solid gold mirrors and hand dryers do make you wonder.  With the lycra dudes bulging off elsewhere, I can hear the staff having a very intense conflab about strategies for how to stay ahead of their rival pubs - events they can put on etc.  Nice to see a pub really making the effort, and it showed here, I could feel the love.  A good place. 

I find Dad waiting in the car (I had been trying to wave at him from the pub window but totally oblivious), and it is time to final leave the north north east and start trekking south.

Not far from Thirsk, we find Sandhutton.  Not to be confused with Sand Hutton, much nearer York, which Dad put into his Sat Nav by mistake, it is here where they are doing the latest Claudia Lawrence dig but I suspect she'll remain as elusive as the Reynolds Girls.

This next pub was a nice 'monkey off my back' for me, it was supposed to be my 1,902nd and final pub in the 2020 GBG, but Dad's failing car tyre pressure meant we skipped it to return to York, and of course, it stayed in the 2021 Guide just to annoy me.

Incredible shrinking Dad next to normal sized bench and tiny picnic table

King's Arms, Sandhutton (1944 / 3373) was a pleasing, if somewhat hazy experience for me.  Dad, supposedly the sober one, looked to be flagging too - see below, but at least a cracking pint of Rudgate restored him to his normal height.  Such great ale, combined with the lovely barman " ... if you need me, I'm polishing the cutlery in the other room so just ring the bell" made it easy to forgive any pubby shortcomings, the fact it was a bit dining twee like so many pubs just off the A19 / A1(M) but overall, all I have are hazy happy thoughts when I think back to this one. 

"Concentrating on the difficulties ahead"

Time for the ceremonial destruction of our Two Together Railcard


I didn't wanna push my luck, but we'd been making such good time, and I was on form with my drinking, so I asked if a cheeky 7th might be on the agenda, and let's just say, Daddy BRAPA did not need much persuading. 

Here was another pub that had evaded me in 2020.  Cast your minds back to Wednesday 4th November, the final evening before Lockdown 2.0 hit.  Dad drove us here, only for them to tell us they didn't open til 5pm!  Even though they were all stood outside, firepits lit in a huge gravelly carpark, loads of staff, pub doors wide open, and only a few hours before their ale would all have to be poured down the drain anyway.  I really don't understand pubs sometimes!  

But time to forgive and forget, and funny how the memory plays tricks, certainly not quite as grand an palatial and Brunning & Price-esque as I'd thought, more like a village pub ....

White Swan, Wighill (1945 / 3374) didn't look much like a pub inside though, more like a posh village cottage decorated by an old lady who has grey as a favourite colour.   A pint and a half of Theakstons Lightfoot drank as modestly as I remember Lightfoot drinking, but let's give credit where it is due, well kept and a cosy room in which to drink.  Staff I cannot remember.  It could be the salubrious surroundings, but Dad addresses the elephant in the room, and this particularly elephant was green & white, round and fluffy.  "Colin you look like you could do with a wash!"  Yes, sorry Col, I had to agree, he was looking a bit grey under the florets, with a few black specs in his fluff.  But nothing is straightforward, and I have a tale of washing machine woe to tell you next time, if I can be bothered.  For now, it was 'home james', thanks Daddy BRAPA, top chauffeuring, the end of a productive seven pub day.

I'm away tomorrow but join me same time on Wednesday for tales from Sheffield, featuring THREE special guest blokes.

Au revoir for now, Si

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