What a splendid place, this England. I find myself on an eagerly awaited trip to The Old Bridge Inn in Rippendon, Yorkshire for the 18th Pork Pie Appreciation Society and it's annual competition.
I say old, because the first mention of this hostelry was back in 1307, and that's old, I think you would agree. I left the train at Sowerby Bridge station and caught the bus. The driver said he was going the long way round, about 20 minutes, and I said "carry on". We went up hills and down hills, through narrow winding lanes and drystone walls past tiny farm house and villages, Triangle,Millbanks, Soyland, Cottonstones, - what a glorious sight with hardy hill sheep, some pheasants, a stud farm, village pubs and hedgehogs trying to avoid being road kill.
Rippendon is on the River Ryburn and the pub is next to a very old hump back bridge. Across the bridge is the tall majestic St. Bartholemew's church, the fourth on the same site, with a tall steeple and in the background Rippendon Bank, a huge hill that the bus labours up. I wander through the neat churchyard with its ancient graves from centuries past and on the river bank we have lots of sweet smelling wild flowers, some daffodils and holly bushes.
The ancient hump back bridge was built on this pack horse road from Chester to York,and there is a Roman settlement nearby. Before it was built the horses and carts had to ford the swift river. In the inn is a list of former tolls: 2 shillings for a carriage, charriot, hearse, chaise, landau with six horses; 1s.6p for 4 horses;1s. for 2 horses. For every score of oxen or cattle, 8p, a score of sheep, swine etc 4p.
The inn has three low ceilings with beams and panelling, wattle and daub, and I am one of the first to arrive so I get to chat with the landlord and wife, Tim & Lindsay and partake of a Metcalfe's pork pie and peas with a hand pumped Stowford pressed draught cider from Much Marcle in Herefordshire. Metcalfe's won the 17th annual event a year ago. It's a 'free house' meaning that they sell drinks from many sources. Timothy Taylor's of Keighley is the preferred one. Their brewery dates back to 1858 and we have Best Bitter, Golden Best and Landlord on draught. Also guest beers that change often from Little Valley, Bridgshire, Black Sheep, Phoenix, Erdinger weissbier, Lindeboom Dutch pilsener, plus wine and spirits.
The Old Bridge Inn features in The Good Pub Guide and is endorsed by CAMRA-the Campaign for Real Ale. They serve a splendid all-you-can eat buffet each lunchtime and a large dinner menu. The Pork Pie Appreciation Society started when local young men went to the inn on Saturday evenings when meals are not served. They asked to bring pork pies, and each week a 'fetcher', one of the members, took it in turns to bring pork pies. These were eaten and talked about and then a discussion on local and world affairs took place, over a pint. www.goodpubguide.co.uk and www.camra.org.uk
All the entrants had to pay £15 and bring 4 pies for to be judged and 20 or more to be sold for charity. We had the FRIENDLY brass band from the Friendly district of Sowerby Bridge, who have been playing since 1868, and John Lord of J.Lord & Sons of Bradford, and his wife giving a demonstration of a stand pie, which he made from best shoulder of pork and cooked. Spectators paid to guess the weight and win one. We also bought raffle tickets for many prizes(I was unlucky) and two young guys drove their splendid old open Bentley here for us all to admire and photograph.
Lots of friendly people drinking lots of beers and eating lots of pies. There were a group of guys from Stockport and Scott and Jim from Detroit. I chatted with Andrew Lane who writes about traditional British Food and Drink and lives on a barge on a nearby canal, www.crow-pie.co.uk and talked to the Society president and his 7 year old grandson Joe Hallos who the local press wanted to photograph with a pie.
At the end of the day the winning pie maker was announced and the large cup and £100 first prize. Simon Haigh of Hinchcliffe's Farm Shop, Netherton came first, followed by Wilson's of Crossgates and Bentley's of Pudsey. for ALL you need to know about pork pies, the society, the Old Bridge Inn and history, go to www.porkpieclub.com. See you all next year?