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A chance to stay local; Charles Evans decides to ring the changes, giving his local pub a try and setting aside his usual watercolours for acrylics.

Imust admit to feeling a bit of a fraud tonight because I've hardly travelled at all. In fact, I'm a quarter of a mile out of my own village of Acklington in Northumberland at The Railway Inn.

Even though, strictly speaking, this is my local, it's somewhere that I really haven't used more than a dozen times in the past 10 years.

These days it's under new management so I thought I'd give it a try.

It has a lovely dining room with plush leather seats and a tartan carpet and a big polished wooden bar at the end. The low lighting adds to a very nice atmosphere.

Isn't it funny how you always seem to forget what's just around the corner? The pub also has quite a bit of land around it which is given over these days to caravans and camping - and it was packed with camping folk on the Tuesday night of my visit, although it wasn't too noisy in the pub.

The menu is not vast but with enough choice to suit most tastes, and apparently most things on it are locally sourced - always good to hear.

For my starter, I ordered garlic mushrooms served with salad and crusty bread (PS4.95) and for my main course Balmoral chicken stuffed with haggis and pepper sauce (PS11.99). That sounds interesting.

The mushrooms were, at best, served in a rustic manner with two slabs of lovely bread soaking up the most garlicky of garlic butter and with fresh chunky mushrooms still firm in the middle.

What more could you ask for? It did what it said on the can and it was lovely.

The main course, though still really nice, was a different matter. The chicken, fresh and moist, was filled with a fabulously spicy haggis and draped with what I would have sworn was a curry sauce.

I mentioned this to the waitress who said no, it was definitely a pepper sauce. She checked with the chef who said the same.

Now I spent 20 years in the catering trade, working in some of the finest restaurants in Europe, and I reckon I know the difference between curry powder and ground pepper!

I might have been wrong but, at the very least, the chef could have ventured beyond the kitchen door to discuss the problem. I wasn't prepared to argue the point because the meal was most enjoyable.

The vegetables - jardiniere of carrots and plenty of cabbage - made for a very tasty plate full.

I decided not to have a dessert because I was too full. Unusual for me, I know, but that was a good portion of chicken. And haggis is very filling.

The staff here are nice and friendly and it wasn't only because I was virtually at home that I felt relaxed. The pub has a homely feel that I'm sure would appeal to everyone.

Praise be, they have an espresso machine and a mighty fine treble it is too. Met a few farmer friends here tonight so, all in all, it's been a lovely evening.

I think I'm very brave to do my own local because if you're not careful you could become the most hated man in the village.

Don't know if I've done that tonight but I will always tell it how I see it, or taste it as the case may be.

THE PAINTING Something different this month because it's acrylic on canvas - and the painting for my latest YouTube video.

I started by putting on the sky, using my 11/2ins flat wash brush to apply a mix of cobalt blue and titanium white, making it slightly lighter toward the bottom with the addition of more white.

I then cleaned my brush and scooped a blob of white to do the clouds, using my finger to form the shapes.

Once the sky had dried, I did a very simple outline drawing, blocking in the essential items.

Next I changed to my 3/4ins flat brush and, with a mixture of cobalt blue and alizarin crimson, stroked gently and lightly across the canvas to form the distant, weak hills. While still wet, and with the same brush, I popped a little Naples yellow on the tops here and there, just to lighten it slightly.

With the same brush, a quick horizontal stroke across the bottom of the hills created a distant field.

I then changed to my No. 8 round brush and put on a few little blobs of mixed Hookers green and raw sienna to suggest distant bushy trees.

With this same brush and a slightly stronger mix, I created that clump of trees to the right - but this time I put a bit of the cobalt blue to the right of the clump to give more depth.

Now to get to the big stuff! With my No. 3 rigger brush and a mix of raw umber and cobalt blue I painted a few tree trunks and twiggy bits to form the more distant of the bigger trees.

Changing to my No. 8 round brush and a mix of Hookers green and burnt sienna I filled in the foliage, using the side of the brush and stroking the mix downwards in big strokes. No need to paint individual leaves. Again I popped in a little cobalt blue to the right and a bit of Naples yellow to the left.

For the big tree I used the same process, brush and mix for the twiggy bits, but only half way up. The tree trunk itself is overgrown. For this I used my 3/4ins flat brush, splitting it and stippling on a strong mix of Hookers green and burnt sienna.

Quickly pop in some Payne's grey this time, to the right hand side, followed again by Naples yellow to the left. For the foliage adopt the same process and brush as with the last trees, but stronger. Remember, this one is closer.

Back to my 3/4ins flat brush for the grasses beneath. With a mix of Hookers green and raw sienna I put the brush on the canvas and flicked upwards to create blades of grass - a simple process but effective.

Using the same flat brush and Naples yellow with a touch of raw sienna, I filled in the foreground field and then, with more raw sienna, added a few diagonal stripes coming across it.

Once good and dry, and using the same brush, I dragged a bit of shadow across the field from the base of the trees. This was a mix of Payne's grey and alizarin crimson. Don't go mad with the shadows - just focus on the big trees.

There, done! A simple but effective little picture.

All art materials used were by Winsor and Newton. For free projects, courses and discounted art materials visit charles@charlesevansart.com or follow @charlesevansart on WIN CHARLES' WATERCOLOUR For your chance to win Charles' watercolour, valued at PS200, simply answer the question below and send your entry along with your name, address and contact telephone number to: The Journal Culture Magazine taste Competition (September issue), PO Box 358, Newcastle NE99 1BT. Entries must arrive by September 21.

Question: What is the name of the restaurant Charles reviewed this month? The first correct entry drawn at random will receive the prize as offered. Usual Trinity Mirror promotion rules apply and are available at www.chroliclelive.co.uk
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 30, 2016
Words:1237
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