Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Three Horseshoes, Warham, Norfolk

Living, as I do, in land-locked Northamptonshire, the rare heat of a hot Summer weekend often sparks a yearning for the seaside. I think it's a common affliction, this desire for a Summer sea view, but sadly in my experience the reality of an English seaside resort rarely lives up to the rose-tinted promise. Too busy, too hot, too much eye-popping kitsch and unhealthy fried food. This was my recent experience of Wells-next-the-Sea, a pleasant coastal resort in many ways but all of the above and more on one of the hottest weekends of the year. Pretty soon my yearning for the sea turned to the more pressing need of a cool, calm, quiet retreat, and the Three Horseshoes in the lovely village of Warham provided it in (buckets &) spades.

Unspoilt heritage pubs like the Three Horseshoes, particularly when located in such attractive and popular tourist areas as the Norfolk Coast, can all too often end up being little more than busy tourist traps on fine Summer weekends. Not so much the wrong crowd (I'm a tourist here myself after all), as just a little too many of them all at once. The Horseshoes was certainly busy enough when I visited, yet happily it still retained an air of calm efficiency, and a proper 'locals' feel befitting such a fine example of an English village pub. In fact it was a real pleasure to spend time there, particularly after the hectic 'pleasures' of the seaside.

The tidy gas-lit bar is the heart of the Three Horseshoes (as well as the equally tidy garden in the Summer months). Local beer and cider are stillaged in the deep servery which was originally a snug adjoining the bar area. The pub has expanded a fair bit since then, but everything is thoroughly in keeping with the original unspoilt bar area. You can find more details of this pub on CAMRA's Heritage Pubs website.

It's in the bar area that you'll find the pubs one and only traditional game, and unusually it's neither a Darts Board nor a Pool Table. What the pub does have is something local and really quite rare in the form of a Twister, otherwise known as a Twizzler or Norfolk Wheel. These unusual 'wheels of fortune' are found almost exclusively in the Anglian region, and you'll usually find them located on the ceiling in the handful of pubs where they still survive. It's believed this is to help reduce any chance of players cheating during a game. By mounting the wheel on the ceiling, where it's only playable at full stretch and in clear view of every player, it would be very difficult to 'rig' the spin in any way. This would have been an important feature in the days when wagers on the game may have been that much higher than today.

The wheel at the Three Horseshoes is one of the simpler examples of those which survive, and possibly one of the oldest. Some have more numbers and may also be embellished with various symbols used for forfeits or variations on the basic game of chance. This one is simply numbered 1-12, and therefore most closely resembles a simple Roulette style of game. I understand you're welcome to a 'twizzle' with your pint, but like all games of chance in the pub, low stakes only would be the accepted rule.

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