Friday, January 23, 2009

The Ale Trail - pub reviews

The Ale Trail - Pub Reviews, as featured in the Yorkshire Post

By Mark Reid, author of ‘The Inn Way’ guidebooksOn the trail of Yorkshire’s great country pubs, where walkers are welcome,beer is in tip top condition and the food is hearty and wholesome.

Feversham Arms, Church Houses

There’s more to Farndale than daffodils. It is a beautifully verdant valley of patchwork fields, scattered farms and meandering river sheltered by trees. Wonderful walks abound through the valley and across the surrounding moorland, although pick your times carefully for around 40,000 people visit Farndale during March and April to marvel at the display of wild daffodils that carpet the riverside pastures. There are many stories as to how these daffodils came to be in this valley, some say that they were planted by the monks of Rievaulx or by the community of Friars who settled in the valley during the Middle Ages.

Of course, crowds of people are not a problem in January. A touch of frost still lingered in the shadow of the walls and the sun was trying to break through the morning mist as I set off from Low Mill. The path is a delight as it meanders alongside the river. 40-minutes later and I was in the hamlet of Church Houses; I had hardly warmed up, let alone built up an appetite for lunch at the Feversham Arms. I know this pub well as it lies along the route of my North York Moors ‘Inn Way’ walk, but it changed hands 18 months ago and I had yet to meet the new licensees. After all, a pub is all about the people who run it.

The first thing that surprises you is the fact that there is a pub here at all, for Church Houses is a remote hamlet tucked away in the heart of the North York Moors. The second thing that surprised me was the warmth of the welcome as the landlady behind the bar was really friendly and cheerful. I ordered the homemade Tomato and Tarragon soup (£2:95) and a pint of Black Sheep Best Bitter (£2:50 a pint) and was assured it really was homemade. The beer was in excellent condition with a pronounced dry hoppiness characteristic of Black Sheep’s ales. The cosy stone-flagged bar was busy with people eating and when I sat down a lady at the table next to me exclaimed “that was delicious, absolutely fantastic!” as the landlady cleared their plates. This boded well. My soup was excellent, plenty of it and unmistakably homemade and the landlady even brought a dog chew out for Elvis who had been eyeing up my bread baguette.

The Feversham Arms is unashamedly a walkers’ pub; unpretentious, unspoilt and wonderfully friendly, so much so that you don’t want to leave the warmth of the bar. I overheard the landlady talking to two of her customers about some walkers who knocked on the pub door at 5pm on Boxing Day. They thought they were in Westerdale and were looking for their car. Westerdale, the landlady explained, was a good three hour walk away over the moors in the next valley. As they looked tired, cold and wet she told them to hop in her car and she gave them a lift back to Westerdale. “That was kind”, I said, “Well, you’d hope someone would do the same for you.”

Feversham Arms, Church Houses, Farndale, Kirkbymoorside: 01751 433206

Opening Hours:
12 – 2pm, 6 – 11pm (food served until 9pm in the evenings). Open all day during March and April.

Extensive menu, generous portions, delicious food. Menu includes 10oz Sirloin Steak £12:95, Bangers & Mash £8:25, Steak & Kidney Pie £8:75.

Real Ales
Choice of two regular ales and one occasional guest, including Black Sheep Best Bitter and Tetley’s Bitter.

Three en-suite bedrooms, from £32:50 per person.

Walkers Welcome?
Stone-flagged bar where dogs and boots are welcome.


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