Foxy lady


Rosie McGlade meets a café owner who thought she was swapping the rat race for the quiet life, until her village coffee shop, The Running Fox, became runaway success

Kris Blackburn walks just 69 steps from her cottage in Felton, Northumberland to the village coffee shop she took over in spring 2011 and which is now so busy it’s something of a local phenomenon.

No wonder she wishes she had a pound for everyone who’s said they’d love to do something just like her. This is a rural idyll a world away from rush hours and offices and no time for the kids. Just ducks waddling up to the door from the River Coquet in search of bread thrown for them by satisfied customers.

We go and have sandwiches – a bacon buttie and a mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and pesto. They are possibly the biggest I’ve ever seen, made with bread baked on the premises stuffed with quality fillings.

We also have three cups of tea, a big chunk of chocolate cake and pick up half a dozen eggs to take home – all for just £10.

It’s interesting to see how successful a little place like this can be while US coffee giant Starbucks closes its UK flagship branches and struggles with multi-million pound losses.

The Running Fox isn’t Starbucks, of course, far from it, which may just mean we’re tiring of high street chains in favour of local, home-made plenty which isn’t pricey.

“You know those articles in magazines about women in their 40s who make a big life change? Well, this is one of those stories,” Kris says.

Her partner is an architect working between Edinburgh and Newcastle, hence the move to Felton five years ago, when Kris’s then-catering business, Church’s Cuisine, was at its busy peak.

“I think of that book, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, where the little boy sits under a tree, dreams of finding treasure, and travels the world looking for it. Of course it’s there, under the tree all along,” she says, recounting the fact that she was offered the coffee shop a couple of times before she actually realised it was just what she wanted.  She also realised what was then called The Cheviot – a newspaper shop where you could get a cup of tea and a sandwich – needed something more, and brought back its original name, The Running Fox, and asked artisan baker Neville Tulip to be her business partner.

Neville now knocks out a range of fabulous loaves daily with flavours ranging from stilton and walnut to rosemary, rock salt and raisin, to cherry tomato and pesto, to a Felton fruit loaf based on an old village recipe.

They also make all their own quiches, meat pies, cakes and scones, soups and daily specials like today’s mince and dumplings.

They recently won a ‘Keeping It Local Northumberland’ award for the best value Sunday lunch in the county.Currently, there are only 24 seats in the cafe and Kris recommends that you book. In fact, they can do a staggering 150 covers in a day.

“We’re just a traditional coffee shop with easy parking, so your guess is as good as mine as to why it’s worked; nobody’s more surprised than I am. We just try to be friendly and offer fresh, simple food.”

This formula, in addition to the quality local art and jewellery for sale, the idyllic location and those friendly ducks combine to create a true village gem. We’re just not sure the locals will thank us for telling you about it.

The Running Fox, 2-4 Riverside Felton, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 9EA, tel 01670 787 090


Sign up to our news
You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us.