Located at the confluence of the Gwash and Welland rivers, Stamford has many strings to its bow. It has great historical interest due it being almost halfway between York and London – useful for coaching houses and the like in the olden days; ‘Britain’s Best Place to Live ’ is often used for filming period films and dramas, although I’m not sure Tom Hanks’ ‘The Da Vinci Code’ falls under either of these categories; and the residency of the one-time fattest man in recorded history has left the local football team with possibly one of the most accurately symbolic team nicknames ever – The Daniels.
However, in a town full of spires, meadows, rivers, bridges and secret Venice-like alleyways, there is a sad lack of really good places to drink outside. The Tobie Norris has a back yard, the Green Man has an outdoor space and the Melbourne Brothers has a big courtyard, but these all feel quite claustrophobic.
Step up The Golden Fleece.
Now I am by no means saying this is a great pub. In fact, I’m not even sure it is a good pub. In what is becoming classic Rutland pub etiquette (see The Exeter Arms) I have once sat through an entire pint here with the barman stood next to me tapping his watch because he wanted to put the outdoor tables away. I wouldn’t have minded but it was about 17.30 on a dry Friday evening in June!?
I’ve never had a pint inside this pub. Collectively I don’t think I spent more than about 17 minutes inside. Every pub has to be approached differently, and with this one it’s a quick recce to see if there’s any free tables outside; if not, off; if so, nab em, dash in to lean over the old crusties who may very well have become part of the bar (like Orlando Bloom’s dad in third Johnny-Depp-being-a-pirate caper), throw money at the bar person and then exit post-haste to enjoy [BEVERAGE] outside.
Once outside again, this pub has the best setting in town. Facing due south the seats at the front get sun long into the evening. It’s the only pub in town that has even a glimpse of the meadows, Welland and Gwash that mark the southern boundary of Stamford and the beginning of St. Martin’s on the southern bank (not a lot of people know that!). And the pub opens onto what is now a pretty town square but used to be the site of the old Sheep Market.
People come and go. The occasional hipster goes into The Cosy Club next door, with no comprehension of their idiocy at paying £8 for a pair of odd socks from the nearby market (I’m not joking). Someone in the new and admittedly very pleasant Wetherspoon’s on the other side of the square cracks that joke about going to the bar and asking for Sex on the Beach. A child falls over and starts to cry. How we laugh.
It’s not a great pub. It might not even be a good pub. But it’s the best place not to drink in in Stamford.