Harriet’s Dec 2005

Tuesday. A cottage just behind The Farmer’s Arms. A place to stumble back to, if you can stumble uphill or upsteps. Harriet died in 2002, picture on the wall, aged 90 something. ‘Best yet’ says Geoff, a speech from him.

The instructions were, in the dark, to park in front of the pub and walk round the side. You’ll need a torch, a small but important fact I had overlooked. Key under a plantpot. We had no chance. Next door’s took pity on us – he had a spare key.

Wood kitchen floor and clutter, throws over sofa and armchairs in lounge with open fire, good size rooms, modern bathroom. Notices everywhere, don’t do this, this is for this etc. Eccentric spelling – toliet for example. When we found them, the house keys were colour coded. All in all excellent – warm spacious and comfortable.

Called in The King’s Head on the way up through Reeth. Or tried to. It was shut. Landord had done a runner in October, debts got the better of him. So no massive fire this time.

Had to have a beer in The Farmer’s. ‘You’ll be in Harriet’s then,’ said the barman, from the top of a ladder pinning up a Christmas decoration.

Wednesday. Blue crisp morning. Cottage is in superb location, views across the front. Great paved patio with wooden bench. Must be perfect in summer. The keys are under a plant pot, as the instructions said, but under a bush as well. Need floodlights to find them.

Shopping in Hawes, planned to have fish pie but no fresh fish. Pete wants to buy frozen vegetables – amazing. A train from Garsdale to Appleby. Appleby Castle was shut with very aggrieved notices on the gate complaining that English Heritage had scuppered their planning permission.

No fresh fish. Two butchers. One sold Cumberland Sausage by the foot and the other measured his mince in handfuls. Fish pie was now off – Shepherd’s pie instead.

Appleby is home to the gypsy horse fair in June. The station is a memorial to Bishop Treacey, one time bishop of Wakefield. The one pub we visit contains the village idiot.

Back at Harriet’s we cannot find the freezer, or the coal, until we discover the washouse that is. Yellow key. What is not in the cottage is in there (BBQ, chairs, drier, wood, coal, etc).

We make friends with The Farmers. Different landlord, tall and big with brylcream parting just over his left ear, and that swept over look from the fifties.

Mega shepherds pie. Mega fire. I’m too tall for the lounge chandelier. Geoff sits up in bed and scratches his eczema in his sleep.

Thursday. We do the corpse way which I insist on calling the coffin road. Grey start which clears. Quad bike, pheasants and water are the only noises. Crackpot Hall has not been renovated, just kept up with. Two kitchen ranges stand out. Keld is deserted and the tea shop is shut. Back to The Farmer’s for lunch for a whole bunch of stories. 1950’s haircut serves on.

Lord Peel was a Lloyds underwriter, hence the need to sell the Gunnerside estate to Mr Miller. Lord Peel has a shooting moor in Grinton now and lives down near Jervaux. When Mr Miller first bought the Gunnerside moor he tried to buy a lot of nearby land to stop sheep farming, presumably on gamekeepers’ advice. Thankfully he changed his gamekeeper and peaceful coexistence has returned. Poor grouse this year but obscene amounts recently. Duke of Northumberland and his brother (The Percies), Prince Charles and Duke of Westminster are regulars. Charles appears to have an affinity with the area. Di seen here with the kids. Camilla also, prior to the divorce. Charles played dominoes with one of the pub locals (Gordon) and won – national news the following day.

Pubs are important places, not just for a drink and keeping up to date. They are great talking points. Wax and wane, depending who is taking any pains with them.

Mostly on the decline at the moment. CB thriving for the monied corporate crowd. Middle House at Reeth is shut (the landlord was a tenant for I think his brother – filtering off the profits and living a lifestyle that everyone could see was inappropriate and showy. Brother went bust as well, now has the Green Dragon in Hawes). Character has the Red Lion at Langthwaite. New people at Tan Hill who are still a bit disorganised. New people at Kings Head in Gunnerside, not popular at the moment, having work done in the new year, so everyone is waiting and seeing. Grinton is picking up because the food is improving back to its old standards. New roof on Punch Bowl, but the owner won’t sell, needs new tenants. Robert at The Buck in Reeth is really a hotelier. All the drinkers go to Black Bull.

Filming is a common event. John Alderson was popular, as was Bill Maynard – one wet day he did a standup spot. Locals get paid per day for being in the crowd. Horses get paid more than people. 8 days filming for 5 mins of finished film. In make-up a principle actor who needs a beard will have each hair individually applied. Jeremy Clarkson tests his cars over Buttertubs.

Lunch and a sleep, before getting ready for the evening – lamb.

Norman is the landlord. Runs the silver band and is churchwarden. Band is thriving. Recruiting senior players, training them up, usually had another instrument to start with.

Fire services have to come from Hawes and take 20 minutes (one of the notices in Harriet’s). ‘You have to keep the fire going,’ says Norman.

Gordon is the stereotype of a local. If there was a real life figure for Compo to be based on it would be Gordon – woolly hat, wrinkled but relatively new jacket, green wellies which are genuinely new. The only difference is the beard in which two sparrows could nest. For some reason we talk about the Dambuster raids and the film (Todd and Redgrave) – Norman has visited the site of the raids in Germany. The topic moves to tying people down on railway tracks and the cartoon Tom and Jerry device of a hole suddenly appearing down which the train goes. Out of nowhere Gordon suddenly pipes up, ‘Good film that.’ ‘Yes it was – The Dambusters?’ ‘No. Tom and Jerry.’ The pub falls about laughing. I imagine Gordon and a back catalogue of cartoons for serious study. He lives on the main drag into the village. You know which is his house, its got the wood pealing off the windows and front door and has a load of old wood, pallets and coal sacks encroaching on next door and the road. The inside is probable unspeakable. He’s seen better days apparently.

Oddjob then appears. Man in shirt and tie, dusky hue, goatee beard, S African or Australian accent. Asks for a drink and a meal and has several drinks. Staying at Oxnup. Security for some Greek prince who is married to one of Mr. Millers daughters. Shooting pheasant in the morning. Drives a truly massive four track.

Gordon used to own a gun, before the police confiscated it after he’d been caught with a pheasant. Arrived wanting to know where his gun and ammunition were. The gun cabinet was too small. ‘How do you get your gun in there?’ Gordon broke it in two. ‘Where are your cartridges’ ‘You’ve just passed them.’ On the mantleshelf for all to see. Too obvious.

Norman is a little quiet when it comes to Gordon and guns.

It’s grouse on the moor and pheasant in the dale. Pheasant are hand reared and fed and totally unafraid of humans. Need quite a push to get them to fly.

Duke of Northumberland holds the grouse record. 98 bullets, 96 birds. Most visitors to the moor can’t shoot (but spend the earth on it) – like Duke of Kent who is also a guest at the moment. They had a olympic medal shot here once who didn’t hit one bird on his first drive.

Geoff needs to review the lamb. ‘Put us the side light on, Norman.’ ‘Righto.’ He disappears through the door behind the bar and climbs the stairs. A minute later and something clicks and the whole of the pub goes dark. The lights come back on, another click and the smoke alarms set off (one in each light fitting apparently). Pub falls about laughing again, including oddjob. Geoff gets a side light eventually.

Gordon’s idea of getting dressed up for a night out is wearing shoes instead of wellies.

Friday. An easy morning down the dale behind Mr Millers. The shooting party have left their vehicles on the road side. The Kings Head is a poor affair; nobody in, fire barely alight, miserable landlord. We catch the bus back – neither Pete nor Geoff are enthusiastic walkers.

Different landlord in the evening, I’m sure he has the post office round the back. Then the first one reappears. He’s been off to the licensed victuallers christmas bash, took him two days. Yes they all knew we’d been locked out the first night and that I’d enquired after Dr. Baume’s (Wickham) daughters. The keyman had two pheasants on his gate post. Everyone knew where they had come from – presumably the shoot. Four locals had been in earlier – looked like they may have had a day’s beating on the moor. So there is still that sense of two classes, the landowners and the rest, with deference, not because they will shoot you but because they are a major source of income. Mr Miller did some extensions on arrival, big ones obviously since it ‘made’ the local builder.


Nov 2006

The girls have left and Geoff has arrived. The Punch Bowl has been bought by the owner of The CB and hopes to be serving drinks at least by Christmas. The ultimate plan is to have rooms to let, but rumour has it he is waiting for the price to fall before buying the hotel end of the pub as well. The CB, in Arkengarthdale, is up market and pricey, geared toward conferences and business. The hope locally is that The Punch Bowl will be aimed a tad down market. Mr. Miller has over 40000 acres of shooting. His bodyguard, oddjob from previous visits, is Nepalese, an ex-Ghurka, and it makes sense. There are other bodyguards for the exotic shooting parties. One is an ex-police commissioner who drinks a lot and never gets caught. We cannot imagine why.

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