This Narfuk bor's in a roit puckaterry. A tricolated mawther ahind a hoss. Zackley wor be it? Narfuk Ales? Loada squit! T'int Narfuk.
OK, before the spell-checker has a fit of appoplexy, and can't tell me that I've misspelt apoplexy, let's drop the Norfolk. This image of a spruced-up woman behind a horse has had me baffled for a while. Exactly where was it taken? The 'Norfolk Ales' painted over the door obviously caught the attention of this ageing Norfolk lad but the landscape most certainly isn't Norfolk. Mr. Google hasn't been much help on this one as searching 'Norfolk Ales' just seems to throw up current brewery operations in Norfolk and I'm a hundred per cent certain that the likes of Woodforde's or Moon Gazer wouldn't have been delivering to wherever this location is a century ago.
Closer inspection of the photograph shows a notice board for the Midland Railway, which had its headquarters in Derby, with a poster offering something or other going on in Manchester, so the location could quite possibly be in Derbyshire. But where? And what was the pub called?
Cliffs in Derbyshire are essentially composed of either gritstone or limestone and the ones in the picture are certainly the latter. The old rock climber in me was pretty certain that these would've been developed, especially ones that seemed to be so close to a road. Not being a sufficiently frequent climber of limestone to instantly recognise them I started rooting through my old climbing guidebooks.
The only sizeable limestone crags that I came up with that could possibly be that close to a road were those along the A6 near Matlock Bath and those in Middleton Dale. They certainly weren't the former as Matlock Bath is very familiar to me but maybe Stoney Middleton? It's certainly a possibility and certainly close enough to ride out to to take a look. And it'd certainly be nice to ride outside again. What with the trip to Sweden and the triumvirate of storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin it'd been over six weeks since I'd pedalled outside. Leading the bunch through the Californian desert...
...or being towed up the hilly bits of Tuscany by cycling bot Wanda in the virtual world can be quite good fun...
...but it's not proper cycling.
Out into the real, non-virtual, world I went. Fresh air on my face. Wonderful. Five minutes later, thirty-two miles per hour down through the bends, eyes streaming, snot dripping and with fingers and toes rapidly becoming numb the attraction of the virtual world was very apparent, but once travelling more sedately on the valley floor the joys of being out in the real world returned. After about another forty minutes I entered Stoney Middleton, passed the Moon with its empty barrels outside, and then a recognisable sight came into view.
So, one mystery solved. The pub was in Stoney Middleton after all, but what was its name? Well, the wall where I leant my bike to take the above photo gave a big clue as to the bygone boozer's identity.
The Royal Oak was in existence in Stoney Middleton from at least 1829 when Glover's directory places Jeremiah Searles there...
...and continued to operate until the mid-twentieth century...
...but exactly when it closed remains a mystery as does just who the supplier of those Norfolk Ales was.
Mission accomplished, it's time for home. Back past the Eyre Arms in Hassop, which appears not to have reopened post-Covid. The presence of a skip outside is a little worrying. Hopefully it will be serving again soon and won't become the subject of a future post.
Home, bike away, shower, feed and settle down with a bottle of Aldwark's Raven Stout to watch an afternoon of Six Nations rugby. Not a bad day in the real world. England even managed a win.
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