Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Belper Arms...

The indian summer has arrived at last – bringing beautiful rose pink sunsets. The fields are alive with activity as farmers scrape in the remaining summer harvest. Out on the bike the shimmering heat mixes with dry dust clouds as the farm workers toil and swarms of insects bellow along the lanes tormenting cyclists like me.
This week our beer ride is ‘off the record’. Our official Wednesday evening pub rides finished in August – but we decided to make the most of the conditions and, aptly, make hay whilst the sun shines.
The Belper Arms
Our target for the evening was The Belper Arms at Newton Burgoland. Reputedly the oldest pub in Leicestershire. I didn’t know it, but apparently ‘Newton’ is the most common name for a village in England. The ‘tun’ at the end is the Anglo-Saxon meaning a settlement, so Newton means, quite literally, new settlement. The Burgoland was added when McDonalds opening a branch in 1983 – No – not really. Burgoland was added in the 14th century and comes from the Burgilon family.
The Belper Arms dates back to the 1200’s and was reputedly built prior to the building of the village church, to house the masons working on the construction. Known originally as The Shepherd and Shepherdess, the deeds to the Inn and the surrounding land were purchased in the 17th century by Lord Belper. The pub is said to be the oldest in Leicestershire – most likely along with many more. It is a pub that displays much in the way of Olde Worlde charm – and mostly it looks and feels very good. Many ancient timbers, a lovely old tiled floor, a couple of open fires adorned with various shiny brass artefacts. It’s the sort of pub that every village would be proud to have – it really looks the part on the inside.
The letdown is the beer. Sour, flat and unloved it spoils the party with a resounding bang. It seems remarkable that the owners can’t see it and, more importantly. Do something about it. However, like many village Inns, The Belper relies heavily on food to earn a living. And it is quite probable that food has taken precedence over the more traditional, but less lucrative wet trade. I tried a pint of Black Sheep, it tasted tired and was lifeless. Next it was Taylor’s Landlord – marginally better, but definitely below par. No matter though, it was an enjoyable evening ride and, to be fair, the chips at The Belper are amongst the best you’ll ever taste. Beautifully evenly golden with a slightly crisp exterior and then soft and fluffy inside. We enjoyed a couple of bowls to take away the taste of the beer.
At 9.00pm we set off for home – by now it was pitch black in the country lanes, but a beautiful clear sky meant I ambled home with one eye on the stars – it was so cool to start that my teeth chattered before I became acclimatised. A couple of sharp hills warmed me enough to convince myself that the evening was worthwhile – but the evenings are drawing in – there’s more than a whiff of autumn in the air.

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