THERE have been some characters here over the years, I can tell you. And many of them were none too friendly. Robbers and rustlers, thugs and thieves; they’ve all been here, staring out from this wooden frame or waiting anxiously as its occupants seal their fate.
Once upon a time, you see, this little structure served a very sombre function. From 1878 to 1964, it was the witness box in Pickering Police Station, housing a nefarious catalogue of suspects and ne’er-do-wells from across the Moors.
Today though, it serves a more homely purpose as a quirky partition in the front room of The Buck Inn at Wrelton, catering for those who spend life in front of bars rather than behind them and creating a cosy little corner just beside the fireplace.
The Buck, just off the A170 between Pickering and Kirkbymoorside, is a pub I’ve seen countless times but only now visited for the first time.
Usually when up this way, I head to the New Inn at Cropton for the home-brewed beer or The Blacksmith’s at Lastingham for its bounteous meals.
A couple of weeks ago though, I stopped instead at the foot of the road leading to both and decided to try The Buck.
It is, in many ways, a typical village pub. There are no pretensions at all; just a hearty welcome and a friendly buzz.
There are a few tables for diners and the usual array of pub paraphernalia: black and white photographs showing scenes of long ago, colourful pump clips showing beers from not so long ago, old pots and bottles scattered randomly and posters for village events.
Tongue-in-cheek T-shirts playing on the pub name are also available for anyone after a quirky souvenir. The “I’m Buck Inn miserable” garments went on sale two years ago, when the pub launched its unusual “unhappy hour” each Friday evening, locals competing to share their tales of woe from the week that was.
I visited on a Thursday so missed the gnarly narratives and instead found nothing but goodwill. Landlord Andy Smith was on the bar with a few locals and staff, chatting about football, footfall and food in no particular order.
On the bar were Silverheart from Yorkshire Heart brewery in Nun Monkton, Winter’s Hop from Clark’s Brewery in Wakefield and Black Sheep Best from Masham, along with a few mass-market lagers.
Local loyalties won for me and I went for Silverheart, a gentle pale ale with a crisp but restrained hoppiness, an excellent beer from an often-underrated York brewery.
It would have been enjoyable on its own but I had it with my steak and ale pie, a fulsome meaty meal that came with thick proper-pub chips and chunky veg on the side.
It was one of many tempting options on the menu and would have been perfect, were it not for the fact that the ‘pie’ was one of those irritating non-pies, whose casing consists merely of a ceramic dish and a pastry lid rather than an all-encompassing pastry shell.
Whoever allowed such dishes to tarnish the pie reputation belongs with those rustlers and robbers in the dock if you ask me, but try to show mercy if you can.
Pastry offences aside this is an excellent little pub in a wonderful part of Yorkshire, and one Buck that you certainly shouldn’t pass.
•The Phoenix in George Street, York, is holding its “spring festiv-ale” this weekend, with 12 beers.
• Bishopthorpe Sports and Social Club is holding its third annual St Patrick’s Beer Festival next Saturday and Sunday.
There will be two ciders and 12 real ales, including choices from Whale Ale Co, Twickenham Brewery, Dancing Duck, Penpont, Burton Bridge, Castle Rock, Clarks, Great Newsome, Black Sheep and Treboom. The festival runs from noon both days, with live sport on TV on the Saturday and music on the Sunday. Entry is free.