We’re now in Hesket Newmarket, birthplace of Eddie Stobart the legendary trucker, and heading for the Old Crown, best known as the country’s first co-operatively-owned pub.
When its owners decided to sell up in 2003, the locals feared for the future of the tiny village, so they got their heads together, stumped up the asking price and bought the lot. It is run on democratic lines – one member, one vote – though day-to-day decisions are made by a local committee.
It was nothing new. Four years previously, the independent brewery at the rear of the pub had been absorbed by the villagers and their friends then the brewplant, storage and ancillary service were all upgraded. There was even enough left over for a new van.
Annual co-op dividends are paid in beer after local projects have been funded from the kitty, such as contributing to an agricultural student’s fees in the hope that he’ll return to the village and put his learning to good use.
Grant aid to set up the Hesket Newmarket Community, Industrial and Provident Society came from Cumbria County Council’s rural regeneration coffers and the Lake District National Park Sustainable Development Fund.
The Old Crown is intimate, with its charm enhanced by timber beams, a welcoming fireplace, polished woodwork and picture-laden stone walls. Six Hesket Newmarket Brewery beers also help the ambience along somewhat.
Skiddaw Special Bitter (3.7% abv) is amber and full-flavoured and a bracing mid-day slug, Catbells Pale Ale (5.0% abv) is a deceptively potent, pleasantly hoppy pale ale, Great Cockup Porter (3.0% abv) is dark and chocolatey with heaps of malt flavour, Helvellyn Gold (4.0% abv) has a positive hop bitterness and Blencathra Bitter (3.3% abv) is ruby red and well balanced.
Lake District Pub Walks author Bob Steel is a geographer by profession and has been a teacher for much of his life. He is also the author of Camra’s best-selling Peak District Pub Walks, Edinburgh Pub Walks and London Pub Walks.
He says: “As we stand, Cumbria has 29 operational breweries, large and small – a remarkable number for a county with fewer than 500,000 residents.
“At a conservative estimate, there are more than 100 Cumbrian-brewed ‘regular’ beers available around the county at any one time and with the addition of a similar number of seasonals and one-offs you’ll find plenty of evidence for the healthy state of the Lake District brewing economy on many of the walks in the book.”
After Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket, we can “do” Boot and Upper Eskdale, which includes Hardknott Pass and Stanley Gyll Force, and later be rewarded with the Boot Inn, the Woolpack Inn and Brook House Inn.
Also in Lake District Pub Walks there’s a Cockermouth town trail, a short amble visiting the Bush Hotel, the Swan Inn, the Bitter End, 1761, and the Castle Bar, and also a circuit of Latterbarrow – one of our all-time favourite scrambles – starting and finishing at the King’s Arms in Hawkshead, the village where Wordsworth went to school and no doubt day-dreamed over daffodils.
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
That describes Wordsworth’s Daffodils in a nutshell. This may display a lack of culture, but after a Lake District ramble, we prefer the one that goes: “Real ales, real chips, really relaxing”.
Lake District Pub Walks, by Bob Steel (Camra Books, £9.99).