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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Bates

A1 PUB CRAWL - part two - Peterborough to Wetherby

Updated: 2 days ago

Section 9 - Peterborough to Newark

The crazy pub crawl along the Great North Road continues and today I took the train back to Peterborough train station. Now after quick careful planning, I decided not to go to Alwalton as cycling along the current A1 would be dangerous. So I decided to cycle as close as I could to the Great North Road and take in some extra pit stops..I mean pubs en route. 

A1 Pub Crawl - Stamford, Lincs.
Beautiful Stamford in Lincolnshire

The ride through Peterborough was an uneventful one but loved cycling around the canals and lake (all man-made) in Orton Mere and Thorpe Meadows. Really hated it when I cycled through Bretton. It's one of those places where I kept watching my back. The estate looked a bit dated and run down as well. Kinda like some estates I know in Stevenage and Hatfield further south on the Great North Road. 

I was glad to get out of Peterborough. Once I crossed the roundabout at North Bretton, I was picking up speed to the village of Marholm and the pub known as the Fitzwilliam Arms. I was back in the land where the buildings are built with yellow limestone bricks.  Before I knew it, I was in the village of Ufford and in The White Hart having another pit stop, which meant this would be my last drink in Cambridgeshire and the Anglia region of England. 

Across the county border I was in Lincolnshire which meant I was in the East Midlands.It wasn’t long before I was in the town of Stamford. The Great North Road passed through Stamford (so this is where I rejoined it for a short while). It had always been a halting town for travelers; Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, James I and Charles I all passed through and it had been a post station for the postal service journey in Elizabeth's reign. By the later 17th century roads started to be used more for longer distance traveling. In 1663 an Act of Parliament was passed to set up turnpikes on the Great North Road and a couple were based here. I checked out the Stamford Post, a pub run by Wetherspoons in the heart of the town where I was greeted by a fan of mine. He just approached me, said he has been following my journey. That was a great surprise to me.

I headed north but away from the Great North Road. I was not going to cycle on the A1 to Grantham, so I took the hilly route through villages such as Ryhall, Little Bytham, Creeton, Swinstead, Corby Glen and my favourite Bitchfield. I also passed through a small part of Rutland, England’s smallest county before re-entering Lincolnshire. 

Grantham is a horrible town to enter whilst riding a bike from the east. I landed up riding on the pavement as I went into town via the A52. Artic lorries speeding down the road, too much traffic and then I loved it when the road went down a steep hill. I really hated it. However I eventually landed up in the centre of town where I checked out the Wetherspoons, The Tollemache Inn.

Nearby are a couple of statues on a nearby green. The first one I notice is Margaret Thatcher, the first woman British prime minister (1979-1990) and was the leader of the Tories. She wasn’t popular in some fields during her leadership, like trying to modernise the country, dealing with unions and telling the Argentians to f*** off over Falklands (well, she may have not used that language), but she was popular in other areas like Privatisation and the people getting their right to buy their homes. I was born in 1982 whilst Thatcher was in her third year of her premier, so I wouldn’t know what life was like under her leadership so I can’t really comment. However looking back at history, I am still not sure if she was a national icon, someone to look up to or someone to forget. 

A1 Pub Crawl - Margaret Thatcher, Grantham
Statue of Margaret Thatcher

Next to her is the statue of Sir Issac Newton (1643-1727). Now this bloke I do know from my school science lessons. He was an English polymath (someone who knows a lot in a lot of different subjects) active as a mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, theologian, and author who was described in his time as a natural philosopher. He was born elsewhere in Lincolnshire but he was educated here in Grantham at the Kings School before moving onto the University of Cambridge. 

A1 Pub Crawl - Sir Issac Newton statue, Grantham

Nearby on the outskirts of Grantham at Woolsthorpe Manor represents the inspiration behind Sir Isaac Newton's theory of gravity, Isaac Newton's apple tree. While the precise details of Newton's reminiscence (reported by several witnesses to whom Newton allegedly told the story) are impossible to verify, the significance of the event lies in its explanation of Newton's scientific thinking. The apple tree in question, a member of the Flower of Kent variety, still exists today at the manor; it is a direct descendant of the tree that stood in his family's garden in 1666. It stands as a living connection to Newton's groundbreaking insights. The tree has become a cherished symbol, and its descendants and clones can be found in various locations worldwide. I didn’t visit the manor today but as I travel up and down the A1 quite often, I hope to stop off and see this beautiful tree.

A couple of pubs here and in nearby Barrowby, I had enough time to head northwards and across the county border of Nottinghamshire. I am now in Robin Hood’s territory. However I was nowhere near Sherwood Forest, but I was cycling along the towpath of the Grantham canal. It was nice but I really didn’t want to do off-roading just a couple of hours before sunset. Stupid Google Maps sent me this way but it was rather quick. Thankfully the hills have died down somewhat and I was cycling along flat land.

A1 Pub Crawl - Grantham Canal
Grantham Canal

A quick stop in Staunton before I arrived in Newark-on-Trent where I had a pint and a bite to eat at the Old Post Office pub, which seemed to be the only building open in the town after 21:00! Even all the fish ‘n’ chip outlets and indian curry houses seemed to be closed. A big sign I was going further north, everything is shut and everyone has gone to sleep! That was my impression. After the pub, I headed to Northgate station for the train back to Stevenage. Can’t wait for the next leg.    

Pubs done on this leg of the Great North Road (the numbered ones are on the Great North Road). 

  • The Boathouse, Peterborough

  • The Gordon Arms, Peterborough

  • The Woodman, Peterborough

  • Fox & Hounds, Peterborough

  • Fitzwilliam Arms, Marholm, Cambs

  • The White Hart, Ufford, Lincs

49 - Stamford Post, Stamford, Lincs

50 - The Tollemache Inn, Grantham, Lincs

51 - The Old Bank, Grantham, Lincs

  • The White Swan, Barrowby, Lincs

  • The Staunton Arms, Staunton, Notts

52 - The Old Post Office, Newark, Notts

Date: 23rd May 2024.

Distance on this leg: 66.2 miles - 106.50km. In total: 185.7 miles - 298.8km 

A1 Pub Crawl - Part 9 Map
Route for the day

 Section 10 - Newark to Doncaster

Back on the train from Stevenage to Newark Northgate which I arrived at 10.40. The forecast in the days leading up today was going to be fine and dry, however that wasn’t the case as I was dealing with rain all the time, heavy in places and a headwind which was slowing me down. It was a nice ride but very unpleasant with the weather conditions. Welcome to the North I say.

On my way out of Newark, I got to see the ruins of Newark Castle which overlooks the River Trent. First built in the 12th century out of timber, the castle was changed to stone not long after. King Henry the First gave the Bishop of Lincoln permission to build the castle. Looking into the history, not much went on here. A ‘mint’ was established (a place where they produce coins) and King John died here on 18th October 1216 from dysentery, basically a lot of bloody diarrhea after eating a lot of peaches. Apart from that, not much happened. I don’t even know if a battle took place here in the English Civil War. Who knows.

I was following the River Trent for the next few miles and came across some beautiful, calm-feeling villages such as North Muskham, Carlton-on-Trent, Sutton-on-Trent and Weston. I noticed a few places which had or did have mills by the river. Tuxford was the first major place I came across which was also a small stopping point for horses and carts on the Great North Road. However these days the new ‘A1’ road goes through the heart of the small town, dividing it which is a shame. I headed away from the centre briefly and came across the town lock-up which is one of only three in the county of Nottinghamshire. On a small green on Newcastle Street, this building was built in 1823 and has two separate cells, one each for men and women, each with its own earth closet. There are two circular holes with iron bars on the front and back walls for ventilation.

On the way out of Tuxford, I came across the Tuxford Windmill which has stood here since 1820. The Tuxford mill still has its large white sails and is still in use today and can be seen from a distance. It truly does dominate the skyline of Tuxford. The mill produces flour and is sold from the shop at the same place.

I was getting thirsty but thankly the town of Retford wasn’t that far from Tuxford. Retford which lies on the Chesterfield Canal and River Idle and is the last town I would come across before I leave Nottinghamshire. Bill Bryson, the American author and former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, praised the town. In his bestselling book Notes from a Small Island, he writes, 'Retford, I am pleased to report, is a delightful and charming place even under the sort of oppressive grey clouds that make far more celebrated towns seem dreary and tired. Its centrepiece is an exceptionally large and handsome market square lined with a picturesque jumble of noble Georgian buildings. Beside the main church stood a weighty black cannon with a plaque saying 'Captured at Sevastopol 1855', which I thought was a remarkable piece of initiative on the part of the locals - it's not every day, after all, that you find a Nottinghamshire market town storming a Crimean redoubt and bringing home booty - and the shops seemed prosperous and well ordered. I totally agree with Bill on this one, but was surprised about the connection with the Crimean War.

A1 Pub Crawl - Retford

Retford has a tradition of ghost sightings. In 1915 an unknown correspondent wrote to The Retford Times about ghostly sightings in the 19th century. The writer reports seeing a woman wearing Georgian dress on Sutton Lane, as well as a less human-like figure on the North Road. Well, I saw no ghosts today and as I locked up the bike, it was time to tick off the first two pubs of the head. The Turks Head is situated close to the main Market Square, entry to this pub is via two large oak doors, which both lead into an open-plan area served by an L-shaped bar. The room features oak panelling and has a warming open fires. Many of the original 1930's features are still in place, bell pushes and hand beaten copper hoods over the fires. Had a nice pint here, spoke to the locals where they were surprised about my challenge. I noticed that the accent here is a mix of Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. I try and not finish the day by saying ‘Nowt’ at the end of every sentence and go home refraining from breeding whippets. 

Across the road is the Wetherspoons, The Dominie Cross where I had a nice burger for lunch, then it was back on the road again in the sodding rain.

Passing Barnaby Moor, I came to the village of Scrooby. Here I had to make a stop as I promised the lady who helps run the Welwyn Roman Baths in Hertfordshire (earlier on in this crazy adventure) that I would visit the village. The village was on the Great North Road until 1766 (where the route got diverted slightly away from this village), so this place became a popular stopping point. Even Queen Elizabeth the First stopped here. 

More interestingly is the village connection to the Mayflower boat which is located in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the USA. I visited the boat on Olga and I’s honeymoon way back in 2010 and since learning about the pilgrims who went from the UK to New England, I have always been interested in global movements which have occurred in our history, like the Roman Empire, The Ottaman Empire, and even learning the history of the Slave Trade movements, the Nazi movements during the Second World War to name a few and were major horrible events. 

The leading religious Separatists who voyaged to America in 1620 were originally from this area of Nottinghamshire, known as Bassetlaw, where their beliefs were shaped. Regarded as dangerous religious renegades who rejected fundamental principles of the State and the established Church of England, they worshiped in secret to avoid arrest and persecution.

Among them was William Brewster who was brought up in Scrooby. Inspired by the radical words of Richard Clifton, the rector of nearby All Saints' Church, Babworth, Brewster is believed to have founded a Separatist Church in his family home - the (privately owned) manor house at Scrooby. He was fined for non-attendance at St. Wilfrid’s Church in Scrooby but was respected as an elder and spiritual guide and played a significant role in the congregation’s later journeys.

There is a pub here which I stopped off in, called the Pilgrims Fathers which wasn’t on my list of pubs to tick off. However inside there were maps on display detailing the voyage, some artifacts and even a mileage signpost outside to notable places of the Pilgrim’s journey. This is a fascinating piece of history in this village and I was so glad to stop here. I was told that there is more interesting stuff to see about the journey at the nearby All Saints Church but it was closed.

Just north of Scrooby, the road that links the A638 and the A614 is called Gibbet Hill Lane. This lane is so named after a brutal crime that took place early in the morning of 3 July 1779 when John Spencer, who had been playing cards with Scrooby's toll-bar keeper, William Yeadon, and his mother (then on a visit), returned to the tollhouse and killed both of them. The crime was enacted for the purposes of robbery, and Spencer gained re-admittance under the pretence that a drove of cattle wished to pass that way. Spencer was interrupted by travellers in the act of dragging one body across the road towards the River Ryton, and arrested shortly thereafter by a search party. He was executed following a trial at Nottingham Assizes, and his body afterwards hung in a gibbet cage on a slope south of the Ryton now denominated Gibbet Hill.

I made it! South Yorkshire. I saw the sign, and my pub crawl along the Great North Road takes me into South Yorkshire. I was ever so delighted. Straight away I was in the small town of Bawtry. This was going to be a quick stop off point as by now I was completely soaked due to the rain. The Turnpike and White Hart were quiet pleasant places to have a drink before heading north again. The rain will not shift. 

Before I knew it, I was in Doncaster. I was expecting the road going into town in the late afternoon to be much busier but I breezed through it. I parked the bike outside the train station and ticked off the three Cask Marque pubs I needed to do on the old Great North Road plus I ticked off others in the town centre. Located on the River Don, the town is about the same size in area and population size as my home town of Stevenage. The place had a grim feel in the air but the people here were fantastic and I was welcomed in all the pubs. I even had a couple of barmaids trying to convince me to move my family up here. Not sure what they would say about that. I didn’t get much of a chance to learn about the history in the three hours I had left but I did tick off all the pubs and had a great curry in one of the Wetherspoons.