Finally I have a little time to tell you about my trip. I’ll start with where we stayed, because it was where the magic began.
The Waiting Room is a holiday cottage that used to be a station waiting room, built in the 1850s.
It was very cosy and comfortable inside, with a lovely fire to warm us up. When we arrived there was a tray set out in the kitchen with home made scones, gingerbread, and eggs laid by the hens outside!
In the corner of the station house, facing away from the road, there is a Royal Mail postbox that no one knows about:
The house really is in the middle of nowhere so it’s only used by the owners and anyone using the holiday cottage. It’s cleared twice a day and was painted just before I took this photo. The Royal Mail take their Universal Service Obligation seriously!
As you can see the station platform is still there, but the tracks are gone. I did get woken up in the mornings by a busy woodpecker though! The wildlife in the area was incredible, we saw huge tawny owls, pheasants, grouse, quail, mice, fat glossy rabbits and hares, and some mystery mammal scurrying across the road one night with a slightly fluffy tail that wasn’t a ferret, stoat, or squirrel. I’d love to think it was a pine marten as they are extremely rare but I don’t think it was. We didn’t see any red squirrels, sadly.
Our hosts were lovely and full of suggestions of things to do and places to go in the area. They were very supportive of local, independent businesses. It was on their recommendation that on our final night there, we went to the local pub, the Crown in Catton. It was hands down the best pub I have ever been to. We happened to go on “Music and Pie night”. The pub was split into three rooms – the big(ish – it was a small pub) room with the bar, and two smaller rooms off to the side. One of these rooms was packed to the gills with musicians who entertained us with traditional Northumbrian music all evening.
The pies were all homemade, and I had a tomato and goats cheese pie that was delicious. The choice of drinks was also excellent – I started with a locally distilled sloe gin and tonic (incidentally Northumberland produces the best tonic in the world in the form of Fentimans), and moved onto one of the selection of locally brewed real ales from the Allendale Brewery. These were actually made by the barmaid’s brother! The staff offer generous tasters of every ale before you choose. I chose the ironically-named “Indecision” ale, which was fantastic.
Dessert could not have been more local – apple crumble made from apples from a tree 50 yards down the road! And delicious too, although we suffered from eyes bigger than our stomachs and could have done with sharing a portion.
The pub had a great welcoming feel to it and was clearly well-supported by locals. They do Indian Curry Nights, Scrabble and Games nights, and all sorts of other events. There were community notices up on the walls. If only every pub was like that.