Thursday, 16 August 2018

16/08/18 - The Bridge Hotel, Standord Bridge

Distance - 5.5 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Walk Inspiration

I've had my eye on this walk for a while but was put off by the comments from the last people to have completed it.   They talked of bad stiles and impenetrable crop fields.  As this was in 2012, I decided to bravely provide an update to the walking community.

And I'm delighted to announce that in August 2018, all is good.  The stiles require a touch of athleticism but the problem paths down by the Teme are now clear... although I was fortunate enough to walk it on harvest day.

One of the reasons I was interested in the walk is that it starts from an unexplored pub, The Bridges Hotel.  A steady uphill climb through fields rewards with fine views over Shropshire's Clee Hills.

Clee Hill Views
First of the Views over Shropshire
As well as the Bridges, there is a chance of a mid point stop off at the Cross Keys in Menithwood.  The same comments about bad paths indicate that the pub opens at 5pm and as the sun is past this yardarm, I will investigate.  First, however, I come across the weirdness of Burnt House.

Could this be a bonus pub?

Burnt House
Burnt Wood
If it is, its a pub that has been swallowed by nature.  It's also at the end of a track that cars cannot navigate and I admit to being a bit perplexed.   Having watched too many horror movies, my investigations are curtailed when I hear a radio and find this.

Burnt House Weirdness
Now I'm scared.
I hot foot it to Menithwood.  The OS Map shows the Cross Keys marked but I cannot find it on the ground.  A local confirms that it is a pub no more and we get into a conversation about Burnt Wood.  Carefully choosing her words, she tells of a gentleman that has removed himself from society and collects stuff.   Presumably restaurant signs and baby mannequins to stuff into wheel arches.

Downhill from Menithwoods to the potential problem areas... first a field full of beer ingredients and then wheat fields along the Teme.

Harvest time is to my advantage

River Teme
Glimpse of the Teme only happens from Stanford Bridge
The only geocache of the day is found on the bridge - always nice to record a walk with a smiley - and all that remains is the pub.

Bridge Hotel
The Bridge Hotel, Stanford Bridge
How can you tell when you are in a Country Pub?  A fair indication is when the local at the bar is trying to get the ladies to feel his cucumber.  The offer is extended to a rambling stranger but one look at his stubby, nobbly effort makes me pleased the supermarkets complete vegetable beauty quality control.

Beer wise, with have a Ludlow Brewery Blonde and a Wye Valley HPA availble.  Big fan of Ludlow Brewery but I play it safe with a top quality HPA.

HPA at the Bridge Hotel
Jimmy Quadrophenia is in the Snug

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

14/08/18 - The Cat at Enville - 2018 Dudley Pub of the Year

Distance - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration - Best Pub Walks in South Staffs - Walk 9

This is a perfect little combination - a superb countryside walk that requires a bit more effort than it's four miles would suggest, finishing at Dudley and South Staffordshire CAMRA pub of the year.

The Walk

Parking available from the memorial or pub car park.   Head south on the Staffordshire way into the grounds of Enville Hall - a private residence that can trace its history for 700 years through the Earls of Stamford who still own it today.  Easy walking as we pass cricket pitches, horse pastures and the hall itself.

Enville Hall
The Driveway at the Start of the Walk
Enville Hall
Enville Hall

The walking highlight is undoubtedly the Sheep Walks.  Just past Temple Pool, where a minor road is met, turn right onto some undulating countryside that rewards the pull up with superb views over the Midlands.   Waymarking is provided by frequent fingerposts providing directions.

Sheepwalks Views
Easy Navigation over the Sheep Walks
Sheepwalks Views
The reward for the climb

Heading north now, drop off the hillside and reach Morfe Road at Cox Green.  Lane walking for a mile until the Staffordshire way is picked back up on the right and head to the Church and importantly, the pub.

St Marys, Enville
St Mary's Church - Modeled on Gloucester Cathedral
The Pub

Surprisingly, I haven't been to this prize winning pub before.   It's a gem.

To start with, its what you'd call a proper pub.  The history of the building can be traced to the C16th and life as a pub goes back to 1718.

The first challenge is finding the way in.  The walk goes past the front of the pub where there is a door but not one that opens.  Entrance is through the gate to the side, providing an indication of how the pub is made of multiple buildings.

The Car, Enville
7 Real Ales, New Chef Required and slow down
These buildings provide plenty of opportunity for exploration.   Entrance leads straight to a central bar and through doorframes designed when people were much shorter, access is provided to dining rooms, a second bar and even a third.   The handful of locals in appear to like standing at anyone of the bar areas and involving the bar staff in conversations ranging from lowest calorie booze and what all the police were doing in Kinver on Saturday night.   Internet research suggested Gin but drew a blank on Kinver crime.

The Cat, Enville
Myriad Rooms and proper pub furniture
Finally, why the CAMRA reward?  Eagle eyed viewers from the first pub picture will notice that 7 real ales are on offer.   We'll work on the presumption that they have the volume of drinkers to make this work.  All are handily displayed on entry.  If you want to do what Mrs M does when we go for a meal, you can download the latest offerings from their website and kill any surprise stone dead.

The Cat, Enville
Today's Menu - Mainly Golds and Pales
I ordered the Enville Ale.  Not because it was the first thing on the menu but because I know there are close ties with this brewery, hosted a couple of miles away.

Enville Ale
When in Enville
Inspired choice - the pint matched the walk.  Superb.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

11/08/18 - Diverse Good Beer Guide Ticks in Waterloo

With no pubs available on Stage 7 of the London Countryway, I arrive at Waterloo Station, dryer than Gandhi's flip flop.

Everyone's looking for something
This little two location jaunt demonstrates the two extremes of the psycho-geography of Good Beer Guide Ticking.   The bible is used to randomly select places that are the polar opposite of each other.  One could argue that its not totally random, as they should be linked by a good pint, but this is not always the case.

Let's start with the traditional.

The Kings Arms, Roupell Street, XT3

Roupell Street has to be one of my favourite addresses in London.   It's like a terrace of miners cottages, surrounded by high rises and railway infrastructure and only moments from the madness of the above photograph.

And who says its impossible to park in London?   There has to be 5 Citroen cars of various vintage.  It's either a pre-requisite of living on this road or one person has managed to secure multiple parking permits.   I'm almost brave enough to enquire at the pub but ordering a drink proves tricky enough.

Roupel Street
If you want to live in Roupell Street, it helps if you like Citroens.
The Kings arms is a beauty.   All wood paneling around a central bar, classic pub furniture and how can anyone resist the urge to not enter a door marked "Saloon"?

The Kings Arms, Waterloo
Classic London Pub Architecure
Xt3 at the Kings Arms
Today, we'll go through the Saloon Door

There are four beers on each side of the central bar and asking what's on offer prompts the bar staff to hover somewhere between the two serving areas and quietly, but very quickly, reel off the 8 available beers.   Luckily for me, the final choice is one that I am familiar with.  To avoid going through the whole list again, I plump for an XT 3, safe in the knowledge that the lower the number, the paler the beer.

A cursory inspection of the tiny facilities (impossible not to make friends) and a look at the delightful Thai restaurant in a separate conservatory, before heading somewhere more modern.

The Waterloo Tap, A railway Arch, Adnams Bicyle Kick

You'd be amazed at how many railway arches there are around Waterloo.   Not one of them a lock up garage, mind.   Eventually, I find what I am looking for.

Waterloo Tap
Look at the fear in the child's eyes.
This is a sister pub to the Euston Tap, one of the few pubs I've walked out on without making a purchase.   Before HS2, I'd prefer to have my eyes stung from the toilet fumes of the Bree Louise.

The reason for my refusal?  General beer confusion, similar to this...

Waterloo Tap Confusion
Pick the bones out of that
I mean come on....  I'm an experienced pub goer and had to resort to standing for 5 minutes, open mouthed with a bewildered look on my face.   No assistance from the bar staff, he was too excited about Chelsea beating Huddersfield.

Eventually I spot Adnams as a brand recognised and order a Bicycle Kick for a fiver.  It described as a Pale Ale but is delivered very cold.   From the amount of fizz, I am filing it under lager.

So there you have it - two very different environments from different ages.  Two decent pints. 

The Guide worked today.

11/08/18 - London Countryway Stage 7 - Box Hill to Horsley

Distance - 10 Miles
Start - Box Hill
Finish - Horsley
Geocaches - 4
Pubs - I missed the Barley Mow at Horsley
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5, Stage 6

More delightful walking on the London Countryway, as I leave the ridge paths of the North Downs Way and Greensands Way, to drop down from the hills and start the attack on the Thames Valley.

The walk starts at Box Hill and Westhumble Station.  Served only hourly from Victoria, I board with an alarming number of people in hiking gear.   I am asked firstly if I am a member of the Saturday Walking Club and then if I am an Outdooraholic.   The second question took a double take but an explanation from the leader details that they are 31000 (!) strong meetup group based in London who hike every weekend.  With the leader also holding all the groups rail tickets and organising trips to the single train toilet, it all looked a bit school trip-ish to me but their itinerary looks fun.

On train departure at Box Hill, they are all heading west and its just me and a denim clad rambler heading east, looking for the North Downs Way, which runs along private roads to gently gain height.

North Downs Way out of Box Hill
Metalled North Downs Way
The best walking is undoubtedly the first half of the way.   Once through the trees, there are fine views over England's biggest Vineyard, Denbies, revealing Dorking and the planes taking off from Gatwick.  You have to wonder where the passengers think they are flying to that could possibly be better than this.

Views over Denbies Vineyard to Dorking
Denbies Vineyard
Ranmore Common next, providing good paths but little too look at when you cannot see the woods for the trees.  The shade, however, is most welcome and St Barnabas of Ranmore is an architectural highlight.

St Barnabas of Ranmore
St Barnabas of Ranmore and a cycling team in Pink
More woodlands through indistinct areas marked on the OS Map as White Downs, Sheepwalk Lane and Effingham Forest.  Few ramblers around but there is a close encounter that I wished I'd been able to focus on better before it shot off.

Sharing the Path
Resident of Effingham Woods
The drop down from the ridge is at the Sheepleas, where London reveals itself for the second point on the Country way.  I am without my telescopic lens to pick out the famous reference points visible with the naked eye but the notice board does explain what the photo doesn't pick up.

Coming down with views over London
London - Far Away
The remainder of the walk was all down hill to Horsley Station.   Little to look at but plenty of interest - if you do you research.  Mine was half completed.   I knew St Mary's Church reputedly has the head of Sir Walter Raleigh (pickled by his wife and kept in a red leather bag, no less) buried in the crypt.  A wedding interrupted exploration.

Wedding at West Horsley Church
Wedding at St Marys

A cracking Geocache tells me the history of West Horsley Place.  We know its ancient because of the type face on the OS Map.  Owned by Walter's Son at one point and recently bequeathed to Bamber Gascoigne before he donated it to become an arts centre.

My lack of research?  I forgot to deviate from the path to take in the Barley Mow for post walk refreshment.   There's nothing to be sourced at Horsely Train Station, so I head back to the City dry.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

09/08/18 - Three Good Beer Guide ticks in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter

The Bible has this area down as Hockley, but for me it's the Jewellery Quarter.  Much has changed since my last visit.

The Jewellers Arms has been taken over by Black County Ales. The Lord Clifdon served a dodgy pint of Bathams (the horror, it may have been someone's first taste and they would have wondered what the fuss was about).   The Rose Villa Tavern are now charging £4.60 a pint.

Which is where we start blogging.

Rose Villa Tavern, 172 Warstone Road, Purity Longhorn IPA

Apart from the prices, nothing has changed.  Still one of the most gorgeous pubs in the West Midlands.

Rose Villa Tavern
Rose Villa Tavern in all its Victorian Glory

Rose Villa Tavern
Beautiful Windows letting in little light
Tonight's clientele covered the full range - men in workgear, the elderly - rearranging the furniture with disregard to the screech of tables on tiled floors and hipsters with trousers that we noted for both their tightness and shortness.

Much to admire, not least an unusual Purity brew not seen before - Longhorn IPA.

Onto the new pubs in the area, via a rather nice Turkish Restaurant over the road.

1000 Trades, Frederick Street, Rock and Roll Bitter

Not much to look at from the outside, but so hipster inside, the first thing you notice are the twin DJ decks in a little booth.

We don't have those in my local.

1000 Trades
1000 Trades - next to the Scaffolding
The beer menu is chalked up on a board and I choose wisely by taking the house bitter - this is an outlet for the Rock and Roll Brewery.  If I'd come ticking on a weekend, I could have added the Rock and Roll Taphouse to the list of ticks.

The beer was fine and checked into UnTappd with a comment about my love of The The's "This is the day" that causes Mrs M to have a singalong.

They reply that The The are big favourites in the Brewhouse.   I think we will be coming back.

The Red Lion, 94 Warstone Lane

Red Lion
Poor Camera Phone Photo
Back with the Bathams but it wasn't a good idea to slag off the bad pint at the Lord Clifdon.  Firstly, they admonish me for using the "C" word and then reveal that this is their sister pub.   All friendly banter.

This is a gem of a pub, managing to maintain both a traditional pub feel and be quirkly decorated with pop art.   A central bar splits a front bar and rear lounge.  Just like it should.

Beer was prize worthy.

Red Lion
Pride of place on Mappiman's Mantelpiece
Super Area, The Jewellery Quarter Hockley, I'd recommend over the City Centre for putting a good pub crawl together.

Monday, 6 August 2018

06/08/18 - Snowshill Geocaching and the Crown and Trumpet, Broadway

Distance - 3 Miles
Geocaches - 11
First Geocache

A 3 mile, 11 cache trail called "Summer Nights", starting in one of the most picturesque villages in the UK?   Don't mind if I do....  Almost seems purpose designed for a warm August monday evening.

I think its good for the soul to have an annual visit to Snowshill.  There's superb walking in the area - the usual classic route taking in Stanton and Stanway.   Today's walk starts from the free car park and completes a small up and down circuit of the valley - leaving you back in the village for post walk refreshments at the Snowshill Arms - provided you are there after 6pm during the midweek.

The caches are gloriously easy - especially when the Dutch muggles at cache 1 have finished taking photos of sheep.   They don't have those in Holland, you know.

Here's the photo story...

Start of the Walk
Start of the walk on the way down the valley
Snowshill from the opposite side
Snowhill View from the opposite side
King of the Cache Containers
King of the Cache Containers
Donnington Brewery Snowshill Arms
Donnigton Brewery's Snowshill Arms - Not open till 6pm
Vale of Evesham
Vale of Evesham from a Multi Cache GZ
Snowshill Village
Classic View - Church, Pub, Cottage and Red Phone Box

Shame about the Snowshill Arms - even with the time delay of finding a couple of multi-caches, we still had 15 minutes to wait till it opened.

No hardship - the Good Beer Guide Crown and Trumpet in Broadway is just 10 minutes away.

It's been blogged before but what a classic pub.... timeless beauty.

Crown and Trumpet, Broadway
Proudly in the bible for at least 31 years
Crown and Trumpet, Broadway
Cotswold Elegance
Goffs Cheltenham Gold
One of 3 LocALEs on - Goff's Cheltenham Gold

Perfect evening - thanks for the caches again, Mike.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

04/08/18 - Three Good Beer Guide Ticks in Plymouth

A day walking the misty moors, followed by an evening in England's Ocean City.

Unusually for a pub ticking expedition, I have non real ale drinkers in tow - my brother, Fast Pint Arm Bob and his mate John, a man who seemingly knows everyone in Plymouth.   Bob takes us to a Mediterranean theme bar called Air to get us in the mood - think outdoor drinking, palm trees and London Prices before I take over and try and inject a little culture into proceddings.

Minerva, 31 Looe Street, St Austell HSD

Might as well start with Plymouth's oldest pub.

Minerva Inn
From Right to Left - FPAB, John and our new friend for the evening, whom we shall call "Nan"
This is the best way to explore history - a living working museum built before the Spanish Armada set sail and if the rumours are to be believed, has a staircase manufactured from the mast of a captured Spanish Galleon.  Read up here and make sure you check your pint for the Kings Shilling, less you wake up in the Navy.   Take that Micro Pubs.

It's long, it's thin, the HSD was a welcome relief after an afternoon touring the continent through their expensive lagers.

The Fisherman's Arms, 31 Lambhay Street, Summerskills

John demonstrates his local knowledge and leads us to GBG 2 of the day.  Its a mazy walk through council flats that I would like to think I would have found with Google Maps.

Stuck in a sidestreet, surrounded by the worst of 1960s architecture, is the best of the night - a boozer that declares itself as "a country pub in the heart of the city".

Fishermans Arms
Other Internet Based photos do not show this new colour scheme
The landlady was lovely and came out for an extended chat as we took advantage of the heatwave for some al fresco drinking.

The beer was unique to me - Something by a Plymouth Brewery called Summerskills.   I didn't want to look a fool in front of my new mates by checking into UnTapped (it would have confused Nan) and four days after a long day, I'm ashamed to say I cannot remember the exact brew.

But rest assured, it was lovely.

The Dolphin Hotel, The Barbican, Draught Bass

A hop, skip and a jump to another Plymothian Institution, the Dolphin Hotel.   Famous as being the artist's Beryl Cook's local.  Some of her artwork, that you will recognise if you google her, can be found inside.  If you don't want to google her, the outside vista is a fair representation of her style.

Dolphin Hotel
Darkness falls on the Dolphin Hotel
I didn't want to come all this way without a Dartmoor Jail Ale but on entry and seeing the wealth of gravity fed casks behind a huge bar, the bar-staff convinced me to have a draught Bass. 

As if I had never been to Burton.

Plenty more work to do in Plymouth with 8 more ticks available.