If there is one thing that I have noticed in this cruel but delightful game of pub ticking, it is that fate either smiles on you or conspires against you, to shape the pub you are about to visit next.
Let me explain, if you are walking down a narrow country lane and you say 'greetings chum' to an old farmer, and he growls and lets his three legged dog bite you on the knackers, the likelihood is that the forthcoming pub will either be closed, or worse, an Ember Inn.
So it is nice that it can work in a positive way as I saw on Saturday 9th November. I'd arrived in Carlisle behind schedule (well, I'd slept in after a late finish in Saltaire) on the bitterest of winter mornings, forced to grope around hopelessly for an available taxi to take me out to Great Orton to get me 'back on track'.
|Martin the Owl and hangover coffee, as we plot our next Cumbrian moves on the L**ds-Settle-Carlisle train
When I finally found one, he was a lovely old fellow but what set him apart from your average taxi driver, he had a giant bag of onion rings (*M&S Voice* 'Not just any onion rings, but Bobby's of Bromsgrove, the best crisp company in the world onion rings') and told me to have as many as I wanted, as he was sick of them. I ended up adding it my bag of snacks, one of my five a day probably, he got an extra tip, everyone's a winner!
And whilst we are on the subject of cheap snacks, consider this graffiti I saw in L**ds vaguely preemptive Social on Friday night .......
'Loz Clark likes knockoff skips'. A cheap prawn cocktail snack, or just a fan of discounted bins? If you are reading Loz, please comment below and I'll almost certainly forget to read it.
Anyway, I digress, pub one here I come .......
BRAPA history is going to smile very kindly on the Welington, Great Orton (1626 / 2843), for it was a kind of 'greatest hits' of Cumbrian pubbing, and my favourite of the day by a distance. A roaring fire on a traditional tiled floor, a beaming welcome from the 'good value' couple, this certainly was the epitome of feel good factor Cumbria adventures. Just the one ale on, Dizzy Blonde, obviously I disapprove of such sexism in beer #WokeSi2019 but the sexist devil inside me (ey up, that's what SHE said!) told me this was a cracking drop, adding to that growing list of evidence that 'less is more' in beer range v quality ratio. Two couples were having lunch close by, and yet, it felt 100% pub. Quite rare that feeling. 'The Chase is better than Tipping Point! (discuss)' said the landlady who seemed to like to keep the locals on their toes. "You've got some strange in-laws" replied a local out of the side of his mouth. I didn't get it. My contribution was to praise the fire, then James Blunt briefly ruined the atmosphere, but back on track, the diner next to me tells the entire pub ""I didn't get this physique from eating salad!", scraping his wife's leftovers onto his plate. 'How was it?' asks the chef. 'Lovely' says the wife. "Arrrghhh, you should've said it was horrible and we could've got a refund!" growls the ever pragmatic husband. They went to the bar to pay on the way out, right in the blindspot of the landlady, who totally 'lost' them, leading to hysterics all round. As I put my coat on to leave, 'twas like she read my mind. "You got quality free entertainment to go with your beer!" I told her I'd noted it all down. She thought I was joking! Bless.
A couple of miles clomp north of Great Orton was the village of Moorhouse, happily the home of a 2020 GBG entrant to make the walk to Monkhill seem a bit less harsh.
I barely passed one car, the odd cow mooed, farming smells dominated the air, which was as icy as ever, and I think my soft York blood needs to get attuned to these more northerly climes as we hit the winter months.
I initially panicked, as the pub didn't look particularly open but it was just one of those with no lights on and a door wisely closed against the cold ......
The Royal Oak, Moorhouse (1627 / 2844) was by no means a poor pub, but following the Wellington, it just felt a bit unatmospheric, dull and plain. Not at all unfriendly, but when most of the hubbub is being caused by Chelsea scoring on arrival to a near empty room, you've got to wonder. Carlisle State Bitter was the one ale available here, which was moreish like a drug when I drank it is Carlisle's Howard Arms and Woodrow Wilson in 2004, but here, well I enjoyed it, but less than the Dizzy Blonde! A rather unconvincing wood burner was chugging along, underneath the giant screen, but its close proximity to double twog on a long lead, attached to a couple drinking diet coke. The 'banter' wasn't quite so effervescent here either, Mrs Diet Coke (who did at least smile at me) finally asking barman Steve "soooooo, any problems with fireworks?" which seemed a random question. It transpires Steve had found some rockets in his garden. "Wow, rockets, really?" says Mrs DC, ending a rather brief exchange. I wanted to add that I'd seen a Catherine Wheel nailed to a sheep in a nearby field and rescued it, just to spice things up, but I'm not Martin Taylor and this wasn't Dacre, so I didn't. A family came in, the Dad wearing an England Rugby Union top, which made me wanna shout "OH MY GOD, THIS ISN'T WEST LONDON, AND YOU LOST, GET OVER IT!" but may've seemed extreme. They analysed a quite sparse 'Specials' board (bit of a Ghost Town, haha, sorry) behind my head for far too long, apologising to me for no reason. I went for a farewell pee, Chelsea scored again so that at least, added a pleasing symmetry to my visit.
|Mop cameo in the understated gents
|Chelsea, Mrs DC, double twog, woodburner (you can see it all from here)
|Hope you hadn't come here for the cheesecake
|Mr England Rugby gets the drinks in
(Sorry, just broken off because Rotherham have dramatically ended my Solihill Moors dream, but it's okay, I can work around it).
I was pleased to see the next walk, to the village of Monkhill, again to the north, was a lot shorter than I'd been expecting. This pub had been recommended above all others, no less, by the lady who made me redundant, but am sure she's Scottish so she must cross the border especially ......
Had she been present here on my visit to the Drovers Rest, Monkhill (1628 / 2845) , it could've made this part of the blog that bit more amusing, but would I have let her do the green highlighting? Bit conflicted with this pub anyway, I entered to the middle hub area where bar area had a roaring fire, locals strewn around, and there were lots of amusing but unintelligible comments from the good natured blockers as I craned my head around a warped beam and five gnarly men's heads to see the ales on offer. So much Scottish sounding noise, I half wondered if I'd actually crossed the border! Problem was, absolutely nowhere to park myself in this area, and with just a pool table and bogs to the right, I went to the left where immediately, the pub took on a chillier, unatmospheric feel (back door was nearby), not helped as one understandably morose couple were having a deep talk about alcoholism. A toilet trip reminded me what I was missing, oh well, at least I could admire the carpet which was 'Spoons-tastic and then some. The ale was hard going too, think I just chose badly cos I couldn't see what was on properly (plus, first time today I'd had a 'choice'). I'd have a similar pub set up three weeks later in County Durham, and whilst that pub still triumphed, this fell short making me debate 'is the mark of a true classic one that feels great no matter what room/area you sit in?'
But I shouldn't moan, this was the fun part of the day! Stuff was about to get tricky and blurry. Join me for that tomorrow in part two. With bonus Darlington.