WENSLEY was the hub of the dale that bears its name until 1563 when it was visited by a terrible plague. It was “most hote and fearefull, soe that many fled and the towne of Wensley, by reason of the sickness, was unfrequented for a long season”.

In our time of our plague, though, Wensley has proved quite a staycating draw, with walks in the fresh air of the broad dale followed by Sunday lunch outside the Three Horseshoes.

It is the only pub in the village, but not the only pub in the area that is called the Three Horseshoes.

“Oh, no!” screeched the woman who led a party into the bar shortly after we arrived and was confused that her name wasn’t on the reservations list. “I’ve got the wrong Three Horseshoes. I booked through an app, and booked the Three Horseshoes - in Barnard Castle, and I don’t even know where that is!”

“It’s where you go to get your eyes tested,” shouted the barman, but it flew over the woman’s head, such was her confusion.

The Wensley Horseshoes has a yard with a grand view – the terrace is on a level with the top of the church tower and rising behind it is yon side of the dale. There is even a roofed area should the English weather take an inclement turn.

We arrived after a walk, without a booking, intending to brave the elements on the last Sunday in September, but a chill cloud had come over and a table tucked away inside was available.

The old pub has low beams, a flagged floor and a warm woodburner – in crowded times, it could have been a virus-breeding environment, but with a one way system in place and plenty of room between the tables, we felt safely ensconced in our corner.

The Sunday menu is straightforward, with sandwiches and baked potatoes alongside traditional roast dinners (beef or pork) and lasagne and scampi. It is also two sided, with the reverse of the piece of paper dedicated to speciality pizzas, which range from £9.95 for a plan margarita to £13.95 for a “kitchen sink” which has every topping thrown at it.

To young Theo’s disappointment, we didn’t spot the second side until the large pizzas started arriving at the neighbouring table, but he was perfectly content with his roast beef (£9.95). It was a plated meal, with plenty of cuttable meat, two veg, roast parsnips and potatoes, mash and a large Yorkshire pudding, covered in lashings of good gravy.

The Northern Echo:

It was a good, traditional Sunday pub lunch – we sat outside elsewhere in the dale this summer and were served beef like a string bag that no amount of sawing with a bluntened knife could get through.

Petra, my wife, opted for another traditional favourite: beer-battered haddock and chips with mushy peas (£12.95). Well cooked, white fish, crispy batter, good chips.

The Northern Echo:

To be totally untraditional, I opted for the nachos, with guacamole, salsa, jalapenos and mozzarella – Tex-Mex words not normally associated with a Yorkshire Sunday. The vegetarian version was £6.95 but I added chilli beef for an additional £2.50.

I’d expected at least the guacamole and the salsa to be served separately, but everything turned up together in one blisteringly hot dish.

The Northern Echo:

In fact, it was more of a nacho pie with the corn chips replacing pastry. They seemed to have been arranged around the edge of the bowl with the chilli poured inside, the guacamole and salsa spooned on top before a lid of a nachos and smothering of cheese was added to finish it off.

I had to eat it quickly, chipping the nachos out of the bowl, because it was beginning to set hard, but it was really good: rich chilli, with occasional surprise tastes of smooth guacamole and fruity salsa, and real heat from the jalapenos.

I like a medium hot curry, and the jalapenos added an addictive kick which was just the right side of my personal pleasure/pain line – I had a light sweat on and needed a nose blow as I approached the end of the large dish.

And, however do I put this delicately, there were repercussions in the 24 hours afterwards.

Thankfully, the repercussions were mild, and this was an experience as enjoyable as it was out of place.

There were three choices of dessert for £5.50 each, which came with either ice cream, cream or custard. Theo chose a large slab of chocolate brownie with custard, which he thoroughly enjoyed, while I finished with sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. It was quite a dense, no nonsense pudding, but there was plenty of sauce and it went down well.

The Northern Echo:

We wended our way to the exit and discovered that in our absence the sun had re-emerged from the chill cloud, picking out the gold hands on the church clock and rewarding the brave souls sitting outside.

The first fallen leaves of autumn collected around the stone pant on the village green lined by the sort of model houses only found in miniature on a train set – all in all, a lovely meal and a great way to escape our troubled times of pandemic.

The Three Horseshoes, Wensley, near Leyburn, DL8 4HJ

Website: thethreehorseshoeswensley.co.uk

Phone: 01969-622327

Food quality: 7

Surroundings: 7

Service: 7

Covid-secure: 8

Value for money: 7