Sunday 27 September 2015

BRAPA - Return to the Esk Valley

"Hanging with the sheep" - walking to Beck Hole from Goathland

51 weeks ago this weekend, I had my most traumatic BRAPA trip to date.  Firstly, Grosmont's Crossing Club was closed.  Then I broke a toe attempting to 'wade' through water to Beck Hole and was forced to abandon this.  No phone signal then meant I got lost in Castleton Moor, before my Good Beer Guide App broke in Whitby so I couldn't find my way around the pubs!  

So as I boarded the X40 bus from York station to Goathland, it's fair to say I was a bit worried about what might be in store.  It was a gruelling and stuffy journey at the top of the double decker bus, with a series of old duffers demanding the windows be closed because "there was a draught!"  I got talking to the nice lady next to me, explaining BRAPA, discussing the history of real ale, helping her figure out her smartphone, life working for a radio station and producing music in Jamaica.  It was quite an eclectic mix, and helped the journey seem less painful!  

I alighted the bus at Goathland (home of Heartbeat i.e. Aidensfield) and was soon walking the 0.9 miles to Beck Hole where I've never seen so many sheep lining the roads, munching on the grass, and generally not being scared of humans at all.

693.  Birch Hall Inn, Beck Hole

I often find myself "managing expectations" with pubs that are supposed to be classics, in case they disappoint.  No such worries here, "WOW WHAT A PUB!" is all I can say.  Well, not 'all' obviously.  I went down a little outdoor corridor and into an unlikely looking room with a tiny hatch where a nice woman served me a choice of three beers or a cider.  The pub also does simple snacks, plus beer cake and sweets.  They even had their own (overpriced) t-shirts for £15 a pop.  I initially went outside where there were some benches overlooking the Murk Esk and I could hear a steam train nearby, but not quite see it.  Everyone who came in (apart from "Computer Jones" who scowled at everyone and sat in the corner with his cheese roll) was ultra-friendly and I was soon explaining BRAPA.  I was also on door duty when people with drinks needed to get outside.  I tried a pint of the Beckswatter, their own locally brewed ale from North Yorkshire Brewery, and then, figuring I'd never come here again, sampled half an Umbel ale (a bit flowery) whilst chatting to a friendly deaf man with an ordanance survey map and love of Black Sheep.  Great pub, great BRAPA tick too.

Cheers!  My pint and the Murk Esk outdoors in Beck Hole.
Next up came the key moment of the day.  Would Grosmont's Crossing Club be open?  After all, there was a steam gala on in the village. But before that, came the signs of "road closed" and I soon realised that last year's 'impassable road' issues were not really caused by heavy rainfall, but by the fact that I was actually required to cross a ford!  In two places!  

It was no worse than last year, but with sturdy walking boots this time, I braced myself and despite some slippy rocks, I edged gradually across and didn't fall in, got a bit wet, but nothing too drastic.  Up at Grosmont, I then had an agonising wait as the crossing was down as some train enthusiasts were taking photos of some grand old looking train.  

694.  Crossing Club, Grosmont

I think I earned it, and the club was open!  Hurrah, and it was perhaps a stupid question when I got upstairs and asked friendly curly headed host and his two train-geek friends (I'm a pub geek so I'm allowed to say that!) if I could come in for a drink.  Well, has a Consett Furnace Bitter ever tasted better?, as the bottom of my trouser legs dried out!  It was such a cool little place, tonnes of pump clips on the ceiling and even more railway memorabilia.  Instead of the usual piped music, they even had piped steam train noises!  As if we needed them today.  A nice young couple from Middlesbrough called Louise and Josh came in so I wasn't the only customer, and Louise asked all the questions about the pub so I didn't have to.  Being a co-operative, the community own it so I guess our curly headed host was what you'd call a "steward".  Also turns out that pub across the road is charging £4 a pint, when it is about £2.70 in here, how does that work?  Ridiculous, and it can't have had the charm of this place.  After a bit more spreading of the BRAPA word & handing out my cards, it was time to crack on as I had quite a tight walking schedule today.  Great club this, good things come to those who wait!  

Indoor view of the Crossing Club, when I was the only customer for a bit! 
More uphill walking (it seemed to be either steep up or steep down) made the 1.5 miles to Egton seem a lot longer.  Egton felt a lot like a lot of those "North" North Yorkshire villages with a road through the centre and two swathes of perfectly pristine grass on either side, with a few pretty cottages, buildings and of course, a pub! 

695.  Wheatsheaf, Egton

The day had so far been so excellent, there had to be a bit of a "come-down" and it started here when a family sat outdoors had a dog that absolutely hated me.  It wasn't even a scary dog.  I tried to appease it by saying it was in my pub photo (see below) but the family just demanded £5 for photographing rights!  I assumed they were joking and just laughed.  And then, the "long suffering" landlord told me to close the front door as it gets stuck and causes a though draught that makes all the other doors slam.  The man seemed totally fed up, telling a local "I've been here 15 years now and not much longer!", he certainly must have had chance to do something about the door by now.  He must be doing something right though, for my GBG tells me he has 29 continuous years of Guide recognition, even if he is a miserable sod.  Plus he's a total hypocrite because when he wanted to clear up glasses from the dog family outside, he was quite happy for the door to remain stuck open!  From what I could tell from the clatter of cutlery, half the pub was taken up by food whilst I was lucky to be alone in the cosy front bar which must be amazing in winter with the fire in.  As it was, I was burning up from another long uphill walk but was too scared of the dog to sit outside!  And then the landlord asked me how my Howardian Gold ale was, to show maybe he wasn't all bad. 

In Egton, note the EVIL dog on the right hand side.

A three mile walk to Lealholm was the final push of the day, more undulating roads with no pavements, amidst sometimes beautiful, sometimes barren landscapes.  I took me about an hour so I had about half an hour in my final pub as the railway station was only 3 minutes walk.  

696.  Board Inn, Lealholm

So with my phone battery dead and my legs totally shot, I arrived exhausted at this pub, which had come highly recommended by the Grosmont steward.  And I do think it was a slight step up from the Egton Wheatsheaf.  Is it any wonder if my state of exhaustion that I totally didn't see the sign on the right hand bar saying the room was closed (this led through to a restaurant which is currently closed for refurb, and the landlady was constantly turning away phone calls from potential diners).  Anyway, she was friendly sort, and didn't stop me sitting on perhaps the comfiest settee ever on my own in this side room.  Ordinarily, I'd have gone through to the bar on the left hand side and been more sociable, as there was a nice group of locals chatting in there.  I did wave at a local old man(!) but I was just so exhausted, I needed 30 mins of down time, and finding out Hull City had taken the lead was a nice bonus and for w while, I thought my "lucky" wristband was going to be "lucky" and I'd have to wear it for every single BRAPA trip when we are playing a home game.  But maybe not..... My beer was from North Yorkshire brewery and tasted suspiciously like the Beckswatter, maybe a bit fuller bodied and the landlady told me they are based in Pinchinthorpe which really is North North Yorkshire.  It was time to get back to the station, could NOT afford to miss this train.

Over the bridge of the River Esk, the very nice Board Inn
So, after a quick change at Boro' and Eaglescliffe, I was back in York just after 7pm for a swift half in the York Tap before a bit of Sainsbury's shopping, sorted me washing, had tea and straight to bed.  A really great BRAPA day out, not at all easy, back breaking in places, but I wish they all went to plan as well as this one! 

See you on Wednesday for the latest from West Yorkshire.  September has been a record breaking month, 33 new pubs now (breaking the previous record last summer of 31) and still a couple to come, it's all good.




  1. Congratulations on a 4-3 win and finally getting the Grosmont Crossing Club and Beck Hole. I also thank you for your idea of changing at Eaglescliffe on the way back from Middlesbrough, I shall use that to my advantage when we play them. Shack tick and a plastic unit avoidance move, together with potential to get the red pen out.

    I'm intrigued by the idea of beer cake. I also like the sound (pun noticed but not intended) of a pub where you can hear a kettle thrashing away in the valley below. I would probably prefer the raspy note of one of the small sulzers, but that is just being picky.

  2. Sorry to reply to myself, but the Sun Inn, within the Beamish museum counts as a likely pre-emptive. 3 real ales, all from the Beamish Hall brew pub which you reviewed last year and a barman offering a sample from the last pint out of the barrel and offering to replace it if it wasn't up to scratch. Definate GBG potential.

    Not only that, I admit it isn't quite a sanctuary, but there is an area in the museum with owls and other birds of prey. I will always accept a challenge to find a day out to a pub with a specified attraction nearby, no matter how serious the suggestion.

  3. Hi Tom, thanks - Saturday was vintage BRAPA and so relieved to get Grosmont and Beck Hole. Both highly recommended. And glad I accidentally came up with a great Eaglescliffe change idea! It reminded me of being in the snow with Dad and Ben before that 2-2 draw.

    I always intended to get some beer cake. I think the whole 'bell ringing' way of getting served meant I was just relieved to get beer, never mind cake.

    I like the Beamish idea, it was nice when I went. You know I love my owls and birds of prey so this is quite enticing.


  4. So this woman who produced music in Jamaica, was it Beenie Man ? Always wanted to meet her.

    When I took my Mum and Dad to Beck Hole years ago, PC Alf Ventress passed them their sandwiches. Mum nearly fainted.

    Hardly been back to North York Moors since, though got an overnighter at Cropton New Inn that should allow me to finish it off. Not a lot of GBG churn there.

    No-one believes anyone in the Smog called Louise and Josh; probably from Guisborough with some sort of inverse snobbery like what I've got.

  5. Is Beenie Man a WO-man? I had no idea!! Beck Hole, wow that was a real contender for best 2015 pub, a classic.

    I too have Cropton New Inn in my sights. It is one of those "OMG Si" pubs where almost everyone I know has been and says how great it is. So it's bound to disappoint!

    They were a great Smoggie couple those two. wholly reliable. Well my Dad's Dad and his father etc etc were all from South Bank area so I have to be loyal to the S.Monsters.