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Knaresborough, via Memory Lane.....

I bumped into an old mate the other week and he very kindly invited me on his 60th birthday do, which was to be a trip on an old Halifax Corporation bus to an undisclosed 'Yorkshire market town', the name of which he refused to reveal.

The astute amongst you may have sussed out by now that it was to be Knaresborough....

So, I headed down to Brighouse bus station last Sunday morning, and sure enough, an old AEC bus was waiting for us, decked out in the old familiar colours of orange and green. Birthday boy Tony checked in virtually a full bus load, and finally told us the destination once we boarded the old bus, where my mate Mick and I had decided to hit the upper deck. Less leg room than buses today, we remembered once it set off that in those days the suspension was unable to stop you feeling every bump in the road. After an hour and a half of bumping and bouncing on the unforgiving seats, we gratefully arrived at our destination. I had forgotten what the old buses were like - open at the back with only the pole to hang on to, or aim for when the bus was setting off. Not so much health and safety back in the 1960's....

I had also forgotten what a lovely place Knaresborough is in the 15 or so years that it had been since I had last visited.
The River Nidd, Knaresborough
Situated about 4 miles from Harrogate, it lies beside the river Nidd, which runs through a steep valley below the historic town centre. It is a traditional market town, although these days it also serves as a busy commuter town for Harrogate, Leeds, Bradford, and beyond.

As we stretched our aching limbs, we all splintered off from the car park in our different directions. I checked my app for the nearest CAMRA pubs, and it turned out to be Blind Jacks in Market Place. A promising start....

Blind Jacks, Knaresborough
This was a pub I had been in several times in the past, but not for years. I remember when it first opened, because one of the lads at work who lived in Knaresborough kept banging on about "this great little pub with loads of different beers" that had opened in the town. When I finally got to visit, I remember it as a wood-panelled traditional-style pub that was absolutely heaving, and which was every subsequent time I called in.

Mick and I walked in to an empty pub save for a couple of old people - well, older than me - quietly reading the Sunday papers. The bar greeted us with 4 hand pumps and several taps, and we opted for a pint of Turning Point Avalon, a 3.8% unfined and unfiltered extra pale ale. It was excellent. We called in for another before we got the bus home, and had a chat with Alice, who has run the pub with Christian since last Autumn having previously run a restaurant in Harrogate. I mentioned that I had been before, and Alice told us it had originally been opened as a pub in 1991 by Ian Fozard, subsequently of Market Town Taverns, and more recently Roosters Brewery. It seems the original founder has been very supportive of the couple, even delivering to them personally on Christmas Day after a very busy Christmas Eve had left them out of beer! We were very impressed with Blind Jack's, which is named after John Metcalf, the first professional road builder of the Industrial Revolution, who was born in Knaresborough, and went blind after contracting smallpox as a child. I wish Alice and Christian every success, and if you are anywhere near Knaresborough, it is a must visit!

Blind Jack's: you won't want to leave....
We moved on, heading for the Mitre, situated on a hill at the side of the railway station. We opted for a pint of Anarchy Citra Star and headed out to the lower outside drinking area. This is a fascinating spot, railway next door, with trains having to cross the viaduct over the river, and with a level crossing shut almost permanently with surprisingly regular trains considering the current chaos with the new timetables. There is a signal box situated it seems within a house, which must be pretty unique?

The Mitre itself is a pretty decent pub, owned by Market Town Taverns as referred to earlier, and the beer was very good, but we decided to move on after a pint. We stumbled upon a classic car show, beside the church, and spotted a solitary hand pump which was dispensing Roosters Buckeye. So we grabbed a pint and spent a pleasant half hour looking at the cars as proud owners looked on, periodically giving their pride and joy an encouraging polish. It was a pleasant interlude, within a quintessentially English setting that would be ideal for 'The Antiques Roadshow'.... 

It was Mick's first visit to Knaresborough, and he was most impressed with the town, bringing back memories of childhood holidays in Cornwall. We wandered down to the Waterside, where the railway viaduct looms large over the river. Despite the pleasant weather, the town was fairly quiet, although the number of tourists in the outside cafes beside the river was quite healthy. It will be busier this forthcoming weekend, though, as the town holds its annual Bed Race. If we had carried on for a short walk by the river we would have ended up at Mother Shipton's Cave, which was allegedly the home of a local soothsayer called Ursula Southwell, with the accompaning Petrifying Well where drips coming off the limestone encase objects that have been hung underneath. 

We resisted the temptations of Mother Shipton and headed back up the walkway to the main town, coming out by the castle in its prominent eyrie overlooking the Nidd. The White Rose Concert Band were playing in the castle grounds as headed for our next port of call. On the way we bumped into Tony and some others enjoying a coffee rather than the customary pint.

Just around the corner was the Cross Keys, which is a friendly Ossett pub just off the Market Place. We sat out and enjoyed a very-reasonably priced and excellent pint of White Rat, chatting to one of the locals who had recently moved to the town. A car pulled up, parked, and the driver started to offload speakers and boxes, which I took to be connected with the advertised 'Northen Soul' disco that was on that afternoon.

Friendly local with good beer: The Cross Keys
We managed a quick pint back at Blind Jacks before heading back to the car park to meet up with everyone, and where our carriage awaited....

They don't make 'em like this any more....
Knaresborough is well worth a visit these days, based on the 4 hours or so spent there. Some great pubs, plenty of history, and plenty to see! As we all re-assembled and returned to the bus, everyone seemed to have had a great day. It was a great way to celebrate Tony's birthday, a real trip down Memory Lane, and it was an absolute pleasure to have been invited.

I'm just glad that suspension systems these days have come on a bit....






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