Celebrating success

I passionately believe that your workforce is your most important audience. If you’re planning a project, or are managing an issue, employees should be the first group listed in the audience section of your comms plan.

Your employees can be your most powerful advocates. They can also be your fiercest critics. It might seem obvious, but it’s people that deliver projects. It’s people that achieve your milestones. It’s people that transform an organisation.

Today was our employee awards – the Wave Awards – ceremony. It’s usually an annual event. The pandemic meant it was eighteen months since we last gathered in a room to celebrate employee successes.

Despite the challenges, we knew the show must go on. Celebrating successes is writ large in our Manifesto, and it’s a behaviour we should all encourage.

Working in employee communications, it’s always one of the very best events of the year. And despite this one taking place virtually with fewer people gathered in a room, this was as true as ever.

So, there was no physical event. This meant fewer ill-fitting tuxedos and badly tied bowties. There were fewer awkward conversations with tablemates. No physical event meant people could relax in their own home or at their desk, and they could enjoy the event without any of the usual distractions.

Our virtual Wave Awards had more than 190 entries from all across our business. This meant almost two hundred examples of people going the extra mile. There were two hundred teams who felt their achievement was worth shouting about. Two hundred success stories to share.

And what stories they were.

• We heard of an employee who saved the life of a grandparent taken ill.
• We heard how our work has adapted and how we’d continued to deliver in the face of adversity.
• We heard how a team delivered a task considered impossible. They delivered an oil change in a highly radioactive environment, keeping mission moving.
• We heard how our IT department reacted to the pandemic to introduce remote working measures at a pace never seen before.
• We learned how we managed to introduce one of the first Covid-19 test facilities at an industrial site.

We even heard how the internal communications team quickly introduced new channels to keep everyone up to date in a pandemic.

At times people say that Sellafield moves too slowly, that we don’t collaborate and struggle to address our biggest challenges. Today’s awards proved this is far from the truth; that the opposite is true.

The common thread throughout the 190 entries, 40 shortlisted entries and 10 winners, was the pride from all those involved.

As a member of the organising committee for the last two years, I feel proud to have been able to do my bit – a small effort really – to celebrate our employees’ successes.

Because a workforce filled with pride is a workforce who deliver.

Well done to everyone who won awards at this year’s event.

Commiserations to those who missed out. Believe me when I say that the judges were proud of each and every one of you.

One year of this – whatever this is

I imagine there will be a whole gang of people dusting off their typewriters, as we mark the first anniversary of the Covid-19 lives we lead.

Recording our thoughts, particularly of such an abnormal year, feels important.

A year ago today, I started working from home. A pregnant partner meant I was a taking no chances and immediately followed the developing guidance.

That first day of working from home feels a lifetime ago. I sat on the sofa and worked with a laptop on a cushion. I had 5 Live on in the background. At the end of the day, I was in pain and felt overwhelmed.

Needless to say, a lot has changed since that point.

From a personal point of view: we’ve had the baby and I now have a son, we’ve moved house and I now have an office, and my sister is pregnant and will soon have a new baby.

From a professional point of view, I’ve learned, adapted, worked more flexibly and have grown as a result. I’m part of a smaller, but closer internal communications team than existed at the start of the pandemic.

We’ve learned to work differently, to delegate work, to seize opportunities and to support each other. We’re better for that.

Here are a few reflections on the past year.

Fresh air

Exercise has been at the very top of the list of things that has kept me sane. Any time I have struggled, felt frustrated or overwhelmed, or needed an energy boost, it’s been exercise that has delivered it.

During lockdown one, I walked in the afternoon sun most days. It made such a difference, and I can feel the same endorphin boost, now the light nights are returning.

Nothing else comes close.

Your story is your story

Each and every one of us has struggled during the past year. But we’ve probably struggled at different times and for different reasons. We might not even know why.

That’s fine. It’s important. We are all different and have different emotions, triggers and breaking points.

We can’t claim to understand all of these, but what we do is recognise this different, and ensure we tailor our behaviours accordingly.

This is especially important in a world where our views can be taken as defining us. It’s a world where discussions no longer allow for ambiguity, complexity or difference of opinion.

Flexibility

It’s a word we use a lot now, and it has many meanings. Put simply, we’ve all had to be more flexible than we ever imagined. We’ve had to be more creative and be better problem solvers.

We’ve done it. Our friends have done it. Our colleagues have done it. Even our favourite restaurants have done it.

It’s a real positive, and long must it continue. We know we won’t be returning to the life we had before. To make the most of it, we need to continue in the same spirit, not try to emulate what went before.

To me this means continuing to use new technology, working in different ways, having different outlooks, and again prioritising empathy and understanding.

Now, what will the next year bring?

I can only imagine.

Says it all

One month back

Today is Time to Talk Day. It’s also one month since we returned to work after the Christmas break.

Teddy at 7 months.jpg
Teddy makes even the darkest days lighter

It’s fair to say that after a busy and draining month, that break now feels like a lifetime ago.

We’re now well and truly into our third lockdown, and I don’t think I am alone in saying that this one feels harder and darker than those that have gone before.

During the first lockdown, we quickly adapted to working from home. Working in communications was busy, but it was important. Speaking to colleagues to understand how they felt about the pandemic and their new working arrangements was interesting, and sharing their stories felt vital.

Coming back into the office and starting this again felt more like Groundhog Day than I might have imagined. It felt like we had simply rewound the clock and were starting the process again. Only people were tired of it, they were more cynical and they know what to expect.

We’ve gone from something that felt strange yet exciting to something that’s routine and mundane. During the first lockdown, we all had visions of living our lives differently – learning new skills or exercising more and even just enjoying the outdoors. This time, we have more realistic expectations and the weather is less appealing.

Despite this, we carry on.

So, if on this year’s Time to Talk Day, you don’t feel as positive as you have in the past, that really is understandable. And that’s ok.

If that is the case, then it really is a good time to have a chat with a friend or colleague. In fact, why not check in with someone you’ve not spoken to recently? After all, if you’re feeling a little more flat than normal, then they probably are too.

If you don’t feel able to chat to a friend, but need a listening ear, then please make contact with one of the many mental health support services available.

Meeting mayhem

In recent weeks, my diary started to fill up with meetings again.

Working from home is different to working from the office.

There was a lull while we were finding our feet and deciding which work needed to continue. But that’s long since ended. People know their days now, and the assumption is that work continues as planned pre-pandemic.

And that’s fine.

But our lives have changed.

We’re not in the office like we used to be. We’re working from home, and home is different.

In the office, if you were in back to back meetings, a colleague might grab you a coffee. That doesn’t happen at home.

In the office, a colleague might flag that you were running late because you had nipped to the toilet. That doesn’t happen at home.

Half an hour meetings appear to be a new trend when working from home. Short meetings have got to be a good thing. But you probably can’t start them late if your previous meeting overruns.

Half an hour meetings are increasing in popularity. Short meetings are a good thing. But having two in an hour, preceded or follow by another can be intense.

Meetings are often helpful. So, on the day this week where my diary was back to back, I accept that’s just the way it is (even if I do worry when I’ll complete my actions).

I don’t think there is an easy solution to this issue, and I know that other people have more intense diaries than I do. But here are some simple suggestions that might help.

If you’re booking a meeting, take a look at the diaries of those you want to attend. Is your request reasonable?

Try and avoid booking meetings at lunchtime or outside of the employee’s working times, especially if you’ve not checked with them first. They might be willing to take the meeting, but it really should be their choice.

Why not block some time out each day for a proper lunch break? I’ve blocked out 90 minutes from 12pm to 1:30pm. I don’t plan to take a 90-minute lunch, but I know my last meeting before lunch often overruns, and that 1pm looks an ideal meeting slot to some.

Use technology to help. Microsoft Outlook can set your default meeting times to multiples of 25 minutes rather than 30. Using this would mean 25 and 50 minute meetings become the norm, rather than 30 and 60.

We’ll soon be starting and ending our working days in the dark. Without a walk to the car/tube/train/office, we are only left with lunchtime to get some sunlight. We need it.

In praise of: the festive baguette

Some things are greater than the sum of their parts. You only need to look at the Leeds United team that finally got promoted in 2019/20 – some decent individuals, but probably not the collective you’d imagine would eventually run away with the title.

Battered pigs in blankets? Oh yes!

The same is true of food. In fact, there is no better example than the festive baguette.

When you think about it, it shouldn’t really work. There are better meats for a sandwich than turkey, pigs in blankets don’t necessarily fit (physically and aesthetically), gravy and cranberry sauce make for a messy and wet eat.

And yet it does, as the recent surge in popularity demonstrates. Not only do most sandwich shops, chippies and cafes now offer their own take on the festive baguette, but their arrival is as eagerly awaited as the John Lewis advert.

This feels like a fairly recent phenomenon to me. Yes, you’ve been able to get a Christmas sandwich for sometime, and many sandwich shops offered a hot baguette option, but they weren’t as big a thing. In fact, I think it’s probably only in the last couple of years that they’ve moved from being a menu choice to a ‘thing’.

This year’s launch has coincided with the start of the second national lockdown. That’s probably a deliberate choice by caterers quick to spot a trend, recognising we need some cheer in our lives.

They’re proving popular. Egremont’s Noah’s Plaice sold out of its full festive menu mere hours after launch, and Whitehaven’s Sandwich Man sold 250 of his baguettes in a week.

The pimping of the baguettes was inevitable. Options available this year include a side of roast potatoes and gravy (the Park Head, Thornhill), battered pigs in blankets (Noah’s Plaice) and brussel sprouts bringing some welcome colour (Number 11, Whitehaven).

So what, and who makes a good festive baguette?

While they’re a simple product, there are a few key things that help make a good one:

  • Moist meat – turkey can be famously dry. The trick to keeping the meat moist is to heat it in the gravy.
  • Structural integrity – the baguette has to do a lot of leg work on your baguette. While warm and soft might seem like the right answer, you need it to be crisp so it stays in tact as you tear through it.
  • The additions – pigs in blankets (or ‘best-thing-about-Christmasses’ as I know them) are key, but they need to be right. Overcooking them makes them too crisp and too hard to eat. You also need the right amount of stuffing – enough to bring a softer, herby flavour; but not so much to overwhelm.
  • Temperature – this is a hot sandwich. Anything else is an imposter, and frankly isn’t worth bothering with. 

The increase in popularity, means that it’s easier than ever to get a good baguette. I’d suggest avoiding the chains. Their efforts will be mass produced, and that probably means an inferior product, lacking in filling. I’m looking at you, Greggs. Your pigs under blankets aren’t doing it!

Noah’s Plaice in Egremont does a mean baguette and the fact they serve it with some very decent chippy-chips is no bad thing. They batter and deep fry their pigs in blankets and stuffing balls, and that enhances things. This ensures the pigs in blankets stay moist. The batter is light and crisp too.

Taste in the Market Place in Whitehaven has done a great baguette since they opened. They’re all about moist turkey and a crispy baguette. You can understand why they have a queue each year.

I’m told the Park Head ones are great – certainly the roast potatoes would be an incentive. 

Given he’s sold 250 in a week, Sandwich Man’s baguettes look worth a try too. The pictures on Instagram show a fresh, well presented sandwich, packed with tasty fillings.

Give them a go and let me know what you think. 

Six months in, six more to go?

I’ve been working at home for a little over six months now. I can split that period into two three-month chunks – before Teddy and after.

One of those periods felt less stressful than the other. And despite the convenience of a three-month old baby to blame, I don’t think that gives the full picture.

Teddy and Oscar looking innocent

Last night, when reading messages in a group chat of communications colleagues from across the country and in different sectors, I noticed that lots of us are struggling. Most of that group don’t have new babies, either.

So, what is going on? I think it’s a few things.

Six months ago, coronavirus and lockdown hit us suddenly. While we could all see the situation in Wuhan and the far east developing, when it reached the UK, we moved quickly into lockdown.

For many communicators, this meant dusting off emergency and business continuity plans at the same time. As anyone who has managed a crisis will tell you, when that happens, the adrenaline starts pumping.

And it keeps pumping. For longer than you might realise. As we talked of a new normal, the reality was getting some sleep and then responding to the next challenge – as my old manager used to say, “I’ll crash into that bridge when I come to it.”

But that can’t continue indefinitely. In the group discussion lots of us talked about the meetings we have: the meetings that bookend the working day, and the ones that are sandwiched next to others. The ones that mean we have little time for actions – the actions that inevitably flow from them.

We’re all now preparing for a second wave, when truthfully, we’ve not really dusted ourselves off from the first. We might have taken some leave, but it’s rarely been totally free of work – either because we stay connected or because we can’t miss the news and the opportunity to ponder how an announcement will impact on our organisations.

So, the second wave means the opportunity, or necessity, of reflecting on what did and didn’t go well six months ago, and how we can improve things now. That probably requires more work. At the very least, it requires more thinking time. I’m not sure many of us have that.

The truth is, it’s harder to go again.

We’re six months in and have just heard that new measures might last another six months. Not only do we have to try and come to terms with this, we have to do so while helping colleagues to do the same.

And we must do this while trying to avoid overcommunicating. If we’re tired, so are other people. If we struggle to take everything in and understand what it means for us, then so do others.

As someone said to me today, it feels like we’re trying to get people to take a drink out of a fire hose.

The reality of Covid-19 is that there isn’t much we can do to change this. What we can do is remind people of the value of communications. We can ask our leaders to consider the prioritisation of the messages they wish to communicate. We can remind them that everyone is exhausted and overwhelmed, and it’s our job to help them navigate this.

The final thing we can all do, is remember that others are in the same boat. It was a relief to read the messages from people I admire and respect saying the same thing about being overwhelmed. Check in with those people. Hearing their challenges can help put your own into perspective, and it can also help us find common solutions.

If you’re reading this and don’t feel in the same boat, take a quick look around your colleagues. Are any of them showing warning signs that you’ve not noticed? If so, help them. In any way you can.

Take care.

Oscar taking in Thirlmere, during a period of escapism!

Review: The Parkers Arms

Social media can be blamed for lots of the problems in the world today. But last Saturday night, I was thankful for it, as I sat in a fantastic pub in the Trough of Bowland.

I’ve followed the Parkers Arms on social media for quite some time. Their witty and honest posts on Twitter coupled with some stunning food photography there and on Instagram ensured that it was there we headed when we had both a free Saturday evening and a babysitter.

As we arrived in the village of Newton-in-Bowland and pulled into the car park, we were worried we’d made a big mistake – the lights were off and it looked like no one was home. In reality, this was just one of the signs that the hospitality industry is changing beyond recognition. The pub now opens at 7pm, ready for it’s first diners.

Thankfully the doors were quickly opened, and we were greeted by a warm welcome and a roaring fire.

Very decent beer from the Bowland Brewery six miles down the road

Covid really does make everything different, but thankfully my memories are of the stunning food, not the WhatsApp bar system and writing our own orders. Both of these innovations worked well, and clearly demonstrated that the pub is taking its responsibilities of preventing the spread of coronavirus seriously.

The menu is concise and gives an immediate indication of how seriously they take their food. It changes daily, so you’ll struggle to find a copy online. But some things are always available, including an interesting (and photogenic, if Instagram is to be believed) pie and some fresh fish (more of that later).

Our drinks, ordered as requested, via WhatsApp, arrived very quickly, and our food order was swiftly taken.

The starters arrived just as quickly and were a lovely introduction to what was to follow. I picked garden vegetable fritters and discovered a decidedly more local take on the Indian bhaji. Charlotte ordered the Middle Eastern lamb manouche (stuffed flatbread), which was rich and fragrant.

A Lancashire take on the bhaji

As nice as the starters were, it was the main courses which blew us away. A number of the items are cooked over charcoal, and we both took advantage of this.

Charlotte’s thick, charred chop was an example of why pork really is an underrated meat. The flavours from the charring and caramelisation of the fat, coupled with the moist, brined meat was a sensation. The meat was the star of the show, with the sides of garden mint ‘slaw and triple cooked chips served separately. All that accompanied the meat on the plate was a tangy apple ketchup, which complemented the meat perfectly.

While in awe at the plate of meat opposite me, I was just as impressed with the whole turbot which was served to me. This huge fish had also been cooked over coals and was served with a tangy lemon butter and wild seaweed. The flavour of the fish was front and centre, and it had been cooked perfectly. I also chose the triple cooked chips, and these were crispy, gnarly chunks of potato with perfectly fluffy innards.

One whole fish

We both chose the set menu, which meant we both had desserts, when we might not, strictly, have needed them. My Portuguese egg custard tart with tart damsons and cream was as good an example as I’ve found in this country. Charlotte’s frangipani flan was just as decadent a treat.

The dining room was socially distant, but as it was full, it was still filled with atmosphere. This is helped by AJ’s warm and somewhat eccentric style of hosting. He makes you feel incredibly welcome.

Times are tough for the hospitality industry. It was clear at the Parkers Arms that they’re having to work even harder to make things a success. Thankfully for them, the meal, service and drinks were all exceptional, and the price was brilliant. All the food was locally sourced, and you really could taste the quality.

Lancashire heads into local lockdown today, and we’re now digesting the announcement from the prime minister on new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The simple menu of delicious, locally sourced food. Three courses for £35 is a snip.

These will only make things harder for places like the Parkers Arms. So, my plea is if it’s somewhere you’ve considered visiting, and you are able, now would be a good time to do it. And if this review has whetted your appetite, get booking.

If the government want to see how they can stop the spread, they could do a lot worse than look in the direction of Newton-in-Bowland – if they can find it.

Take time to unplug

This time last year, I dug out my sleeping bag and headed, via Leamington Spa, to an event called Comms Unplugged.

A striking image captured with my good, good friend Leri Salter.

I knew little of what I was in for. But what I did know was that the event came highly recommended by my good friend, trusted advisor and former mentor, Darren Caveney.

Darren is a bit of a communications ‘god’ and his advice and guidance has been invaluable throughout my career.

Darren is one of the organisers of Unplugged, and he felt confident in recommending the event to me. He was right to do so.

Comms Unplugged is an event for communications professionals to gather together for some informal learning, relaxed networking and escapism from the always-on, digital-first world we live in.

Phones and laptops are left outside the field, and participants instead focus on the tried and tested communications methods of speaking and listening.

Across the three days in a beautiful field in Dorset, I learned new skills, made new friends and developed a connection to a more simplistic way of working – without thinking of likes, kudos, shares and other digital popularity contests.

Darren is one of the three event organisers, along with Georgia Turner and Sally Northeast. Together they make a truly formidable trio, who are committed to the wellbeing and development of their communications family.

A year later and lots had changed. Sadly, Comms Unplugged isn’t taking place. Covid put paid to that. But that doesn’t mean that people can’t take the time to unplug in their own way.

In fact, I’d encourage it.

Every communications professional I know is working tirelessly at the moment. I regularly receive emails and messages from friends and colleagues who are working long into the night.

This isn’t sustainable. We all need downtime. The irony of today being not only the planned start of Unplugged but also World Suicide Prevention Day isn’t lost on me.

Comms Unplugged will be back next year, but in the meantime, please do take some time off this weekend. Take some time away from your work emails, your communications plans, and monitoring social media. Even if you can only do this for an hour, use this time to reflect. Use it to do something that gives you peace. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Fell walking has proved a great act of escapism for me.

I end this blog with a special thank you to the good friends I made last year, the Comms Unplugged community and our special WhatsApp network. They are a group of people who will offer advice and support for any and all situations. With the year we’re having, this has never been more important.

You can find out more about Comms Unplugged on their website. Alternatively, a lot of the great discussion and creativity takes place on Twitter. But probably not this weekend!

Staycation selections

Lots of people have been unwilling or unable to take foreign summer holidays this year. If you’re wondering where everyone has gone instead, you need to look very far to find out.

A quick scan of accommodation booking sites shows that people have headed to the honeypots of the Lake District, Devon and Cornwall, as well as once-famous seaside resort towns.

This provides a much-needed economic lifeline to these places.

However, the coronavirus world we live in means things are very different to normal, as businesses try to balance serving the crowds and making a profit, while ensuring their operations are safe.

Some places manage this better than others.

Chesters

One place that is doing a great job is the Lakeland favourite, Chesters by the River. Located by the Brathay at Skelwith Bridge, it’s only a few minutes’ drive from Ambleside. It’s been a favourite for years and has only grown in popularity since it embraces a fully vegetarian menu a few years’ back.

Chesters has always been busy, even in winter, even when it’s raining, even when you’d rather be anywhere than the Lake District.
Summer sees queues, and this summer means they’re even bigger than normal.

But a reworking of their operations has meant that this works well. There are now entirely separate entrances (and queues) for the café, shop and takeaway. This means people can quickly and easily be channelled, depending on what they’re looking for.

The takeaway was expanded a couple of years back, and it’s clear that this was a brilliant move. Even though the café is large, it is never going to be without queues at this time of year.

The takeaway gives people a speedier option, with a fab, streamlined range of options. When we visited, there were a couple of homemade savoury pastry options, four fresh homemade salads (though this really is doing a disservice to the creative choices available), a dozen cakes, breads, scones and hot and cold drinks.

Everything has been designed for quick service, and to be eaten on the move.

We chose a couple of pasties (curried veg and leek and cheese), a salad (biriyani rice with roasted aubergine and coriander) and a cake (a wedge of Victoria sponge fit for a queen) along with a competitive flat white.

If you’re going to head somewhere busy, you could do a lot worse than Chesters. The food is always a cut above, and the safety measures they’ve put in place mean you’ll feel as safe as possible too.

The Swan and Tweedies, Grasmere

Having driven through the Lakes a few times recently, we’ve been able to spot the places to visit and those to avoid.

While businesses are having to adapt, new outdoor seating areas in car parks or in alleyways are not going to be a draw, if we can find something better.

The Swan has just that – with a beautiful, socially distanced beer garden. It has views in all directions and has lots of green space.

The picturesque Swan beer garden and real ale looking resplendent in the late summer sun.

Real ale and a strong selection of soft and alcoholic drinks are available.

They’re running a simple one-way system, with track and trace taking place as part of your welcome.

Food is available – inside the pub, which has recently changed hands, is a full bar menu. If you’re dining outside, you’re restricted to pizzas.

These are fresh, light and clearly homemade, so it’s a good option.
The real ale was a touch pricey but was worth it for a couple of hours in a relaxing, spot with such outstanding views.

On our last visit, we also walked to Tweedies in the centre of Grasmere. It’s a busy pub at the best of times, but is even more so now.

The good news is that they have a huge garden and a brilliant system for getting served. This means you’ll not be waiting long at all for your food or drink.

If you’re organised and book a table inside you’ll find that it’s a safe, spacious place in which to spend a pleasant few hours.

If you are not, expect to sit outside. But fear not, the marquee will protect you from the worst of the weather. And the full range of amazing cask and key craft beer is available outside.

Tweedies doesn’t really do quiet, so even though the summer is about beyond us, it’s still worth booking – or donning your big coat if you want to sit outside!

The spacious garden at Tweedies. Including the marquee for wet moments and track and trace.

Where else?

Have you got any recommendations for good places in the Lakes that you’re prepared to share? Let us all know!

Review: The Black Bull, Sedbergh

Dining in lockdown can be a stressful affair. Dining in lockdown in the staycation-packed Lake District is even more so.

Which is why Charlotte and I drove the of the iconic A591 through the Lake District to head for a magical Sunday lunch in the Yorkshire Dales instead.

As we passed abandoned cars, queues outside average eateries, and crowds taking every square foot of pavement, we knew we’d made the right decision.

Our destination was the Black Bull in Sedbergh, and as we entered the town and then the pub, we knew we’d made the right decision.

Sedbergh is small enough and remote enough to still have a bit of an undiscovered gem vibe, and this is especially the case on a Sunday, when most of the town is closed.

Thankfully, the Black Bull was open and expecting us, and it put on a bit of a show too.

It was clear as soon as we entered that we were going to have an enjoyable and relaxed meal.

The whole hotel was laid out spaciously, so that people could come and go without interrupting others.

We’d informed them we’d be bringing Teddy in a pram, so we could be given a suitable space, but in reality they could have sat us at any of the tables, such was the spacious layout.

As we were presented with the menus, we knew we were in for a treat. After all, not nearly enough places have a pre-starter course (crispy guinea fowl croquettes, at £3.50 for two. How could we not?).

The menu was as good a Sunday lunch offering as I’ve seen in sometime. Some places chop their menu right down to offering you a roast or something simple as an alternative. This isn’t the case as the Bull. The menu included a few roast options, along with their trademark pie, fish and other inventive options.

I plumped for the wild rabbit starter, while Charlotte chose the slow cooked beef brisket. Both starters were an ideal size – especially after a croquette – of beautifully presented food. My rabbit was served with middle eastern accompaniments, all of which were perfectly balanced.

Delicate, maybe; but full flavour.

After two light starters, we were presented with hearty mains. I couldn’t resist the pie, and my good decision making continued. Tender chunks of beef were served in a tasty gravy. The pie came with silky mash and the richest of red wine gravies and seasonal greens. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Not just any pie

Charlotte chose the roast lamb and she was rewarded with a plate full of tasty treats. The local lamb belly was moist and tender. The crispy roast potato boulders and intense, decadent cauliflower cheese were highlights.

I swerved the desserts, having filled myself up. But I can confirm the choices were as interesting as the rest of the menu. The egg custard with gooseberries was good as you’d want it to be.

The service throughout was impeccable, and the staff were welcoming. They accommodated us and our young child perfectly.

Following lunch, we explored the town further, before heading in the sun through beautiful Dentdale, for a pint in the cobbled village of Dent.

Again, social distancing was strong and the service and the pint were perfect.

As we drove back through the Lakes and saw the chaos of crowds, we knew we’d made the right decision.

My tip for anyone looking for a good food experience during these uncharted times is to find somewhere off the beaten track. There are some amazing places out there, and if they’re not as busy with crowds, your experience is likely to be better.

If you are in the Lakes, then book well in advance. If you can’t, then turn up early and expect to wait.