Published on May 2, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Quoits an experience
It’s head to head time. The pub quoits season starts this month and Northumberland has a very competitive league, writes Ian Young
As the days get warmer and the nights get even lighter many of us start to explore the countryside looking for pubs with good food, great ale and sunny beer gardens. And sports fans who find it frustrating not to be able to watch football after May might be surprised to discover there’s another activity they can get excited about.
The question is often asked, “What did the Romans ever do for us?” Actually, among many other things, they brought quoits to Britain, a game still played along the Roman Wall, the Tyne Valley and beyond. Today, the Allen Valley Quoits League, which reaches from Northumberland to Cumbria, is still going strong 1,630 years after the Romans abandoned their imperial rule, consisting three divisions playing on Wednesday evenings – out in those pub beer gardens that serve some of the best food and ales in the area.
Traditional quoits is played with metal discs, normally made of steel and thrown across a set distance at a metal spike called a pin (elsewhere also hob or mott). The pin is centrally and vertically positioned in a square of moist https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay” clay measuring three feet across.
The northern version of the game adheres to the 15 rules published in The Field magazine in 1881, remaining largely unchanged since then and played under the auspices of The National Quoits Association, formed in 1986. In this game, the pins are 11 yards apart, with their tops protruding three to four inches above the clay. Quoits measure 5½ inches in diameter and weigh around 5½ pounds.
This version of the game is played in the West Northumberland/Cumbria area from Garrigill to Twice Brewed. Several other leagues also thrive, including Northumberland (East), Zetland, Cleveland, and Swaledale,
If you are one of those eager to take a photo of the famous Sycamore Gap tree on Hadrian’s Wall, you just need to venture another few hundred yards to be at the Twice Brewed Inn where one of its quoits teams is likely to be at home on any given Wednesday – and enjoy some great ale and food. The quoits pitch at the Anchor at Haydon Bridge sits perilously close to the banks of the Tyne but spectators can sit comfortably above the river on a balmy summer’s evening watching the contest while taking an occasional glance across the weir at a wading heron patiently searching for its fish supper.
The Boatside at Warden also supports three teams and the quoits pitches, beer and food there are all excellent. Another pub in the league is the Rose and Crown at Slayley which is owned and run by the local community. Village residents and supporters staff the bar on a voluntary basis and there is always home-cooked food, local real ales and a warm welcome waiting for everyone
The nearest pub to Newcastle with a quoits team is The Errington Arms at Stagshaw Bank on the B6318 Military Road. The pub has a well-deserved reputation for food and there are always local real ale available, more than often Hadrian Border Tyneside Blonde.
Last year’s finals day was held at the Red Lion at Newbrough. Andy and Sue Smith serve home-cooked food using locally-sourced ingredients. So, whether you’re looking for a relaxing summer evening in a beer garden or feel the need of a sporting fix – as well as a pint of locally-brewed beer – head out on a Wednesday evening and be part of a classic British scene which hasn’t changed for generations. Or at least 1,630 years.