Sunday, 6 December 2015

Black Horse, Caythorpe, Nottinghamshire

Anyone who's ever wasted valuable time trying to find an open pub in a rural area, with or without the aid of an up-to-date guide, will know how increasingly rare it is to find a pub of any kind in the 'sticks' these days. This is particularly true of smaller villages and hamlets with their modest local populations and minimal passing trade. Chances are that when you do find one though it will be a pretty decent pub, albeit one with more of an emphasis on food than drink these days.

In the hour or two I spent at the Black Horse in Caythorpe, passing trade seemed to be almost non-existent. The pub presumably derives some benefit from its location close to the River Trent and the nearby fishing and boating lakes, but occasional visits from walkers, boaters, and fishermen alone can't keep a pub like the Black Horse open. For that it needs the enthusiastic support of its locals, and perhaps something a bit special to attract pub enthusiasts like myself. It also helps if you can offer a beer range which is slightly different, ideally better than the one that so many tied pubs are saddled with.

Being a freehouse and offering beers from the tiny Caythorpe Brewery, located in an outbuilding at the rear of the pub, certainly helps in this regard, although the bar room staple of Draught Bass is still popular with regulars, as it is with me. The beer is very good of course, and for some, this alone might make the detour from the main road worthwhile. For me though, it's the beautifully unspoilt interior that drew me to the pub, which along with the warm welcome from the licensees is presumably a large part of the attraction for the locals too. It has also been recognised by CAMRA, featuring on their list of unspoilt heritage interiors.

The pub has been extended in more recent years, and a lobby which links the two original rooms covers much of the red brick frontage. The slightly larger main bar is to the right of the entrance (above), featuring old fixed bench seating and a bar counter in the corner with the all-important handpumps, at least one of which dispenses a beer from the in-house brewery, best bitter Dover Beck when I visited.

It's the smaller snug to the left of the entrance that most appeals to me. The word 'cosy' is of course terribly overused in descriptions of pubs, I'm as guilty of that as anyone, but this really is a place to settle in for the night with friends and a few pints. A wood burner cosies things up even further in the winter, the diminutive size of the place conducive to the age-old tradition of a chinwag over a pint or two. This room also acts as the games room of the pub, home to a Darts Board as well as all the equipment needed for the rattle of Dominoes or the shuffle of Cards. There's even a Shove Ha'penny available, though little used these days.

The Black Horse keeps fairly traditional opening hours, which means a lunchtime and evening session, not all day, and the pub is closed Mondays. It's probably best phone and check if you choose to divert this way yourself. It's also a traditional adults-only venue, so don't bring the kids!

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