THE August Eatoutathon is well underway but we have to confess we are on something of a body mass index (BMI) tightrope. Throughout lockdown my BMI has hovered around 25 which, strictly speaking, means I am overweight. But I’ve found that if I lose one or two pounds and using the online NHS BMI calculator I can get down to a BMI of 24.9 and be a “healthy weight” – albeit with the caveat that I am at “the higher end” of the range. The NHS website gently but firmly adds that I should “Keep an eye on your weight and try to stay in the healthy range.”

OK – but I’m also going to get full value from the current Eat Out to Help Out scheme before it runs out at the end of the month. Perhaps more than most people I should be doing my bit to support the hospitality industry.

But how to square this circle of potentially overdoing the calories while indulging in this once-in-a-lifetime (I sincerely hope) opportunity to dine out at the Government’s expense.

Well, we have tried to be a bit canny, so far staying well-clear of fast-food joints, eschewing pizza and burgers for fish and salads, and along the way enjoying an £8 lunch at Barkers Kitchen and a £30 two-course dinner at Imperial Express café in Darlington.

We slightly fell off the wagon at the White Horse Café in Northallerton where early-week fish chips in the café upstairs is currently cheaper than getting it from the takeaway downstairs.

And Sunday lunch at the Wheatsheaf in Carperby well and truly derailed me courtesy of a syrup sponge and custard which undid the virtue of declining a starter. The roast beef and Yorkshire pudding didn’t help either.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

I told myself this outing didn’t really count because, it being a Sunday, the meal didn’t qualify for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. And when I got home I measured my height properly for the first time since leaving school and realised as I am still, just about, 5ft 11in tall, my BMI remained just below that 25 threshold and I’m not officially overweight. Phew.

The Wheatsheaf is a famous inn, most notably as the honeymoon location for a certain Alfred Wight and his new bride Joan in the mid-winter of 1941. Mr Wight, aka James Herriot, combined the honeymoon with TB testing of cattle, Joan accompanying him on expeditions to far-flung muddy Dales farmsteads. Romantic.

The Wheatsheaf’s connection with James Herriot is well-known and chronicled. But I didn’t know that just a few weeks later, early in 1942, a true celebrity of the day, Greta Garbo, stayed there after entertaining – in one of her last appearances before becoming the world’s most famous recluse – the troops at what was then Catterick Camp.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

No doubt the Wheatsheaf was a desirable place to stay in 1942 – but what was wrong with the Scotch Corner Hotel built and opened at the beginning of the war?

Enough of the historical musings, you might say. I would only add that the modern-day Wheatsheaf would no doubt have found favour with James Herriot. Well-known as a lover of simple fare, he would have approved of today’s menu which has a no-nonsense, hearty, Dales flavour to it.

Ham and eggs, gammon and pineapple, a 12-inch Wensleydale sausage, liver and onions and fish and chips would have been just the sort of dishes to revive a young vet and his new wife after a perishingly-cold day plodging round Dales farmyards.

Probably the only things on the modern-day menu which would have raised a Herriot eyebrow would be crispy duck spring rolls with hoi sin sauce, and chilli con carne. A bit new-fangled that.

Simple it may be but the preparation and cooking is first class. After sharing a decent prawn cocktail we enjoyed mains of roast beef, all the trimmings and vegetables and grilled cod fillet with lemon butter and cracked black pepper.

The beef was really well flavoured, served with lots of gravy, a handsome Yorkshire pudding and fluffy roast potatoes. The cod was a hefty slab of super-white and fresh fillet cooked to a T (grilled to a light crisp on top but moistly flaky inside).

The veg – new potatoes, carrots and broccoli – were plain but perfect.

I succumbed to the lure of a syrup pudding with custard which despite being very light momentarily tipped me over the BMI edge when I stepped on the scales the following morning. Skipping lunch got me back on track.

The bill of £40 included halves of Wensleydale bitter and Estrella Damm lager.

Social distancing was well observed. The screens used to ensure separation between tables were a little obtrusive but probably effective, as was the one-way system. Many diners, many of them walkers, were eating outside (it was still summer that weekend).

The Wheatsheaf is taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme so prices on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday next week will take you back – if not quite to James Herriot’s Yorkshire of 1941 but a long way towards it.

The Wheatsheaf

Main Street, Carperby, Leyburn DL8 4DF

Tel: 01969-663216 Web:

Open for food: noon-2.30pm and 6-8.30pm seven days

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 9 Service 8 Surroundings 7 Value 7