There is an ostrich in the field next to the beer garden where I am sitting, enjoying an excellent pint of Marston’s Pedigree (4.5%) – me, that is, not the ostrich. I am fairly sure it is real as I have only had one mouthful of the amber nectar.
The picturesque grounds of the Knockerdown Inn overlook the southern end of Carsington Water, the large reservoir in the heart of the Peak District. The pub would make an ideal pitstop if you were to take the gentle seven-mile walk all the way around the water.
The grey stone of the Knockerdown dates back to the 17th century, but it seems to have opened as a tavern in 1838. The unusual name has mining connections: it may relate to knocking lead and limestone from the roof of a shaft (known as overhand stoping). Although a “knocker” is a sort of goblin that inhabits mines and makes a tapping sound either to indicate rich ore seams or to warn of impending disasters. One hopes the miners were able to discern the difference.
The classical pub sign is an oddity: a fair-haired, well-muscled young man, his determined face modelled on Bernini’s baroque sculpture of David in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, not twinned with Matlock so far as I’m aware. He’s wielding a pickaxe where David is twirling a sling, and so must be a miner rather than the future King of the Israelites.
Outside, as well as the ostrich, there are farm animals, a children’s play area and a campsite. Hanging baskets and a planted wooden cart brighten up the outside of the building.
As for the inside, the ultra-traditional bar offers some pretty traditional beers: Pedigree, Wychwood Brewery’s Hobgoblin (4.5%) which is a rich, ruby bitter with fruity overtones. Marston’s English Pale Ale (3.6%), crisp with a citrus flavour. Guinness, Budweiser and Fosters provide a more modern offering.
One area of the inn is given over to motorcycle memorabilia and photographs, with an emphasis on Harley-Davidson. Horse brasses and copper kettles hang above a large log-burning stove – it must be cosy in winter. Local photographs complete the traditional, family pub feel.
There are specials boards for fish, pies and steaks. Goat’s cheese drizzled with honey and olive oil, and served with rustic bread is described as an appetiser, but is a meal in itself. No chance then, of attempting the Monster Grill (£16.99) – though the “surf and turf” option might be manageable.
Friendly staff, well-kept traditional English beers, hearty and keenly-priced food and a pretty garden. I might knock the second half of that walk on the head, I think to myself.