THERE has been a pub on the site of the Dipton Mill Inn in Hexhamshire for almost 200 years.

The first landlady is recorded as Betty Forster, and the inn itself as known as the Fox and Lamb.

In those 200 years, just 17 people have been licensees at the pub - and since 1989, its been in the hands of the Brooker family.

The Brookers have built a reputation as one of the best pubs around - not just in Tynedale, but in the UK.

Last year, it was one of six pubs in the district to feature in the AA's Pub Guide, and in March it was chosen as Northumberland Pub of the Year by Tyneside and Northumberland’s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

Members of the 2,000-strong CAMRA branch voted the pub the winner of the South West Northumberland Pub of the Year award.

A panel then judged the three Northumberland area winners and awarded the brew pub the overall accolade.

The inn is also famed for its popular Hexhamshire brewery, which was founded by Geoff Brooker in 1992.

Geoff sadly died in 2015, passing the premises license to his son Mark. Mark's Mum, Janet, continues cooking the delicious food that the pub has such a well deserved reputation for.

The pub has survived everything from floods, fires, and foot and mouth in its long history - but Mark said he had never known anything like the coronavirus crisis.

Thankfully, business has been booming since it was allowed to reopen.

Mark said: "It's gone really well. We managed to get social distancing implemented in there well.

"We had to take a few tables out because the pub isn't massive, but we had some nice weather so a lot of people where able to sit in our lovely beer garden.

"Eat out to Help Out brought in a lot of customers too.

"We went through foot and mouth, that was the closest thing to now - but that didn't close the pub.

"We've survived flood, fire, and now pestilence - it's like the four horsemen of the apocalypse!"

During lockdown, the brewery continued to operate thanks to Mark's hard work, with it's much-loved beer delivered across the Tyne Valley.

Janet also continued to run the inn's pub quiz via Facebook, much to the delight of locals.

When asked what makes the Dipton Mill Inn so special, Mark was under no illusions.

He said: "It's the people who come in who make it special. I love the locals coming in and visitors to the area love the atmosphere they create.

"A pub is just a building - a very nice building - but the people really make it, and the staff.

"We're working on a grant application to extend the brewery and refurbish the back of the pub.

"It's been a long time coming but we're really positive about it.

"That's only off the back of the support we get. We've always been really well supported."