I make it to Morpeth.

Hello again and welcome to the final post in my Ambling in Alnwick series (albeit I was leaving soon) which I hope you have enjoyed half as much as I enjoyed the town itself. I know I perhaps enthuse too much about places I visit but Alnwick really did appeal to me on so many levels and I thoroughly recommend it. Should you wish to visit, and I do recommend you do, here is a link.

I left my excellent hostel and Alnwick itself at about 1000 in the morning with more than a twinge of regret but with hopes for my next destination which I did rather tease you with in the previous post so where was it? I shall put you out of your misery now (if indeed you were ever that interested) and tell you it was Morpeth, although I suspect the featured image and title may have been somewhat of a giveaway.

All good things come to an end however and it was time to move as I really had got my travel mojo back and I wanted to visit other places. I had more or less worked out what my capabilities were (although they vary from day to day) and how to forward plan a bit which is normally travelling anathema for me but “needs must when the Devil drives” as one of those rather strange old British expressions goes.

For my non-British readers I shall tell you that it is still in the County of Northumberland in the Northeast of England and my reasons for going were as strange as my decision less than 12 hours previously to go there had been sudden. There was a sensible reason in that friends of mine who know the area well had told me it was a pleasant place to visit and there were two far less sensible reasons which seems to be a large proportion of my mode of travel, I have travelled with far less logic before and it generally works out OK.

Firstly, I just liked the name, the origin of which is unclear but could mean either myriad, gateway or fodder and as if that wasn’t crazy enough the second reason the second is even more lunatic. There is a folk tune associated with a local dance called the Morpeth Rant which I first learned from the playing of the late Vin Garbutt, a very sad loss.

I met Vin about 30 years ago when we were both playing at the now defunct All Folk around the Wrekin Festival in Shropshire and we shared a lift with one of the organisers from the train station which was a bit of a trek out of town. Apart from being a superb musician and songwriter he was one of the funniest men I ever met on and off-stage and always had the audience in stitches with his Northeastern wit. You can hear his version of the Morpeth Rant here.

So, for reasons both rational and totally irrational I took off for Morpeth and with my experiences of getting to Alnwick I had carefully checked public transport timetables and managed to get one of the occasional buses to Alnmouth station although it did involve a fairly early start but I wasn’t going to pay an exorbitant £14 for a four mile ride even if I could have found a cab which are as rare as hobby horse dung in these parts.

The first part of the journey involved me doing something I do not normally like doing when I am on one of my rambles and that is retracing myself. I fully realise that this is completely a psychological thing but I always like to be moving forward when I am on the road and this was only a very short regression. The connection in Newcastle was short, so short in fact that I didn’t even have time for a very quick pint in the excellent Centurion Bar which I have mentioned previously in this series which is a shame.

Another short and uneventful train ride deposited me in Morpeth in good order shortly after 1000 which was way too early to check into my hotel but that was fine, I knew what I wanted to do. My appetite, which is a moveable feast to say the least and pun absolutely intended, was in reasonable order by now and I fancied a small bite of breakfast as it wasn’t anywhere like it was in my younger days when I would have eaten a breakfast that would have fed two men but things change. Not only did I know where to get exactly what I needed but also that I could get a pint (my more normal “breakfast” these days) and so I set off from the station.

Morpeth station is not exactly in the centre of the town and I knew it was a bit of a trek by my current standards i.e. about half a mile or a little more but that really is what I am reduced to these days. Adapting to my new status I walked extremely slowly and took frequent rest stops which actually got me to my destination without having to resort to the inhaler which pleased me. Small victories. In due course I made it to my destination which was a pub bearing the rather unusual name of The Electrical Wizard, as you can see and I suppose I should really explain that. It all makes sense, believe me!

The Electrical Wizard is part of the JD Wetherspoon chain which I have spoken of many times before on my various blogs but here here is a quick rundown if you are new to my ramblings. JD Wetherspoon, or “Spoons” as they tend to be colloquially known are a very large chain in the UK with a portfolio of bars and hotels numbering almost 1,000 now. The Wetherspoon model is one of working on the economies of scale and as such they rarely buy over previous pubs unless they are particularly large but rather they buy old commercial premises like banks, department stores, cinemas, theatres and I have even drank in one that was formerly a Post Office sorting depot.

Wetherspoons divide opinion greatly in the UK. They are undoubtedly inexpensive for both food and drink and some people complain that they are driving proper local pubs, which I love, out of business but there are so many other factors in play there that I do not think they can be held solely responsible for the appalling decline in the “local”. Some people also run the argument that because of the extremely competitive pricing they only attract drunks and riff-raff but I suspect those are people who have the money to drink in posh bars. I don’t and I like “Spoons”, particularly their breakfasts and speaking of which, let’s get back to The Electrical Wizard. Honestly, the name explanation is coming shortly!

I ordered the small American breakfast although I tend to think of it as a Canadian breakfast as it features maple syrup and we all know what the maple is to the that nation. I had heard of the concept of pancakes and syrup for breakfast before and always found it a bit odd but when I started visiting Canada a few years ago, I fell quite in love with the concept. I certainly love pancakes for breakfast but with my Ulster cooking head on they just get thrown in the pans (yes, plural even if cooking for one) along with everything else. The image shows you what it consists of although I should mention there is a rasher of bacon cunningly concealed between the pancakes! I have worked out that I can handle this on a good eating day and this felt like one.

Back now to the name. While people castigate “Spoons”, unfairly in my opinion, I have to say that they always refurbish their premises to a very high standard and make a point of doing so to reflect the history of the building / local area / notable local resident and even employ historians for the purpose. They then employ other people to source artefacts based on the research which leads us, eventually I hear you say, to the Wizard of the name.

This particular “Spoons”is located in what was once the Coliseum cinema which operated from 1926 until the cusp of the 21st century, finally closing in 1999. In the 1930’s one of the favourite acts here, who used to sell the place out regularly, was a very dapper Scotsman called Dr Walford Brodie whose act was diverse to say the least. He did a bit of ventriloquism, some hypnotistism and standard magical illusions but his big draw was the use of electricity where, amongst other things, he would be strapped into an electric chair and pass 30,000 volts through his body thereby lighting two lightbulbs he was holding in his hands.

At one point he was one of the highest paid entertainers in the world and counted amongst his friends Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini who actually gifted him a genuine electric chair which had performed the first execution at the notorious Sing Sing prison in America. There we go, I told you we’d get to the name in the end following yet another of my notorious detours.

I would just make a couple of points here. Firstly, if you are travelling on a budget (or even if you are not) I recommend Wetherspoons, the food is nothing fancy but I have never had a bad meal in one and if you do visit one, have a look round the walls as you can find out so much about the area where you are. I was enjoying myself so much in there, just relaxing and feeling good about things. I had made it unscathed to Morpeth so that was one good thing and I was still on the road on my supposed four day trip which is par for the course with me. I had no compelling reason to go home which, without issuing any major spoilers, turned out to be the case.

The check-in time arrived, and indeed passed because I had become so comfortable in the pub but I thought I had better get a move on as it was another bit of a walk to the hotel. Again slow and steady was the order of the day and eventually I arrived at the Morpeth Lodge, at least that is what the sign said but various websites list it as the Premier Lodge and Morpeth Inn. It is all the same place and to save you any confusion it is located at 6, Staithes Lane.

I was checked in quickly and efficiently and dragged my suitcase upstairs (there is no lift and I do not know if they have mobility access rooms so check if this is an issue) and found my room. The room was fairly basic but clean and tidy and at the money it had everything I needed, hopefully the images below give an idea. After the exertions of getting here I had to have a bit of a lie down and a quick wash and brush-up before heading out for a look round unencumbered by baggage.

At this point I regrettably became very lax in my blog research in that I took no images and therefore have no point of reference to tell you about the couple of pubs I visited but I got chatting to one of the locals in one of them and he offered up an excellent piece of information. There really is no substitute for local knowledge and this is one of the many reasons I like to travel solo. If you are with others you tend to stick to your own company and talk amongst yourself without interacting with the local people whereas if you are buy yourself you are much more likely to chat to people although there are times when I just like to sit quietly with a good book or newspaper, quite content with my own company. Generally though I prefer to just meet people even in countries where language is a problem. I could tell you stories about that!

The little pearl of wisdom imparted by my new-found friend was that I should check out the Comrades Club which was nearby as it was a decent place and the drink was cheaper than the pubs, as it always is in registered clubs due to the vagaries of the arcane British alcohol taxation system. I asked was it open to non-members and was told that it was, something that would have astounded me before this trip when I had visited an excellent CIU club in Tynemouth as documented here a few posts ago.

I decided to try it and, just to be sure, I asked the friendly barmaid if I was OK for a drink as I was not a member and was told it certainly was. I had a look round at what was a large area, beautifully decorated and very tidy with numerous large screen TVs and a snooker table that was absolutely immaculate. I used to be quite good at pool but I was always rubbish at snooker and worse at billiards but I still felt like picking up a cue and knocking a few balls around.

Obviously in what was effectively a working man’s club, although there were plenty of women about, the TV’s were all tuned into sport and I remember watching something, possibly football (soccer) although the English season was over, and thoroughly enjoying myself.

I spent a few very pleasant hours in there before it was time to go home and it is an indication of my increasingly healthy appetite (albeit still much less than it should have been) that I even grabbed a pizza on the way. It was well-loaded and extremely tasty although my appetite was not sufficiently recovered to eat it all but that is fine as I like cold pizza the next day!

It was gone midnight when I got to bed which was later than I had been doing on this trip although still way earlier than I do at home which was an indication that my sleep disorder, along with my eating problems, were slowly sorting themselves out slightly. This little ramble really was doing me so much good on so many levels and, apart from my ongoing health issues which are with me for life, I was feeling really good. It was indeed a very content Fergy that fell asleep in a comfy bed that night.

I had decided to have a wander round the town on the morrow so if you want to join me for that then please stay tuned.

Author: Fergy.

Hello there. I am a child of the 50's, now retired and had been enjoying travelling pre-virus. Now I am effectively under house arrest. Apart from travelling, I love playing music (guitar, vocals and a bit of percussion) as the profile pic suggests and watching sport, my playing days are long over. I read voraciously, both fiction and nonfiction I'll read just about anything although I do have a particular interest in military history of all periods. I live alone in fairly central London where I have been for over 30 years since leaving Northern Ireland which was the place of my birth. I adore cooking and I can and do read recipe books and watch food programmes on TV / online all day given half a chance.

12 thoughts on “I make it to Morpeth.”

  1. Your good mood shines through in this post! As does you appetite, I started to crave for pancakes….:)

    I have always thought that pool and billiard are a same thing…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually have very little appetite usually due to some medical issues but I did find that on this tour I did manage to eat something which really pleased me. It must have been that good North Sea air.

      Pool and billiards are terms that are used interchangeably in many countries but technically pool is a game played on a smaller table, normally with larger pockets and less nine balls while billiards is a game played on a full sized snooker table (which confusingly was originally a billiards table (snooker was “invented” by the British in India in the days of the Empire) and only uses three balls.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never been in the Electrical Wizard on my rare visits to Morpeth but I don’t really have a problem with Weatherspoons. In my experience, in some places they’re the best or a good option, in other places I would choose somewhere different. What they do consistently well is provide decent food at competitive prices – nothing fancy but you always know what you’ll get and can rely on it being of a good standard across the chain. The other thing they often do well is convert and repurpose old buildings, as this seems to be, and respect local history. The ‘Spoons in Jackson Street in Gateshead, where we often meet some of Chris’s family for lunch, has some wonderful old photos on the walls, for instance. And I’ve spent many a happy hour in the Hamilton Hall at Liverpool Street, after football matches, where they have an excellent selection of beers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree entirely, I don’t think I have ever had a bad meal in a ‘Spoons yet. and they really do research the local history before they refurb which is more than you can say for most chains.

      I never made it to the ‘Spoons in Gateshead as I tend to stay mostly on the Newcastle side not least because half the bridges in the town give me vertigo. I was out walking with my friends once and they took me across the High Bridge, I swear I was feeling physically ill by the time I got to the other shore, I was petrified.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It is just me, any sort of exposed heights does my head in. Oddly, flying (fixed wing or even in a military chopper facing an open door) does not phase me in the slightest.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I know and I think it is something to do with the exposed element. Obviously planes are and choppers are fairly much even when the door is open and you are facing it with no seatbelt on. It is true even when you are “hedge-hopping” and I once had the very odd experience once of doing that in the Mourne mountains and looking up at sheep who were higher on the hillside than we were flying!

            Like

  3. Ah, the Wetherspoons debate. As far as I can see (and hear) everyone I’ve ever heard criticising Wetherspoons is a pub lover – well so am I (very definitely) but I really can’t work out what their problem with Spoons is all about. As you say, decent refits, local themes, comfortable bars, quick service….usually plenty of choices of ale and most of it very well looked after. I love the Victoria Pavilion at Ramsgate and also like the Peter Cushing at Whitstable (ex cinema) and the Opera House (ex…you can guess that one!) at Tunbridge Wells. Unfortunately the only one the bucks the trend is our own one in Herne Bay – slow service and more often than not they only have Ruddles and everything else is “coming soon”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it is a debate that will roll on and on and, like you, I really do not see what the problem is.
      I usually go to the Pav in Ramsgate a few times when I am down here but sadly it is just a bit of a trek at present, and I do love the Opera House in Tunbridge Wells which is lovely. I have never been to the Peter Cushing nor the Saxon Shore but the one in this area that I am not overly fond of is the Mechanical Elephant in Margate, it is not great. By and large they are super.

      I remember years ago going on a jolly boys outing to the Ruddles Brewery which got a bit messy but sadly it is no more. Greene King bought it over, moved operations to Suffolk where they brew Ruddles to a different recipe so it is hardly Ruddles, is it? The brewery has been torn down now and a housing estate built on the site, a sad sign of the times.

      Liked by 1 person

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