Saturday, 23 March 2019

23/03/19 - Drinking in Macclesfield

Bars / Pubs - 5
Good Beer Guide Ticks - #375, 376

Regular blog fans will know that if I am alone and in a strange place, I will be ticking off all the Good Beer Guide Pubs in that strange place.   Tonight, I am with two friends, who as much as they like their beer, are not as obsessed by lists.   It will be interesting to see if they agree with the bible.

First off, our accommodation.   Meticulous research (and budgets) has us in the Travelodge.   Google Maps shows that parking is directly opposite the hotel.   Normally.

The Fair comes to Macclesfield
The Carny have come to town
Its carny carnage.   Gangs of teenage kids, vaping the middle of the road.   Incoherent PA announcer presumably saying things like "Scream if you want to go faster".   Over a Craig David back beat.   I have to take the photo from inside the foyer, in case a youth screams paedo at me.   Paul and Gav do the honours.

We need a drink.

The Treacle Tap, Sutherland Street, Pentrick Brewing Soma

I'm fairly sure that Paul and Gav have not been to a Micro Pub before.   It's kind of nice to see how they handle it.   A stare at the bar pumps, provides no inspiration.   A longer stare at the chalkboard to read the kegs.   Paul buckles first and says "I'll have what your having".   Gav goes off piste and orders a German Wheat Beer and then has his confidence shattered by being asked if he wants a half, a 2/3rd or a pint.   He settles for a half, as the 2/3rd is the same as the pint - due to till error.

We enjoyed the complementary nuts.

Treacle Tap
Inside a former Saddlery Shop
George and Dragon, Sutherland Street, Robinsons Unicorn

These two visits were on the way from where we eventually parked to the hotel.   Tiled flooring led us to a standard pub experience.   Robinsons is never the most exciting of beer ranges, but the Unicorn was in perfect condition and the chat was centered about the collective noun for three of them.

A blessing of Unicorns.

Waters Green Tavern, Waters Green, Barnsley Bitter

All 5 Macclesfield Good Beer Guide entries are loaded into Google Maps.  We've ticked off one at the Treacle Tap and this is the 2nd. 

A traditional boozer, with traditional punters offering a wide range of ales.   No chalkboards offering descriptions but little jam jars showing the colour.

In the Midlands we have a range of pubs under the stewardship of Black Country Ales.   This no nonsense approach to pubbing reminded me very much of them.

Waters Green Tavern
Last of tonight's photos.
Voodoo Cocktail Bar, Mill Street, Brooklyn Lager

This is where things get a little odd.   We stopped at a functional but instantly forgettable locals pub (White Lion?) and then, having googled best Indian in Macclesfield, had our tea at the Gurkha Dining Rooms.

Embolden by hot spices and replacing the sweat lost from a 12 mile walk with real ale, my companions demand that I do not drag them another mile to the Park Tavern for what they suggest might be another "old mans pub"

Ever keen to maintain morale, I put myself in their hands.

This is the first time I have been to a bar that bases its decor on a hybrid between the Mexican Day of the Dead and Voodoo.   To make sure all religious bases are covered, a number of the walls have upside down crucifixes.

Black magic is indeed at work.   My lager was brown.

Mash Guru, Black Wallgate, Marble Arch Brewery Bitter

It's good to open yourself up to new experiences.   This is an absolute cracking little cellar bar, where the promise of live music seduced us.

And who would have thought it would also have Pint of the Night.    Most respectable beer fans have Manchester's Marble Arch as a destination visit.   It was a surprise to find one of their brews in a club setting, kept in such great condition.

The band came on at 10:30.   They did not disappoint.  An eclectic and appreciative crowd covering a broad age range made for a cracking atmosphere.

We stayed long enough to ensure they had turned the waltzers off back at home.

23/03/19 - Shining Tor, Cat and Fiddle No More

Distance - 12 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Trail Magazine, April 2005, Walk 3
Geocaches - 6
Pub - None

In normal conditions, this would be the best walk in an occasional series "Adventurous Pub Walks in the Peak District".   You can guess what's coming.   The only pub on route has been closed for four years.

A real shame.   The Cat and Fiddle is that iconic, its even named on the OS Map.   It was the 2nd highest pub in England.  Who knows where that accolade is held now?   I'm glad to have visited it in my early blogging days.

The scenery and walking remain as timelessly excellent as ever.

Due to Sat Nav confusion, where I mistook my cars directions at a hair pin bend near Derbyshire Bridge for "drive along a public footpath", we don't make the suggested parking at Errwood Reservoir.   With the C&F dominating the view on its high ridge, we make for a lay-by there instead.   Its adds maybe a mile and a half to the overall walk.   At the end of the day, not all members of my party are entirely happy with this.

On top of Stake Side
The bit of bonus path on top of Stake Side
We head down Stake Side, across moorland and then through woods to reach a minor road at Goyt's Moss.   Acting the good Samaritans, three of us help push a camper van that has got trapped in mud.  It contained the most laid back antipodeans you could hope to meet.   I am not 100% sure they even wanted assistance, but once Paul had decided we were helping, that was that.

More Moorland walking up the other side of the valley, where we take advantage of the open access rules to head dead North along Burbage Edge.   Stunning views to the right over Buxton.

Buxton from Burbage Edge
Views over Buxton
Wildmoorstone Brook provides more superb walking to Errwood Reservoir.   Bleak, lonely and blissfully quiet.

Coming Down to Errwood
2/3rds of the Camper Van Rescuers
Errwood Reservoir
Errwood Reservoir

A near complete Circuit of Errwood reservoir and we're up into the grounds of Errwood Hall - a collection of Victorian ruins.   We don't get to see the main ruins of the hall but on the way to Pym Chair, the footpath does take us to a little curio.

The Shrine
The Shrine
Entry can be gained.   There's some religious iconography and a little book to record your visit, where we learn that someone has got engaged there today.   I'm more interested in the little book in the nearby geocache.

Pym Chair provides endless views over the moorland and a long, straight and often flagstoned footpath past Cat's Tor to Shining Tor - the highest point in Cheshire.

The Way to Shining Tor
Shining Tor, with the more handsome Shutlingsloe in the background

There's not much to mark the flat summit of Shining Tor - a trig point the otherside of a wall and a much needed bench to finish lunch off and to toast a county top with Paul's single malt.

We'll say nothing of the grumbling once we exceed the 10 miles that I said the walk would be.

Back at the Cat and Fiddle to record it for posterity.   There may be a chance it will reopen.  The fixtures and fittings are all there - a peer through the windows revealed the furniture and a pool table, rendering the pub with a feel of abandonment similar to the Marie Celeste. 

Cat and Fiddle
2nd Highest (former) pub in England
Cat and Fiddle
Stone Inlay

Cat and Fiddle
Gav, feeling fiddled on this particular Real Ale Pub Walk

Sunday, 17 March 2019

17/03/19 - Heart of England Way - Stage 24 - Pebworth

Distance - 7.5 Miles
Pub - The Masons Arms, Pebworth
Geocaches - 8
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13Stage 14Stage 15Stage 16Stage 17Stage 18Stage 19Stage 20Stage 21Stage 22, Stage 23

Stage 24, so I must to be two years into my monthly circular walks on the Heart of England Way.

I am now in the hinterland between the Forest of Arden and the Cotswolds, the ridge of which I can see in the far distance.   Unfortunately, this means that I am in Evesham Vale - where the walking earns its title, pedestrian.

There are mysteries though - and we will come onto the Masons Arms at Pebworth, following a brief summary of the walk.

The landscape is as flat as a pancake, as I head North East from Pebworth to Long Marston.   A few unfound geocaches and for the 2nd day running, new born sheep to remind me that Spring is here.  Two weeks until my favourite day of the year - marked on every calendar as "British Summer Time Begins".

New Born Sheep at Courts Farm
Shy New Borns at Court Farm
Long Marston is one of Shakespeare's drinking towns but I don't get as far as the 2nd Masons Arms of the day.   A long high street and some thatched houses but it's nowhere near as pretty as Dorsington, with a moated manor house and a more gentle feel.

Dorsington - Chocolate Box Little England
An uneventful journey back to Pebworth - more signs of new woodland being created with the plantings at Becks Woods but little worthy of description.

A walk that can only be described as functional.  Nothing of interest until the Church.

Pebworth Church
Daffs are out at Pebworth

So back to Pebworth's Masons Arms.

If you type Pebworth Pubs into Google Maps, it reveals nothing.   However, if you know its name, it will be revealed - without a Google Review or additional information.   Pubsgalore, Beerintheevening and even Tripadvisor have no information.   Camra's Whatpub has a single line - Pub Reopened in 2018, after being closed for two years.   We await further information.

My job to inform them about the pub that doesn't want to be found.

Masons Arms, Plebworth
Mystery Pub
First thing - don't enter through that white porch at the front.  I ended up in someones front room - no sign of any pubby paraphernalia.   Like a bar.

A quick exit, feeling like a cat burglar, and in through a door to the side.  Hurrah - a bar, but unmanned with no customers.

Is it still a pub?   A bar man comes and it looks like we are in action. 

Three real ales on - Spitfire, Butty Bach and the selected Butcombe Rare Breed - which was in fine condition.

The barman disappears and leaves me to alone for a unique experience.   Alone, in someone's house, wondering when the last punter came in.

Inside the Masons Arms
Marie Celeste of Pubs
Butcombe Rare Breed and a Map of Africa
Butcombe Rare Breed - under a map of Africa

I'd finish by saying "use it or use, people of Pebworth"  but I fear they may have already made up their minds.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

16/03/19 - Geocaching the Rocks

Distance - 11.5 Miles
Geocaches - 40/42
First Cache
Good Beer Guide Tick # 374 - The Harewood End Inn

The good news is that the weather was not as bad as expected.   There was a smattering of heavy rain, that naturally stopped the minute I had struggled into my Berghaus Deluge over-trousers but little could protect me from the wind.   It blew a right old hooley.

I'm here because the cache count for March stood at 6.   Which meant that I had ticked more Good Beer Guide entries than found tupperware.  An imbalance that had to be addressed.

So I find myself in Little Dewchurch for the closest unworked major trail to home.   Parking at the Village Hall and thinking long and hard about whether I was brave enough to venture out.

The geocaches are named after films of Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock.   If it had come up in a pub quiz, I would never have guessed he had made so many films.   The walking is all along quiet lanes - so I was pleased to be out the mud.  I should have guessed the cache containers before heading out.   I can only assume that Wilko's offer multi purchase discount.

Herefordshire Lanes
The Terrain
The Bounty (x40)
The Prizes

The lanes take us close to the River Wye on a couple of occasions.  Its in flood and has claimed Cache 33, which now resides at the bottom of Davy Jones Locker.   I was that desperate for the smiley, I immersed by arm into the water but alas, it has floated away.

Flooded Wye
River Wye is not meant to be this broad.
The route twice takes us into a hamlet called Carey.   On my OS Map, there is the Big Blue Cup of Joy but I never thought for a moment that the pub would still be a going concern.   I arrived at the Cottage of Content at 11:50am and could have waited ten minutes for the opening.   Looked a lovely little place and stickers on the door showed that it was a 2017 Good Beer Guide Entry.

Cottage of Content, Carey
Cottage of Content - surprisingly a going concern
Cottage of Content, Carey
Midday Opening and plenty of trophies

I'd completed my research for post walking refreshments - not noticing that Little Dewchurch has a pub, the Plough.   It made me chuckle that the new estate next to it has been called the Furrows.

Instead, I used lanes similar to those walked to get to the Harewood End Inn, an ancient coaching house on A49 Ross on Wye to Hereford Road.

After adding 40 caches to March's total, I can add another Good Beer Guide Tick.

Harewood End at Harewood End
Good Beer Guide Pub Tick #374
Swan Gold at Harewood End

It's past is probably more interesting than its present - a two real ale pub, catering for the dining crowd and a couple of locals, camped at the bar and no doubt there for the day.

On the walls, you can read bills of sale, showing the pub was first documented in 1627, where the rent was a pair of capons at Christmas time.

In the present, you can choose between Tribute and Swan Gold, dine on tuna sandwiches served on a chopping board (We Want Plates!) and watch Palace lose to Watford in the FA Cup.

Thanks to GrumpyAlan getting my numbers up!

Saturday, 9 March 2019

9/03/19 - Canterbury Ales - Ticking off the Good Beer Guide Pubs

Pubs - 4
Good Beer Guide Ticks #370 - 373

Two nights in Canterbury, a previously unvisited City.   Two nights to drag Mrs M from pillar to post to get as many of the 6 Good Beer Guide ticks available, before she files for divorce.

New Inn, Havelock Street, Ghost Ship

Friday, and the weather is grim.   It's a battle against the wind and rain to arrive at the this back street free house, outside the protection of the City Walls.

The New Inn
New Inn, Freehouse
One thing that Kent can export to other counties is the friendly greeting that we received in several of the pubs visited.   The land lady sits at the end of the bar and makes a real fuss of two wind swept strangers.   And this makes it all worth while.

Once we've got our bearings, we settle down in this traditional terrace boozer.   The pump clips are examined and I go for a fruity Adnams Ghost Ship.    One letter out from the viz profanisaurus entry that always made me laugh.  You can guess the letter that needs changing from the description.
.......of which there is no trace when one stands up and turns around to admire one's work.
A functional local's pub.

The New Inn
Ghost Ship Below the Hops
The Thomas Tallis Alehouse

Now, I've been to a few micropubs and converted hair salons in Bromsgrove don't really cut it with me for the whole pub experience.

Put one in a C15th Timber Framed black and white building and it very nearly works.

Thomas Tallis Alehouse
Looking authentic for a Micro
Whenever I am faced by the amazing or the confusing in pubs, I always google Retired Martin's blog to see if there is an experience to compare.  The last time, it was to see if there was a reason for the smell in Luton's Great Northern (the only pub I've been where the Gents smelt nicer than the bar).

Today's query, was to find the bar.

For this three room pub is unique in my pub experience in that it has none.   We entered, went through one room, found the delightful backroom snug and came back on ourselves to where we started.  After two circuits, the locals took pity on us and told us to find a seat and someone would come to take our order.

Which they duly did.

Now here's the problem.   The beers are all listed on a chalk board but there's no tasting notes or description to help with choice.   On one board, the Angels and Demons brewery beer that I eventually chose was labelled Folkestone Best Bitter.   Couldn't find it on Untapp'd but looking at the other board it was labelled Second Coming.

Which is what I think I had, although I will never know with certainty.

Can't add much that Martin hasn't covered but I did find Canterbury's only Gender Neutral toilet.

Thomas Tallis Alehouse
For Gender Neutral Customers Only
Worth it for the experience.

The Unicorn, St Dunstans Street, Harvey's Sussex Best

Night two.   We have slept well at Lenny Henry's favourite hotel.   We have walked the North Downs Way.   We have been entertained by War Horse at the Marlowe Theatre.

We emerge into the early evening sunshine to find out the Albion have nearly sacked their manager and to find a Skin Head convention at the Lady Luck Pub.   I wish I had had the nerve to have brought your photos.   I don't know if this a Kentish thing, or whether the Skin Heads have been migrating from cities to where the land runs out.   I haven't seen so many since the 70s.

We head on up to the West Gate and find another vintage pub, this one standing since 1604.

The Unicorn
More Vintage Boozing
It's all pretty standard stuff inside.   A central island bar, with high stools blocking access to thirsty punters.  But if they're the only two free, we will take them.   It provides a high vantage point for the drama provided by youth challenged for ID.  They all passed.

The beer was bang average.  I'm a big fan of Harvey's Sussex but this wasn't a great example.

The Dolphin, St Radigun's Street, Timothy Taylor Landlord

Just when I think I've had nothing better than average, the best pint in Canterbury is located.

Mrs M is still with me but she makes it clear that this is the last walk she is prepared to take.   The Eight Bells and Foundry Brew Pub will sadly have to wait till our next visit.

The Dolphin
Getting dark, anyway
Another friendly greeting from the bar staff, although slightly tempered by the "are we after food or drinks" questioning.   Space appears to be an issue, but although we could do with a snack, we have a table booked at a middle eastern restaurant in 90 minutes time.

So drinks it is and what a perfect example of Timothy Taylor it was.   Might not have been LocALE but when its this well kept, there's few beers finer.

Mrs M, negotiates the desire not to walk again by suggesting that we can have another provided I come back with crisps.

This was my plan until I saw the box of Tunnocks Tea Cakes.   Which apparently don't go as well with Stowford Press as I first thought.  Who knew?

The drinks and "chocolate covered cloud of puff" are enjoyed as the diner's begin to thin out and we can admire the Dolphin's quirkiness more.

The Dolphin
Old Motorbike signs, and out of sight, a lot of Michelin Men

09/03/19 - Canterbury City Walk

Distance - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Pub - The City Arms
Walk Inspiration - AA 1001 Family Walks - Walk 306

For a City that's synonymous with Pilgrims, my extensive library of walking routes had only a handful of entries for Canterbury.

A gentle 4 miler from the Premier Inn, via breakfast ate Saffron Cafe, should provide the necessary fresh air before a matinee performance of War Horse and maybe allow us to identify the best of the pubs for the evening.

This is a gentle walk that heads West, via the castle to the flood lands of the Stour Valley Walk.

Looking back from Saffron cafe
We'll get closer to the Cathedral on the Return
The Castle
Castle - closed due to falling masonry
Stour Valley Walk
Stour Valley - After the Rain

The Geocaches are along the Stour Valley, providing a distraction from the puddles and passing under the railway to climb Golden Hill.   No views back to the City but we do get an indication of what Kent is famous for - hop fields.

Hop fields of Golden Hill
Could be Runner Beans - but this is a Real Ale Walking Blog
As well as the theatre, the dining and the walking, we are of course here to check out the Good Beer Guide Pubs.   The route back into town walks past one of the outliers, the Eight Bells.   Can't tell you much about it, as it's not an early riser, and a back street boozer is never going to convince Mrs M to totter back across the city for a time when it is open.

Like an unfound Geocache, I'll leave it for a another day.

Eight Bells - one of the Good Beer Guide Entries
 Mrs M unprepared to come back at night and ask what the sign is all about
We're back within the Town walls.  So much to look for, at and in.   How refreshing to see independent shops and a non uniform high street.   Plenty of fine medieval buildings but the star of the show is both covered in scaffold and charging £13 to get close to.   It remains photographed from afar.

Here's some of the photo highlights.

North Gate
West Gate - which you can squeeze a Nissan Cross trail through
1500 Building and Boat Trips on the Stour
Cathedral Gatway
Gateway to the Cathedral - where they demand money
Butchery Lane
Butchery Lane - home of the City Arms

Mrs M takes me by surprise by announcing she has a pre-midday thirst and we should go to the pub.  I must be on my holidays.  Google suggests the City Arms is one of the rare non JDW pubs that is open from 10am.   C15th building in the delightful narrow lane shown above. 

City Arms
A Closer Look at the City Arms
Inside, it's a quirky enough affair, covered in metal advertising.   Beer wise, there's just the two on.  Hobgoblin and Sharps Atlantic, which contrary to popular belief, is not the main ingredient.

City Arms
Open from 10am but punters have not cottoned on
A functional stop off point.   We'll be back for the Good Beer Guide Ticking after a frankly wonderful experience at the Marlow Theatre.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

02/03/19 - London Countryway Stage 12 - Marlow to High Wycombe

Distance - 12.8 Miles
Start - Marlow
Finish - High Wycombe
Geocaches - 1
Pubs - The Swan, West Wycombe
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10, Stage 11

The London Countryway just keeps on delivering.   Today marks the start of the Chilterns stretch of the walk, with the guide promising 30 miles of great walking through the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.   If the rest is like today, I will be a happy man.   Woodland, paths that I have almost totally to myself and plenty gentle ups and downs.

I have the ground to myself but the skies are owned by the Red Kites.   The population is booming and they are a near constant companion.

Red Kites
Red Kites A-Plenty
Marlow is left behind by climbing out of the Thames Valley.  At this point, the views are behind but I'm soon dropping down to Blueys Farm.   This place rather excited the guide writer, Keith Chesterton, who somehow managed to do pre-Internet based stalking to determine who owned it and why it was uninhabited.  I'm content to marvel at the approach and enjoy the period cottages that look much older than they actually are.   Keith knows they were built in the 1960s.

Typical Valley View
Valley of the Bluey
Blueys Farm
This one is for sale - 1.1m of your Buckinghamshire pounds
Plenty of woodland to traverse to the sound of shotguns.   I seem to get increasingly close to the firing and hope that I'm not mistaken for whatever it is that they are blasting.   I remain unscathed as I cross the M40 and get views of West Wycombe house.   The only disappointment is the time.  45 minutes till opening.

West Wycombe House
Stately Home in the Distance.   Dread to think of this one's value
The reason I need to hit West Wycombe at midday is the Swan.   Most of my pub ticking inspiration comes from the CAMRA Good Beer Guide but they also have another publication which should not be ignored.   Britain's Best Real Heritage Pubs has a single entry for Buckinghamshire.   After confirmation with the lovely library ladies that sing the pubs praises, I decide it's worth a 30 minute wait in the sunshine.

The Swan, West Wycombe
The Swan, West Wycombe
The Swan, West Wycombe
One of those chairs will do to wait at

The pub has been owned by the same family since the 1910 and the decor is unchanged since the war - I'm just not sure which war.   Initially, I am confused by the long bar with no pumps.   The beers are served from gravity fed barrels, so at least I don't have to worry about whether they have been pulled through.

The Swan, West Wycombe
Inside of a heritage pub - my Rebellion IPA nestled on the pumpless bar.  Rucksack in the blue chair
A real delight to find this and long may it continue unchanged.

The rest of West Wycombe is equally delightful, a couple more pubs, the hell fire caves and the mausoleum on the hill.  All previously visited. 

Church Lane Port Hole
Church Lane - through the portal for a climb to the mausoleum
West Wycombe Hill
And there it is

More of the same to High Wycombe.  A climb to Downley Common, a skirt through the grounds of Hugenden Manor and entry into High Wycombe town.

More Valley Views
More Valleys
Hughenden Manor
Hughenden Manor

No time to explore High Wycombe - not that shopping centres hold much appeal - the 850 back to Marlow runs every 30 minutes and I am 3 minutes before its due to leave.

Bang on time.

Another double digit miles in the Chilterns awaits next month.