Press Reviews & Features

Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire
by Andrew Pain, Evening Gazette, 9 July 2010 5/5


If you are ever driving on the roads of the North York Moors and spot people with cumbersome backpacks you might think they are walkers, campers or lovers of the great outdoors. Or maybe they've been to the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge and asked for a doggy bag!

It's hard to start this review without describing the portions. I'm writing this with the thesaurus open on the word huge (adj) extremely large, to help me explain. So let the portions of the Lion Inn be forever known as monumental and behemothic.

My girlfriend and I had originally planned to go to the fourth highest pub in the land following a walk around the stunning landscapes that surround it.

The Lion Inn sits atop the North York Moors just past Castleton which, in turn, is just past Guisborough on the road to Whitby. It feels like a million miles from anywhere but is only a 45-minute drive from Teesside - which is handy as we'd left it too late in the day to go for a walk but not too late to get to Blakey in good time to be fed.

Arriving at the bar we were told it would be a couple of hours before a place in the restaurant would be available but we were welcome to dine in the pub - which had a television, showing a World Cup game.

"Oh go on then", says I.

On ordering we were warned there might be a wait as it was a busy Saturday night but in no time at all our starters - a deep fried brie with a cranberry side and button mushrooms with a garlic dip - were on our plate.

My brie oozed out of its breaded coating when you cut it open, without being in any way messy. The creamy cheese combined beautifully with the sweet cranberry. The mushrooms were spot on as well, with the garlic sauce tasty but not overpowering.

Next up for me was a main of T-bone steak with a gargantuan (I've still got the thesaurus open) pile of chips, and peas, and onion rings, and mushrooms - and salad. The steak was 14-16oz and was exactly the medium rare I had ordered. As a side I had the Diane sauce which brought the best out of the huge slab of meat.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend had a home-made steak and mushroom pie which got the thumbs up and kept her quiet through the football - you can't put a price on that.

Which brings me to the subject of cost. The value of the meal was fantastic, the portions were generous but, more importantly, the grub was marvellous.

The scenery alone should warrant a significant hit on the pocket, but the Lion Inn at Blakey delivered all this for £35.

OUR ORDER
Starters: Breaded mushrooms £4.45, Deep fried brie £4.45
Mains: T-bone steak £14.25, Diane sauce £2.25, Home-made steak and mushroom pie £9.95
Total: £35.35

RATING 5/5 Stars

Christmas cheers: Festive pubs The Guardian 19 December 2009

The Lion Inn, North Yorkshire
Felicity Cloake, food writer

After a brisk tramp across the moors, the sight of the Lion Inn in Kirkbymoorside perched incongruously on the lonely ridge like some squat Yorkshire mirage is guaranteed to put a spring in the step of this hungry rambler. The wind in this part of the world is the best antidote I know for festive overindulgence; and there are few finer places to sate an appetite than the Lion. It boasts a blessedly unreconstructed menu of which the star is undoubtedly the homemade pie of the day. Chunky slabs of game or steak and ale come with a heap of russety chips, a few token peas and, of course, a slick of thick, Marmite-coloured gravy. Order, find a spot by the fire and settle down with a fortifying pint of local bitter: Black Sheep, perhaps, or a Copper Dragon from the Dales.
Blakey Ridge, Kirkbymoorside (01751 417320, lionblakey.co.uk). Closed Christmas Day.

Lion's delights are abundant Verdict: ***** 5/5 Evening Gazette 2 November 2007

With family visiting from London, we set off in convoy to take a walk around the picturesque village of Hutton le Hole, on the North Yorkshire Moors. The sole reason for an afternoon walk here was to stop on the way home and enjoy dinner at The Lion Inn - and enjoy it we did.

The Lion is situated on the main moor road which links the A171 Whitby road to Pickering and has for a long time been a favourite place to eat when requiring "proper food".

Always busy, but always welcoming, staff directed us to a table in the restaurant as the bar was full.

My favourite visits here have been in the winter when it's freezing outside and if you are lucky you can sometimes get a table next to one of the roaring coal fires.

The food is always lovely and Blakey chips are the best for miles around.

The steak pie was more of a slab than a slice, with perfect home made pastry and filled to the brim with tender steak and gravy. Served with chips and two veg, it looked fabulous.

My father-in-law, who without fail will have apple pie for pudding, couldn't manage a dessert this time and daughter Charlotte, who has a good appetite, didn't quite manage to get to the end.

There must have been at least 20 pieces of scampi on my plate - it was beautiful. Deep fried in golden crispy breadcrumbs. It was served with chips, peas and a small salad.

Looking at the size of the pie, I was actually quite glad that I had ordered fish and didn't regret it - again though, dessert had defeated me.

Mum is always the traditional one and the very fact that it was Sunday meant that she had to have roast beef for dinner. A huge slice of beef was brought to her with vegetables, roast and boiled potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. Her meal too was delicious

Youngest daughter Isabel, who will always try something a little different, opted for the chicken tikka with rice and chips. All of that walking had made her hungry - but I have never seen a larger plate of curry. Far too much for her but at least everybody else was able to taste it. We were glad that there were a few soft drinks on the table as it was quite spicy, but she thoroughly enjoyed it. There was lots of chicken in it and an abundance of sauce, which can sometimes be lacking in other places and the plate was piled high with the rice and chips.

The waitresses are very efficient and friendly here and used to catering for large numbers of people during the day. The food was served within 15 minutes of ordering and overall it was fantastic.

Going to Blakey was a great way to end a lovely day and I'm just relieved that we ate after going for a walk.

Our Order
3 steak and mushroom pie
: £25.50
1 chicken tikka massala: £8.50
1 scampi and chips: £8.50
1 roast beef and Yorkshire pudding: £8.50
3 pints lager: £7.80
1 alcohol-free Becks lager: £1.30
2 orange cordial: 80p
Total: £60.90
Verdict: ***** 5/5

 


The Great Outdoors - A guide to the UK's National Parks The Guardian July 28 2007

North York Moors - Best Pub: The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge

Located on the highest point in the North York Moors, this 16th-century freehouse offers breathtaking views of the Rosedale and Farndale valleys. The bar is well known for its quality real ales and good food is served all day, with an extensive list of desserts to please the sweet toothed.

 

 

A close to heaven inn By Alastair Gilmour, The Journal Feb 2 2007

They don't come much closer to heaven. Standing alone like its neighbouring waymarkers and cairns, the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge in the North York Moors National Park is reckoned to be the fourth-highest pub in England.

Its elevation at 1,325ft above sea level, overlooking vast tracts of heather-clad moorland that melt into green and fertile valley floors, is heavenly, as is its choice of cask-conditioned beers, its extensive menu and the cosy intimacy of its bar, two lounges and three restaurant areas. Celestial choirs may be in short supply on a day-to-day basis, but who knows after a couple of pints of Theakston Old Peculier sipped in front of the tinkling embers of a coal fire?

The Lion Inn could be described as being in the middle of nowhere, but even on an overcast Wednesday lunchtime there's a quiet hum of conversation from an impressive - and impressed - collection of customers. This is definitely somewhere, rather than nowhere - somewhere weary ramblers can kick off their boots and enjoy lunch, Yorkshire hospitality and great beer in traditional travellers' rest surroundings.

Thick stone walls and purpose-built beams are a major physical feature and more than a suggestion of solidity and soundness. The coal fires - virtually a year-round feature - are a welcome sight. Large wooden pews with just enough upholstery to soften their bareness, plus rustic settles, a grand piano and cast-iron legged tables emphasise that casual-but-studied arrangement of bar furniture that works in some pubs but fails miserably in others. In the Lion Inn, everything works.

The building has been extended at various times over its 450 years (it's believed to have been first settled by the Order of Crouched Friars "to relieve their poverty"), but from the inside, certainly, you can't see the join between the centuries. The toilets, it has to be mentioned, are immaculate.

The road over Blakey Ridge from Kildale Moor down to Kirkbymoorside and Pickering bears all the hallmarks of a drovers' road where sheep and cattle would be herded to the market towns across North Yorkshire. In fact, in the mid-18th Century, farmers from Commondale, Danby and the delightfully-named Fryup Dale used the pub as a market to sell surplus corn to horse breeders with stables in Ryedale. Trade continued to flourish with the opening of iron mines at nearby Rosedale in 1856 when miners and navvies constructing the small railway congregated there along with folks from the small communities around Blakey Junction. The mines had petered out by the beginning of the 20th Century but the pub then developed the tourism and day-tripping side of trade to great effect.

These days, the area is extremely popular with walkers. High ridges and spectacular views over long, fertile valleys are a particular delight where mazes of dry-stone walls enclosing verdant fields form patchwork patterns that simply glow in the sunlight. The less energetic, however, can survey the scene just as nicely from the beer garden. The Lion Inn is now owned by Barry Crossland who operates it with sons Paul and David. An across-the-board range of ales, lager and cider with an impressive selection of spirits keeps the cellar side forever on its toes, and as the pub is well known for its food, there's no shortage of background activity. Custom is drawn from the Tees Valley conurbations of Stockton and Middlesbrough, but a significant section of clientele walks, cycles, ambles and rambles up to the front door (where a sensible porch area keeps the wind at bay whilst boots and cagoules are prised off). Interestingly, walkers tend to be real ale drinkers who know what they like, who demand quality and who know just where that combination lies.

Barry and the boys offer Theakston Black Bull Bitter (3.9% alcohol by volume), a distinctly hoppy and bitter ale with terrific fruity undertones. It's the perfect pint for weary limbs and dry throats. Its "big brother", Theakston XB (4.6% ABV), has a malty character but a detectable fruit influence. Its spicy hop background makes sure the malt is not too dominant.

Theakston Old Peculier (5.7% ABV) is full-bodied, dark and malty with hints of coffee and liquorice. It's complex and delightful. Think wind and rain, think coal fire, think Old Peculier, think of staying the night.

Morland Old Speckled Hen (5.2% ABV) is rich and spicy with a developing maltiness that gives way to a sweet fruity afterglow.

The pub's lunch and dinner menus are extensive without being pretentious (if you've just rambled the five miles from Rosedale Abbey or cycled on the thigh-sapping, heart-thumping narrow road from Westerdale, it's wholesome fare and fine ale you crave, not nouvelle cuisine). Starters range from jacket potatoes with a choice of fillings to soup and sandwiches. Deep-fried brie in sweet pickle dip, served with salad, partners Black Bull Bitter rather well.

Main courses vary from steak sandwiches, T-bone steaks, 100% beef burgers, Old Peculier casserole, large fillet of cod or haddock in batter, and leek and mushroom crumble.

For the really weary, the pub's 13 letting rooms are a very reasonable proposition, with, for example, a honeymoon double four-poster bed - and breakfast - at around £35.

The Lion Inn seems 100 years from civilisation yet is only half-an-hour from burgeoning Teesside and is one of the main stops on the Coast To Coast leisure route from the North Sea to the Irish Sea.

A day spent rambling the fells, a hearty dinner and two or three pints in front of the fire, with or without the grand piano accompaniment - does anything come closer to heaven?

* The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire YO62 7LQ. Tel (01751) 417320. Visit www.lionblakey.co.uk

 

 

 

"The most wild and windswept"

Say the phrase "hostelry on windswept moorland" and the mental image people conjure up will be very similar to The Lion Inn - a single rambling stone-built 16th century inn standing bleakly alone on the highest point of the North York Moors. On a wintry day walking into the bar, which somehow seems made up entirely of snug, cosy low-beamed corners is such a delight that one would be tempted to nip back out and do it again if the atmosphere and warm aromas of excellent cooking had not already hooked you.

While the food (Bar, A la'Carte and Sunday Lunch menus) is great throughout the myriad of rooms in the inn, first-time visitors might prefer the bar because it affords you the joy of eating (try the Old Peculier casserole or beef curry) at the same time as looking through the windows at the vast arched backs of the Moors. Vegetarian offerings are good and original, as is the fish, and fans of traditional puddings will be pleased by the presence of jam and treacle roly-poly on the menu.

In Summer - well, at any time if you're brave enough - there are camping facilities outside, and in fine weather a tent pitched here can make a marvellous and inexpensive base for walkers. Otherwise The Lion has bed-and-breakfast rooms, which in conjunction with an evening in the bar or restaurant and a couple of walks in the heather make for one of the most ruggedly romantic weekends available in the British Isles (look out for the ancient Ralph's Cross waymark one mile away).

If you fancy a trip in snowy weather, it would be wise to call ahead - it is far from unknown for The Lion to get cut off, and previous years have seen staff digging tunnels through drifts to the front door!

 

 

 

The great pub in the sky Yorkshire Post 22 April 2006

How did an isolated pub in the middle of the North York Moors manage to bring musicians like Sting and Chris Rea to play? Chris Berry reports from The Lion Inn.

Carrying a coffin across the North York Moors may not have been quite the career move many monks had in mind when they joined the brotherhood hundreds of years ago, yet in so doing they were perhaps responsible for the instigation of one of our county's most remote, atmospheric and increasingly popular public houses - and one that holds a special place in many people's hearts.

Whilst there are still thousands who traverse across the moors in stout boots and weather-wary clothing, and many who continue to retread the footsteps of the corpse-laden over the route known as the Lyke Wake Walk. But there is, happily, no longer a coffin room, at The Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge, some 16 miles into the walk from Osmotherley, instead it is now quite literally full of life. The pub has had a colourful past, encompassing its time as a local corn exchange and the days of the iron ore industry in the 1800s when Blakey had its own mine, community and branch line. The passing trade in this century is thankfully of a decidedly more healthy variety than that which appeared regularly in wooden boxes and, in an era when the romantic vision of travelling the countryside is to explore and find little pockets of history that also offer the opportunity to enjoy and relax at the same time, one that this outpost has benefited from in the more recent past.

When you climb out of Hutton-le-Hole, surely one of North Yorkshire's most wonderfully picturesque villages, towards Castleton you could be forgiven for thinking that the next time you would see civilisation, in the form of any kind of settlement, would be when you reach Castleton itself, some 12 miles on. You are now on the long, often howling ridge itself, with Farndale far down to your left and Rosedale even further down to your right. When it's bleak it is eerie, offering a scene straight out of the Hammer House of Horror films, but when it is bright and sunny it affords the kind of view that many have described as being on top of the world. After a few miles of nothingness, in terms of buildings of any kind, The Lion Inn looms in front of you. Not that it looks particularly imposing, it has more a feel of a country farmhouse and outbuildings.

Barry and Diana Crossland came here from Leeds 26 years ago when they bought the pub, that is often still referred to by its location, rather than its actual name, as Blakey Inn. "I was a milkman at the time, but I wanted to buy a pub in the countryside. This came on the market but it was way above what we could afford and looked really run down from the outside. We weren't even going to come in and take a look, but the second we walked through the door we fell in love with it. It's such a magical place. It's easy to see why they fell in love with it - the low-beamed ceilings, the stone walls, soft lighting, real fires. It is everything that your vision of how a traditional, out-in-the-country pub should be - warm and welcoming. And yet Barry and Diana's first experience of taking over the pub from the previous owner was not quite what they had envisaged. "It was a bit of a shock", says Barry. "The person we bought it off went straight to Mexico the day it was signed over to us and, to the best of my knowledge, he's never been seen again. So we didn't have any formal handover as such."

At 1325 feet above sea level Blakey Ridge is one of the highest points of the North York Moors and, as such, is always one of the hardest-hit areas weather-wise. With no shelter from the prevailing wind, no matter what its direction, it can easily be cut off during extreme weather conditions. "I was snowed-in for three days on my own last year," says Barry, who also shows me pictures of when Blakey was cut off for over 40 days a number of years ago. "When we have snow it can be very deep. I've known it be as much as 13 feet deep here, when it was up over the roof. We have been snowed-in quite a bit, but it always adds to the magic of this place."

Barry has done quite a bit with the Lion in his time, so much so that although, from the outside, it still looks relatively under-developed, inside it now has three restaurants which, combined, have the capacity to seat 130. Clearly this is not some quaint, small-time country inn serving a single guest ale and pie and peas. It is instead a thriving business that also has 10 letting bedrooms. "We have seven real ales, with Old Peculier being our most popular, but it is an eating place that we are best known. Everyone who comes here eats here."

Barry has over 40 staff, yes 40 - in the middle of nowhere, and has as many as six chefs working on a Saturday night. "It's all typical British restaurant fare, with fillet steaks, sirloins and T-bones being our biggest sellers. That's the kind of thing people want when they come out here. We don't get the young crowds in, we get more families and couples - and often those who want a romantic meal a bit out of the way."

Given the Lion's location it is obviously more passing trade that forms its "lion's share" but Barry does talk of some regulars. "Local farmers tend to come in on a Thursday or Saturday night, but we don't get the same people every night. It's not that kind of pub where you can simply wander along to it." Well, not unless your wander encompasses at least a five mile hike at any rate. There's little chance of a pub crawl around here.

Barry's two sons - Paul and David - are also involved with the running of the business and for a number of years Paul has been responsible for organising live music nights that has seen even the likes of Sting and Chris Rea play here in the past.

The only sadness I have with my visit to The Lion Inn is on hearing that the regular music venue that it has become, along with its annual rock festival, is being shelved this year. "We first had the idea of live music nights when our chef, Ian Drake, used to sing folk songs until dawn" says Barry. "Paul started putting on rock bands on a Thursday night and we have always had quality rock music. The stone walls and low ceilings create great acoustics and we put the bands on in the largest of the three restaurants. We've had some good bands, but we're giving it a bit of a rest at the moment. One of the top bands we've had in recent times, Four Day Hombre, are playing here next Thursday, but we've no more booked after then." Such has been the success of the Lion as a rock venue over the years that it has its own website devoted to its past history and what would normally be forthcoming gigs, and in the pub itself you can see some of its history with references made to its outdoor festival as "The Great Gig In The Clouds". Barry tells me it was fantastic when the weather was good, but a nightmare when, typically, one year it wasn't. "We had thousands here, and everyone was obviously trying to get under cover. It just left mud and muck everywhere."

Whilst The Lion Inn has always provided shelter for those wanting to rest, or indeed at rest, this was clearly a little too much to cope with for what has become a delightful hostelry outpost in Yorkshire. If you were to submit plans to build a pub on a largely barren ridge, on the top of the North York Moors, with the nearest village miles away, you would be considered mad - let alone not given planning permission - but here, standing proudly amidst all that our weather has to offer, is a prime example of what Barry terms his "magical atmosphere". It's hard to disagree with him - but try and keep the live music going Barry!

The Lion Inn/Blakey Inn Timeline:

Neolithic burial mound - just behind Inn - Bronze Age chieftain interred

King Edward III reign: House plot & 10 acres of land on Farndale Moor given to the Order of Crouched Friars for building of an oratory

Inn founded between 1553-1558

Mid-18th Century: Farmers established market at Inn to sell surplus corn

First Landlord: John Portus who lived at Blakey House, High Blakey

Victorian era: John May and James Maw, colliers, take over the inn - Mrs Potts takes over when Maws emigrate to America in 1870

Mines close at beginning of 20th century

Philip Johnson combines landlord duties with farming in Farndale in early 20th century, succeeded by his widow and then son, Fred

 


The live 50 - The most memorable moments in Music The Times 23 July 2005

"5th - The Blakey Ridge Music festival. This festival has got the lot..."

 

 

Perfect pub to tuck in - and then walk it off

Evening Gazette 2004


The Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge is something of an institution in these parts. In one of the most picturesque spots on the North York Moors, it provides the perfect setting to walk off that Sunday lunch...just remember to wrap up warm!

Place: Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge, North Yorkshire
Location: Take the Castleton turn off the main A171 moors road past Guisborough
Meal: Three course restaurant lunch, £9.95
Drinks: Pint of lager and two vodka and cokes, £5. Coffee 95p
Total Bill: £26.80 for two.
Verdict: Excellent traditional Sunday roasts - choice of meats and good selection of vegetables. Starters include home-made mushroom soup and a large, gravy filled Yorkshire pudding. Help yourself to desserts from a huge sweet table. Booking advisable for the restaurant. Bar meals available.

 

 

Greedy Pigs pub review BBC North Yorkshire

Pub The Lion Inn
Snouts 5/5
Reviewer Jean Hiles
Date 4/9/2004
Where is it? Blakey Ridge, North York Moors
What's the pub like, then? Very olde world pub restaurant/hotel, very welcoming, staff very friendly, food was exceptional, very good menu good selection, good specials board, seating was very comfortable, warm and cosy inside as located in a very bleak part of the yorkshire moors, a bit off the beaten track.
What did you drink? Dubonnet and Lemonade
What's the crowd like? Very nice
And the vibe? Spookyish, as reputed to have a ghost in one of the bedrooms
Anything else you'd like to say? We visited twice during our stay in farndale, hopefully to go again this year 2005
Value for money? Very reasonable

 

 

Let it snow Candis "The best family magazine you can buy" December 2002

Was it deep and crisp and even in the old days? Probably not but memory plays tricks and we keep dreaming of a white Christmas, says Amanda Blinkhorn

..."You'd think Carol Deans had had enough of the white stuff - she's lost count of the number of times she's been snowed in at work. But when work is at The Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge at the highest point of the North York Moors, a blizzard is more than an occupational hazard - it's almost guaranteed.

"When it starts to snow people come from miles around - hoping to get snowed in", explains landlord Barry Crossland. "Well it's everyone's dream isn't it, to get stranded inside a pub." What they don't know is that when the snow comes down, he gets out the paintbrushes and everyone is expected to join in with the decorating. "It's so busy the rest of the year it's the only chance we get", says Barry.

Even after 25 years at The Lion Inn Carol still gets a tingle when she sees the sky turn the pinky grey, that means they're in for a serious snowfall. "That first snow of the year is quite wonderful - you never get tired of it. Whatever time of day it is when I see those first few flakes I have to get my wellies on and get out in it."...



 

 

Family on top of the world by Mike Cresswell Darlington & Stockton Times 1985

Five years after uprooting themselves from city life, the Crossland family are still living with their heads happily in the clouds - running one of Britain's highest inns, 1350 feet above sea level, in one of the wildest parts of the North York Moors.

Often shrouded in mist and low cloud, The Lion Inn perched on top of Blakey Ridge overlooking Farndale and Rosedale, stands in eerie isolation, with its back to a neolithic burial mound - its only protection against the blizzards and gales that sweep across the surrounding wilderness of heather, often well into spring.

The inn's history dates back to the 11th century; many of its walls are nearly three feet thick; and, unlike another well-known moorland inn, it does not have the advantage of double glazing. Apart from a recently-built house across the road there is not another dwelling in sight.

This was the bleak inn that Barry and Diana Crossland fell in love with as soon as they passed through the porch - and for which Barry, then 37, was prepared to plunge £100,000 into debt.

People unable to envisage the inn's potential might well have thought that, with two young sons, the couple were out of their minds. One London bank as good as said so, when it vetoed an offer by a provincial branch to lend money. Three breweries also withdrew initial promises of financial assistance.

But there was no holding Barry back. He borrowed all he needed from the Mercantile Credit Company and after six months of doubt and frustration, was able to meet the asking price of £155,000.

The family packed their belongings and not without misgivings, moved out of the homely cul-de-sac of modern bungalows at Garforth, Leeds, which had provided a safe haven, as well as friends for their sons, Paul and David.

The Crosslands have adapted so well to a different dimension, however, that they now not only look upon themselves as being an integral part of country life, but have transmitted their contentment to customers, so that The Lion is now one of the busiest and most cheerful inns in the North.

A 100-seat restaurant is being built on to its Farndale side, together with ten letting bedrooms to add to the present four, and new living accommodation for the family. The original staff of five has swelled to 16 including part-timers, one of whom travels 40 miles a day to and from her work as a barmaid and waitress.

Thousands of visitors take the road to Blakey Ridge throughout the year, on one Sunday lunchtime last winter four coaches from Hull could be seen outside despite a fair depth of snow.

The Lion's warm earthy atmosphere is ideally suited to walkers, soldiers and police on excercises, tourists, or parties from the big towns, wanting to do for a night what Barry decided to do for a lifetime. Some customers even get the best out of the grand piano, standing incongruously by a stone fireplace, and badly in need of tuning.

The Lion has been known as an inn since the 13th century, when monks reaped sparse crops from a few surrounding acres, and brewed beer.

The "cockpit" burial mound was long ago robbed of its contents, but the area's more recent history is still very much in evidence in the shape of old mineral workings, railway tracks which once linked Rosedale and Farndale with Ingleby Incline and Battersby Junction, ruined cottages and trackside buildings, and the massive remains of kilns across the valley in Rosedale East.

Long Search

In the 18th century, farmers from Commondale, Fryup and Danby Dales, established a market at the inn, to sell surplus corn to horse-breeders and stable-owners from Ryedale, but the real boom came with the establishment of the ironstone industry in 1856, when thousands of miners flocked to the area.

A sheep sale is held once a year at the inn, which also still holds grazing and peat-cutting rights.

A native of Leeds, Barry gave up his job as a work-study engineer when redundancy threatened and borrowed money to set up a milk round at nearby Gildersome: "For two years I got up at 2:30 in the morning, delivering milk until 11 o'clock. After that I slept until 1pm, and then went out decorating until 9pm."

Eventually he sold this and bought a similar business at Garforth on the other side of the city. He and Diana used their savings to buy terraced properties near Leeds University, which they converted into much-needed bedsits. When house-building ended in the expanding suburb, Barry realised that he was getting bored.

It was while having a day out with an architect friend that the idea of owning a country pub came to him, and the search began. "We saw some lovely ones, but there was always something that put us off. They were not making as much as my milk round. Then we saw this one advertised. It was beyond what I could afford, I had about £50,000, but we decided to look at it.

"It was March. We travelled along this lonely moorland road, and there was no-one to tell us the way. Eventually we came over the brow of the hill, saw the pub and thought "Good Lord look at the state of it!"

"At first we weren't even going to go in, but when we walked through the door we fell in love with the place. Even empty, the pub has tremendous atmosphere. Two weeks later we took the kids up for lunch, and found ourselves falling more and more in love with it, but we were worried about taking them from friends they had grown up with, into the middle of nowhere. We sat down and talked it over, and were reassured by a lady who worked here, who said her sister in Farndale had two children of the same age, and that it was a lovely area in which to bring children up.

"She explained what life was like round here and convinced us we were doing the right thing."

The following August Bank Holiday, Barry finally found himself behind the bar, never having pulled a pint of beer in his life. "Nothing seemed to work, and after the Monday I never saw the previous owner, who had promised to help me until I got used to the place. Luckily we had fabulous staff, and they taught us everything. It took me a day and a half to learn how to run the bar. It's surprising how quickly you pick things up when you get thrown in at the deep end."

Paul and David, now 16 and 14, started school a week later, Paul at Ryedale, David at Kirkbymoorside: "It was heart-breaking, leaving David in a strange school in a strange town. He was really in tears, but soon he started playing cricket, and because he was good at it, was quickly accepted.

David started playing football for Pickering Town under 11s and became captain. Since then he has never looked back. He enjoys all sports including basketball and squash. Paul got on well at school as well. He became interested in motorbikes, and started practising on the moors at night. Now he enters trials every week, and has learned to strip down and rebuild his machine. Tim Peace, one of England's top trials riders, took him on to the moors and a lot of other customers showed an interest in what he was doing.

Although the boys are taken by their father to sporting events, discos, and as many local activities as possible, they are still active around the inn, and David has even constructed a makeshift golf course, what must be one of the highest in the country.

"Sometimes we get snowed in" Barry said, "and they have to miss school, and at other times we have to bring them home early if the snow is threatening, but they lead very full lives and have made a lot of friends. They would not go back to the city now. All the staff have taken an interest in them. They used to go fishing after school in Farndale Beck, and helped Ken and Gwyn Wilson on their farm, so they quickly got into the country way of life."

As he puzzled over a soft drinks order that appeared to have been delivered three times, Barry continued: "Everybody accepted us, and we don't feel any sense of solitude because we are surrounded by friends. Local publicans helped us when we ran out of anything. People are so friendly, it's like a dream. Business was good but is much better now. We spend long hours in the pub, and we go out of our way to give customers what they want. It's amazing how many parties come 25 miles from Teesside for their special occasions."

One of their secrets is the family relationship he and Diana have built up with their staff, some of whom live in: "Often when the pub closes at night we get together for a sing-song, and at Christmas we sing carols round the tree." The head chef, Ian Drake, a folk singer and guitarist, accompanies them.

"It's great in winter when we sit around the fire, and listen to the wind howling. Our customers are friendly people, and we never have any trouble. There is a lot to do in the pub, but when they have gone we have peace and quiet, so we have the best of both worlds.

"We hope to be here for a long time" Barry added, and there is no doubt in the minds of all who meet them that the contented Crosslands are literally on top of the world.


 

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The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, YO62 7LQ Tel: 01751 417320 Fax: 01751 417717 Email