IN common with many people I have spoken to since November 5, the days before the new lockdown came into force brought about a compulsion to head to the nearest high street and impart whatever spare cash was available into the tills of local traders who were being forced to shut up shop. Not so much panic buying, or even Christmas shopping, but instead a desire to do something to make sure the businesses that make our town centres so special know they are valued, and to give them a fighting chance of reopening next month.

To that end, on the Tuesday before lockdown, I headed to Stokesley on a long-overdue mission to get some new running trainers from the excellent Lets Run – a mecca for "proper" runners who would think nothing of completing a marathon before breakfast, as well as rank amateurs like myself. Determined to take positive active to mitigate the cancellation of all hockey, and the amount of custardy puddings I eat once the clocks go back, I've decided to use lockdown to get in some decent mileage. Sparkly new trainers purchased, and keen to start my fitness regime that very hour, I jumped in the car to drive home, excited by the adventures to come.

Until a friend texted. Did I want to meet for lunch at the Rusty Bike cafe in Swainby asked Victoria? Stood in my kitchen wearing my new lightweight, springy, bright red footwear, the decision was instant. I'd meet her there in half an hour. Running could wait for another day.

The Rusty Bike has become a regular haunt, and as the name suggests, is very popular with cyclists. As reported on the business pages of this newspaper only last week, it fared well during the first lockdown by offering takeaways and developing a separate food delivery service and has since been rebuilding on the back of fresh enthusiasm for cycling as a form of exercise.

I've never actually cycled there – living just a couple of miles away it's not really far enough to justify the faff of pumping up my tires, but have walked, run and driven, and have always been impressed by the tasty treats and friendly service. From the outside, it looks fairly basic, but inside is another matter, with cycling knick-knacks, rustic wooden furniture, homely sofas and walls decorated with work by local artists, much of which is for sale.

The Northern Echo:

In non-social distancing times you would order at the counter and have the food and drinks served to your table, but as with all hospitality businesses, it has been forced to adapt.

The cafe has a one-way system for customers to approach the counter, and asks diners to collect the food themselves when it is ready. It is all served in cardboard or paper receptacles, which may not be to all tastes, but for the privilege of being in an actual eating establishment in these strange times, doesn't matter a jot to me.

I chose a sausage roll, which was meaty and delicious and a far cry from the mass-produced blandness that so often passes for such a staple snack.

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The accompanying salad was fresh, and carefully put together, with a lovely light dressing. It turned what was essentially just a sausage roll (no matter how tasty) into an attractive lunch – and I could tell myself it was healthy and therefore part of my new fitness regime.

Victoria – one of those aforementioned "proper" runners who had been out for a jog that morning despite it being only ten days since she completed a 55-mile Hardmoors ultra marathon – had the Mediterranean vegetable roll and salad and the rate at which it disappeared suggested it was as tasty as mine.

Dessert for me was a massive slab of rocky road – exactly the type of fodder you need if you are half way through a massive cycle ride around the Cleveland Hills.

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Less so if you are going to drive two miles home then have a snooze, but with lockdown fast approaching, it felt right to get the treats in while I could. Plenty of time to run it off at a later date. The bill, for two mains, two hot drinks and two cakes, came to £23.

Masks back on, we exited past a good smattering of other customers for a Tuesday lunchtime, some inside, some outside, all in twos, and said our farewells, unsure of when something so simple as meeting a friend for a bite to eat and a chat could possibly be repeated.

Since our visit, the Rusty Bike announced it wouldn't be offering takeaways during this lockdown and "looks forward to seeing everyone in December". I, for one, will certainly be back – hopefully with plenty of miles clocked up in those new trainers.

The Rusty Bike

Black Horse Lane



Currently closed.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 8 Surroundings 9 Value 8