Aug 21 2011

Nice things seen on the way to and the way back from the Stones We Did Not See

On the way to Kirkby Stephen and The Stones We Did Not See, there is a sign designating a steaming cup of coffee and pointing towards a train station. We go there because I need a wee. It is an excellent train station, one for pleasure not the daily commute, abounding with hanging baskets and general pleasantness. We enter the Midland Room café on the platform-it is  vegetarian and also aimed at trainspotters, an ambitious attempt at two niche markets and at least there is no chance of seeing Jeremy Clarkson here.  Workers ties from a defunct Kent Line can be purchased for six pounds. It sells many train books but also proper books -fiction books aimed at people who are not excited at the thought of looking like a man who worked on the Kent railway at some point in the 1980s but want to read about a bloody fictional murder more than many self published, adjective free  and strangely punctuated histories of the Settle to Carlisle route.

The café is excellent. The food is all under four pounds, simple and fresh. I have a feta cheese salad with sun-dried tomato cous cous and my boyfriend a baton of ciabatta with Wensleydale cheese and tomato pesto. The baby throws things around with merry abandon and rather than tutting darkly from a distance, the nice woman working there offers to wash his utterly horrific plastic bib. The cakes are the epitome of gorgeous homemade country cakedom and we leave awash with that flushed wholesome grin that finding such a place does to you and change from a tenner.

Even though you know the joy from finding a well-priced tearoom on a train platform should really be saved until retirement years.

On the way back from The Stones We Did Not See, we stop at Ravenstonedale.  Because I like the name of it in a vaguely gothic way and I need a wee. Ravenstonedale does not disappoint. It is the epitome of a place called Ravenstonedale. How could it not be ‘positively darling’? The grey stoned village shop selling local ice cream is attached to the village pub and has a sign stating that if no one is in then to go to the pub. It is like Enid Blyton wrote non fiction. Until you see the prices in the quintessential English pub awash with brass, fake flowers, old books and bought in snuggliness.

A man is berating a fellow colleague for arranging the chairs in the wrong way, all meals seem to be £12.95, a woman booms in banging on loudly about her recent stay in Malmaison (the sort of hotel porn you look up and weep over) but it has Thatchers cider, a rarity in the North and according to the sign in the window, it is commended by the Countryside Alliance.

The Countryside Alliance.

My morals and my love of cider fight a brief fight but then I also remember I have no money (or it appears morals) so bid a sad retreat leaving the sad eyed stuffed deer on the wall, the dog eared books about train stations and the genial pursuers of the ambitious and glamorous menu we don’t even bother with the pretence of looking at it once we hear the word’ mango’ when referring to the main course. We know our place. We pick up the remnants of the baby eaten beer mat and leave.