It’s reckoned that if you close the village pub you close the villa..." /> Big fish in a small pond – Cheers North East


Published on September 3rd, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour


Big fish in a small pond

It’s reckoned that if you close the village pub you close the village. It’s one good reason that Horncliffe in North Northumberland just simply has to cling onto the Fisherman’s Arms. Close it and you’re playing with ire. Horncliffe is England’s most northern village, so it stands to reason that the Fisher’s Arms is its most northern pub.

“You can cross the Chain Bridge across the River Tweed from here and have a day in Scotland,” says landlord Dave Goodwin, who has run pubs in North Staffordshire, North Shropshire and Berwick upon Tweed. “We’ll be on the front line – again – if and when Scotland becomes independent.”

The Fisher’s Arms – some five miles west of Berwick – is a lovely roadside pub, the very sort that rural communities should have by right. Inside it’s one big room but there’s a definite invisible border between bar area and lounge/dining room that suits everybody.

The pub provides three cask ales at one time which is quite remarkable given the catchment area – Cheviot Brewery Upland Ale, First & Last Equinox and Firebrick Heatwave.

“If I took Equinox off I’d get lynched,” says Dave. “Even Carling drinkers have switched to it and that’s saying something.

“You can do this if you look after your beer – and clean the lines at the end of every cask. It’s amazing what you can do with vision and a little bit of understanding. If you provide a village with what it needs you can be successful.

“I’ve seen figures where it says losing a pub can knock £10,000 off the value of a property. When people want to buy a house, having a pub they can walk to is their third most important consideration.

“We came into The Fisher’s Arms in July 2018 and opened in the September – it took us three days to clear all the cobwebs alone. The roof needs attention and hopefully we’ll get that sorted.

“But a place like this couldn’t survive without a kitchen; food is central to what we do as there’s not enough wet-led trade to make a living. My wife Kay helps out on the bar and with the running of the pub and we’ve got an amazing chef in Amanda Herbert who trained at The Savoy as a pastry chef. The desserts here are amazing.” (Today’s special cheesecake is lemon and ginger. Amazing.) The pub has organised its first beer festival in the neighbouring community hall – a great success – which will be repeated next year (July 11-12) and helps sponsor the annual Salmon Festival, a ritualistic parade that has medieval overtones. Music is a regular feature in the pub with buskers, traditional folk, acoustics, tenor sax and even a zither player.

Dave says: “We’re also clearing a bit of land for an allotment so we can grow our own stuff for the kitchen.

“We’re starting to get noticed for our food and have got people coming from Berwick, Cornhill and Duns which was unheard of before, so we’re slowly getting there.”

The pub’s sign shows fishermen grappling with a salmon in the nearby River Tweed with the 1820-vintage Union Chain Bridge in the background. It is the oldest suspension bridge still carrying road traffic and is a Category A listed building Scotland and a Grade I listed building in England.

Grappling with big fish appears to be in Horncliffe’s nature. AG

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Alastair Gilmour

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