Black Horse Castle Rising

Observant and committed readers will have clocked a reference in the previous blog to our ‘date night’ in the Black Horse pub, which we’d discovered was amenable to the occasional Knumptywagen cluttering their car-park overnight in exchange for consumption of their victuals.

Which we did, and found both to be very good indeed.

But just before that, we enjoyed a wander around this enchanting hamlet, exploring the twelfth- century castle with its vertiginously sloped, grassy, V-shaped moat. An information board explained how the aging residents – ‘Sisters’ – of the nearby towering-chimneyed Trinity Hospital almshouses – would still attend church services dressed in period costume – scarlet capes and Welsh-style black hats – to honour the patronage of the Howard family, whose preponderance of headstones in the churchyard clearly evidenced their status as Lords of the Manor.

Meanwhile, back at the Black Horse, our evening was nothing short of bloody delightful, made more so, admittedly, by this outing being only our second ‘dining out’ experience since we were all technically released from lockdown constraints.

As such, we also dressed-up (as much as our limited in-van wardrobe allowed); splashed on a dash of smelly stuff and presented ourselves at the bar of this thriving country pub, sans masks and therefore feeling a little like absconding schoolchildren.

Interestingly, not one person in this thrumming, post-Covid, Wednesday-night bar-restaurant was wearing a mask – a fact remarked upon by our welcoming, chatty and jovial barman as we actually leant on the bar to peruse the range of beers on hand-pump.

‘We’ve really missed this’ we each admitted, as two customers actually arrived wearing masks – looking suddenly out-of-place and slightly self-conscious because of it. What strange times we’re living through.

Cheery waitresses, chirpy bar-staff and smiley customers created an enjoyable social atmosphere, with difficult menu decisions until we plumped for a halibut-steak special, served on spring onion mash with tenderstem broccoli and shrimps in black butter. Unbelieving that such a thing could actually exist, your emaciated author then chose the signature burger which weighed in at a hefty whole ten ounces and took thirty minutes to cook to a perfect pink, if that’s OK with you, sir? To while away that intervening half-hour, what else could we do but drink chilled Pinot and enjoy three starters from an imaginative tapas menu which included seared king scallop; feta, mint & beetroot salad and beer-battered king prawn with curry mayo.

Local characters wandered through: one aging rock-star lookalike, on his own in an incongruous white linen jacket and another, a very gentlemanly George (the spitting image of Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse), stopped by our table to recommended the Eton Mess dessert – clearly not realising how stuffed our hidden little tummies had become.  

The evening ended with an uplifting post-Covid chat with our NHS-Community-Nurse-training waitress (anchored throughout her busy shift by an impossibly heavy-looking pair of big black Doc Martin boots) and a joyously-replete stagger across a deeply-gravelled car-park to the comfort of the Knumptywagen.

In the small, enclosed field next door, a pair of obese and hairy pigs snored in the darkness; a small herd of oversize sheep bleated their good-nights and we were lulled into peaceful sleep by the soft, gentle tolling of the Church tower clock.

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