Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

A Football Tourist’s Guide To Peterborough – Part One

I woke up buzzing on Friday morning. Having been unwell for the previous three days, this came as a pleasant surprise. As a precaution, I’d decided on a flexible 0600-0800 departure time for Peterborough this morning. My alarm went off at 0600 and it was around 0730 by the time Lee and I were ready to head off, fuel up and hit the M55.

Southbound

As is now the norm, I searched t’internet for musicians who hail from our destination. Peterborough served up a right treat this morning. I was singing my head off to Erasure for the first part of the journey (singer Andy Bell is from Peterborough). How many bangers did they produce?! I decided Stop! is my new karaoke choice (not that I ever do karaoke but I inevitably will one day). There was only one other artist from Peterborough that I’d heard of – and he surprised us both with this excellent new album.

Now I’d only heard of Paul Nicholas from the 80s sitcom ‘Just Good Friends’. I vaguely knew he’d moved into theatre but hadn’t heard of him for years. We loved this album, which accompanied us for the bulk of the journey. Check out this 70s video for the title track.

We called in at Blyth Services for a comfort break.

What I wanted.
What I had.

That and an Alpen Light White Chocolate Raspberry & Shortcake was enough to tide me over until lunchtime.

Our journey today was scenic as we travelled down the A1. We were surprised to see the grass being mown at the side of the road, seemingly via remote control. A convoy of three planes flew overhead, possibly training flights from the nearby RAF Wittering.

The journey seemed nothing like the four hours it actually was and we were soon being guided into Peterborough by our trusty satnav, Mike. We have selected the Master Chief voice option on Waze, who apparently is a character from Halo (whatever that is), but we think he sounds like Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul so we call him Mike.

Blue Bell, Werrington

I had spent much longer than usual researching suitable pubs where we could eat in Peterborough. It is important that I do this so that I can eat on the SlimmingWorld plan (i.e. the menu is not just dirty burgers or pizzas) and there is something that Lee will be able to eat too (which sadly ruled out the Indian food at The Woolpack). I always begin my search by checking out the Good Beer Guide pubs but sadly none of these were suitable for dining. I then continue my search, also taking care to identify pubs that will have interesting things to look at for Lee, with his videos in mind. Also, I automatically discount Spoons, because I’m boycotting them. After eliminating most of the pubs in Peterborough on the above criteria, I was happy with the selection of the Blue Bell for lunch.

We arrived around 1140 and the pub wasn’t due to open until noon, so we parked up and had a mooch and filmed a little ‘on location’ intro for Lee’s video. From the bench across the road, we soon spied a man unlocking the pub doors and we were in there like a flash before he’d had time to get back behind the bar.

‘Are you serving food?’

‘Er not right now.’

Dammit. But we were here now and I was thirsty and they had Plum Porter on so it would have been rude not to…

Ooh a Posh clock!

We explained that we were here researching the Football Tourist’s Guide and were advised not to miss the helicopter in the beer garden. Ah yes! I had forgotten that was one of the reasons I’d selected this place.

It really was a glorious day today (21C). As we basked in the sunshine in the beer garden, I received a message from BBC Radio Lancashire.

I referred back to the CAMRA GBG app (which does include non-GBG pubs) for an emergency lunch back-up plan. Much of the above criteria was now out of the window – we simply needed to eat so we could continue with the rest of our day.

Cock Inn, Werrington

I hadn’t been sure about this one, which seems to be under temporary staff while a new landlord is sought. A flying visit indicated no food available, so we left immediately, as we were now on a mission.

Crab & Winkle, Werrington

This was a Greene King pub and they are always reliable for diet-friendly food (with the exception of that one in Luton, which wasn’t serving food). There was food plastered all over the front of the pub, so we knew already this place wasn’t going to let us down.

There was cake on the bar, too, which was a belting start.

Step away from the cake…

Having just quaffed a pint of Plum Porter, I didn’t feel the need to have another beer in here (as I don’t like to drink for the sake of it if there’s nothing that particularly floats my boat), so settled for a Sprite Zero to accompany my meal.

There was a really friendly community feel to this pub and the staff were super friendly. After delivering food to the next table, the waitress updated us on our order, saying they were just waiting on the fish to be cooked, then we were next on the list.

Lasagne with Garlic Bread just the way I like it.

After polishing off lunch, I headed off in search of the toilets.

‘The other end, sweetheart,’ said a helpful local at the bar.

‘Through the doors,’ affirmed another.

Blimey even the locals were lovely in here. This was not what I had expected at all from a ‘chain pub’ but I ought to know by now that Greene King pubs do vary in their offerings (Taps in Lytham, for example, is an excellent ‘proper pub’). I was so taken with this place that I tweeted about the excellent service – and got a nice reply from GK saying they were pleased I’d had a positive experience. It’s nice to be nice.

Oops I almost forgot the loo review!

Rare hook lock. Luton Town would benefit from one of these in Trap 1 (HINT).

Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery

Now we could get on with the tourist part of the day! Slightly annoyingly, two of the places on my itinerary weren’t open on Fridays – and we’d struggle (although miraculously manage, as it turned out) to fit them in on Saturday. This left us two tourist spots to visit today – the first of which was the museum. We do like to visit museums in the towns and cities that we visit to learn about the local area. All I had learned from my previous visits to Peterborough was that there was a lot of Oakham beer and a barge. That was going to change today.

Elephant.
Ooh the Romans were here!
And so were the Vikings – although they don’t seem convinced…
Dressing up! It’s not exactly Fritidsklader

We learned that, in the days of the dinosaurs, Peterborough was underwater. I was surprised to find my second ichthyosaur of the season here (the first being in Birmingham).

I liked this fox, which we were allowed to reach in and pet. Its fur was much softer than I’d imagined.

There was a Victorian operating theatre upstairs and Lee and I were both pleased that we hadn’t lived back in those times.

We learned about The Peterborough Effect, a campaign which started in the 60s to attract people to Peterborough with its ‘rich culture and heritage’. Here’s a Peterborough Effect video from the campaign featuring Roy Kinnear. I have no idea why it’s in Latin.

When appealing to my Twitter community for things to look out for in Peterborough, Ben from Middlesbrough alerted me to Peter Burrow, the Peterborough United mascot. I was surprised to see him in this museum (although I’m not sure why, as H’angus The Monkey was in Hartlepool Museum).

Bit sexist, Peter – and put some pants on, please…

I was also surprised to see a famous son of Blackpool here – although Sooty and Sweep have seen better days…

And where’s Soo? In the kitchen?

Peterborough suffered less damage in the war than other cities we have visited, although ‘the Lido swimming pool [was] knocked out of service for a day’.

The final room was dedicated to the Norman Cross Napoleonic Prison Camp.

And you know I like to bring you a highlight from the museum gift shop. My favourite items here today were the tangerine knitted dinosaurs.

Peterborough Cathedral

I had received a tweet from Peterborough Cathedral inviting me along today, so we made sure to fit it in. It had also come recommended by a couple of Twitter friends.

I’m not a religious person but I am learning to appreciate fine architecture since I briefly studied Art History with the Open University. I also enjoyed reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which was based around the construction of a cathedral. And I attended many musical recitals in the cathedrals of Birmingham when I was based down there.

Catherine of Aragon is buried here.

Peterborough United Football Club

We called in at the football club to have a nose round and get our bearings ahead of tomorrow’s match.

Images that precede unfortunate events…

I like the inclusion of chilli on this menu. ‘Hot spice breast of chicken’ is also tempting. Also salad! When have you ever seen salad on a menu at a football ground?!

We sadly ran out of time to pop in here on matchday but have noted it for our next visit.

Many of the units in the stadium were rented out to local businesses, including a creative hub and a hairdressers.

We took a stroll round to the shiny new stand which we were pleased to discover was the away end. We located our turnstiles and even got a little peek at the inside of the ground through some wire fencing in the corner. It was a big stand and I was hopeful of being able to sit down to watch the match tomorrow.

Premier Inn, Peterborough City Centre

I was very confused as to the location of our hotel, which Google Maps placed much further west than it actually was. Nonetheless, I was pleased to find it right in the centre of the city, where I’d wanted it to be in the first place. We checked in with a no-nonsense receptionist and headed up to our room on the first floor.

This seemed like a brand new Premier Inn and we were pleased to find a bath in the bathroom (the previous few had been shower only). We quickly unpacked and made our way out to meet up with Karen for our evening meal (dinner/tea/whatever).

Because our hotel wasn’t where I/Google thought it was – and because both us and Karen were already in the centre of the city – I decided on a last-minute change of plan to our eaterie of choice. I rejected the slightly-out-of-town-and-another-Greene-King Boathouse in favour of somewhere a little more exciting and closer to where we were.

The Grain Barge

Fiona had recommended this place, which is a Chinese restaurant on a barge.

It was only 1700 and we were welcomed aboard as walk-ups.

I can study a Chinese menu for hours and want everything on it, but tonight I stuck to my SlimmingWorld guns and barely glanced at the menu, immediately opting for the most SlimmingWorld friendly item on the menu.

Szechuan Chicken with Boiled Rice.

This was a lovely hearty meal. There was some surprise celery in the dish but it was still nice.

As we dined, we watched lots of swans and geese swimming past on the River Nene.

We were each gifted a Fortune Cookie at the end of the meal and here’s my fortune.

I hope this is a successful appeal against my fine for driving in a bus lane in Hull.

And that, dear reader, is the end of Part One.

Still to come:

  • Yard of Ale
  • Palmerston Arms
  • Coalheavers Arms
  • Blind Tiger
  • The Bumble Inn
  • The Ostrich
  • The Stoneworks Bar
  • Railworld
  • Nene Valley Railway
  • Peterborough United v Blackpool
  • Charters Bar

Stay tuned for Parts Two and Three when I can summon up the energy to write them…

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