I’ve always admired great sportspeople, but it’s my partner Phil who is the true fan. He played rugby for years, sails and runs whenever he gets chance.
A number of years ago (maybe 5?), he’d taken our dog Hector for a run through the fields near Appletreewick and when he returned he told me he’d just seen the Brownlee brothers out cycling. He’d held Hector back to make sure he didn’t run out and skittle the group, who’d nodded an acknowledgement and carried on.
Wind the clock forward a few years and I find myself in Burnsall, manning my little kitchen and doing my level best to build my new little Riverbank business. It was tough in year one, with no inside space and just a chiminea (thanks Tracey) outside for warmth – so I got blankets (thanks mum), and hot water bottles and did the best I could. It was amazing that anyone came – but a few have even recalled those bonkers early days with a nostalgic affection!
I listened then, as I do now, to all ideas generously shared by friends, family and customers – people were, and continue to be, kind and incredibly helpful and I took lots of it on board in my quest to appeal to as many groups as possible:
Locals – I love it when they come to Riverbank. Something feels wrong when my regular locals are missing for whatever reason – and the farmers and builders living and working nearby basically got me through the first winter! So I still have hot roast pork on sourdough ciabatta with home made stuffing available every Friday.
Walkers – when they arrive in the car park or on the green, I often butter a couple of fresh scones and take out samples to tempt them back to Riverbank at the end of their walks. Sometimes this even works.
I try to consider them all: campers and holiday-makers, day trippers, Dales-Wayers, fell-runners, even canoeists – and the list goes on – but a key group that started to swing by early on was the cycling community. They were especially helpful with ideas – and I quickly put a bike stand up, bought a track pump, got hold of some gels and a stash of inner tubes (thanks Martin). And when we finally secured planning permission to build Riverbank as it is now, we were sure to include a water tap in the dining room so that water bottles could be topped up…
Knowing that Jonny and Alastair Brownlee cycled in the area a lot, a few people (including Phil), thought it would be great if they became Riverbank customers. “Would you know them if they did come?” asked Phil… I replied that I thought I would – but it turns out I was wrong. I’d served Jonny and his companions, chatted away and was proudly showing off the indoor area and water tap – introducing myself as I do to everyone who’ll listen, when it dawned on me who he was – just as he confirmed it in reply to my introduction.
Since then we’ve got to know them a little – and a few other triathletes who are an absolute pleasure to have around.
So when the worst weather of the winter closed in on Sunday, and Jennie, Michelle and I had all but closed up and let the log burner die out and Jonny, Alastair, Linda and Harry pulled in looking chilled to the bone – there was only one thing for it…
Well three things actually; the giant tea pot (Alastair’s suggestion from months ago), came down off the shelf – Michelle delivered four Fat Boys that had been swiftly warmed in the oven and the Parsnip and Spiced Orange cake that I’d regretted icing earlier that day, found a good home.
Alastair stoked up the fire and gradually, four freezing souls warmed up.
Jonny thanked Riverbank for saving the day – but the truth was Jonny, Alastair, Linda and Harry saved our miserable, freezing cold, write-off of a March day.
Next time I’ll remember the hot water bottles!