Monday, 30 May 2016

30/05/16 - Ellesmere Lakes and Pubs

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Walk Inspiration - Jarrold Pathfinder, Heart of England, Walk 7
Pubs - The Market Hotel and the Black Lion Hotel

My favourite walking guides are the Jarrold Pathfinders.  Book 14 covers my area - Shropshire, Staffordshire and the Heart of England.  I completed the first walk in 2004.  Having knocked off the furthest away today, I now have just 3 left to complete.

So I am off to Ellesmere.  Never been there before.  Never heard of it before.  The guide tells me that its the "Shropshire Lake District".  My cask marque app tells me that there are three places to visit.

It sounds like my kind of town.

I start from the town centre and head out to Church and the largest of the Mere's in the area - suitably named - "The Mere".

Ellesmere Church
St Mary's Church and 2nd Cache of the Day
The Mere
The Mere

These bodies of water are remnants from the ice age.  Unusually for lakes, they have no streams, either in or out.  The walking alongside them is fine - the sun is shining and there's plenty to entice the tourist - ice cream shops, cafes and scheduled boat trips.

At the end of the Mere, I pick up the other thing that Ellesmere is famous for, the canal.  I join it at the spooky 80m tunnel.

Ellesmere Tunnel
Into the Gloom.  There is a cache but alas, I had no torch
Normally, I am not a massive fan of canal walking - but this is a fine stretch, canal to the right and Blake Mere to the left.

Blake Mere
Blake Mere
The canal is exited at the road by Little Mill - and you've guessed it - another Mere (Cole) is circumvented in its entirety.

Its beautiful and must be Shropshire's hidden gem.

Little Mill
Thatched Cottage at Little Mill
Cole Mere Boat House
The Boat House on Cole Mere
Cole Mere
Cole Mere
Cole Mere
Cole Mere
For variety, I am taken across fields and lanes to Newton Mere before having the closed A495 to myself.  This brings me back to the canal and walk into the town.  Barge activity increases the closer we get to town and the spur to Llangollen is the boating equivalent of spaghetti junction.

Into Ellesmere
Into the Town
There is a short offshoot to the Ellesmere Wharf - symbolically, this is the end of the line for the walk.

The End of the Line
The End of the Line
So Ellesmere.  You are very quiet.  It's a bank holiday, so most of the shops are closed.  It's also 11:50am, so the pubs are closed as well.

The first Cask Marque pub was the Red Lion.  I passed this by the Church - a Thwaites pub - and decided I would save this for another day.  Should I ever come back.

I saw an advert for the White Hart on the canal - despite it not being a Cask Marque Pub, it did laud itself up as the best real ale pub in the town.  I am glad I went to check it out, as the building is amazing.  Looked at before midday and after midday and it was still locked up.  Eventually, I found out it only opens at 3pm.  Even on Bank Holidays.  So, I will have to make do with the photos.

The White Hart
My type of building
The White Hart
Definitely of Interest

So, I move back to Scotland Street, where the two Cask Marque Pubs are side by side.

The Market Tavern looks old school from the outside and is real old school on the inside.  Dart board, pool table, nobody in the lounge and 3, increasing to 5, drinkers who greet each other massive banter before the pub falls quiet again.  The Salopian Gold was in decent nick.

The Market Hotel
Old School
Salopian Gold
Proper Old School

So, simply to get a new pub into my Cask Finder App, I head next door.  The Black Lion is also in the Good Pub Guide - a fact they proudly emblazon in a fine window etching.  At 12:30pm on a Bank Holiday, they have exactly one punter.


At least I can take my photos and check in on the app undisturbed.

The Black Lion
Right Next Door
Black Lion
Looking Fwd to checking if they are in 2017 Edition when published in September
Black Lion
Marie Celeste - esque 

29/05/16 - The Dead Pub at Napton

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Walk Inspiration
Pub - The King's Head, Napton, Hooky

Things start off very badly on the 36th Monthly adventure on the Millennium Way.

Bad Start
The Horror
The Bridge at Napton was meant to be our starting point.  We were a week too late.  There is a hand written note in the window saying that on the 22nd May 2016, it has been bought by a developer.  The note goes on.  Despite planning permission to convert to a private residence being denied twice, there are no plans for it to re-open as a pub again.

Another dead soldier.

Parking is hastily rearranged at a spur road to an unbuilt business park.  Not only is post walk refreshment in jeopardy, Warwickshire is also 8 degrees colder than the tropical Worcestershire we left an hour ago.  We have one XL Mans fleece between us.  Discussions about gentlemanly conduct ensue.

Not only will I have a thirst on, I also have nipples like monkeys thumbs.

We head off into the rape seed fields.  Despite the undergrowth resulting in two failed caches, we can console ourselves that at least the farmer has left a nice broad path through the crops.

Field Paths
The Millennium Way
We arrive at the familiar ground of Stockton.  A church, a second dead pub (the Barley Mow) and the same paths as last month to pick up the Grand Union Canal at Gibraltar bridge.

Grand Union Canal
Grand Union
The walking is suitably undramatic.  Talk about a waterways holiday is quite passionate until I prove once and for all to Mrs Mappiman that I can walk faster than a barge.  Hopefully, that's that nipped in the bud.

We walk past some new marinas that are unmarked on my OS Map, Napton Reservoirs and the junction with the Oxford Canal.

Not on the OS Map
After a steady, unspectacular walk, we arrive back at the Bridge.  Mood not massively improved.

Still Cannot get Over It
Chin Up - There's always options
Of course, the great thing about the UK is that you are never more than 1KM from a boozer.  A look at the OS Map shows there is a Big Blue Cup of Joy at the Alpine resort of Napton on the Hill.

It's also a Cask Marque pub.  The app describes it as "Gastropub".  And it does what it says on the tin.  It's Sunday lunchtime but we don't want the full monty.  We ask if they have a "normal" menu on and are met in the affirmative.

Normal in a Gastropub does not include sandwiches.  We think about splitting a £13.95 meze sharing platter.  Settle on two bags of crisps, a diet coke and a cloudy pint of Hook Norton Hooky.

Never more than 1km Away
Cask Marque Pub Number 9 for Mappiman
Usually, a great pint.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

28/05/16 - Stratford-Upon-Avon Pub Crawl

Following on from a walk around Shakespeare's Statford-Upon-Avon - We investigate the most interesting pubs that are on offer.

Our Pub Crawl - Created in the Pubdroid App

Black Swan/Mucky Duck

Beerintheevening Random Quote - "We go to Stratford every July, have always given this pub a miss, as we expected it to be a bit poncey for us"

The only pub in England to be licenced under two names - look carefully at the sign and notice that they are different on either side.

The building dates from 1738 and has a prime spot looking over the river.  My research indicated that this was an Old English Inn.  It may be, but it seems to have been taken over by Greene King.

Sonia wants a quality Euro lager with a dash of Lime, so I order an Estrella Damm, whilst making up my mind.  I ask the barman for a sample of the Dirty Mallard - having never seen it before.  He provides and then heads off to serve someone else.  When I mention that I am using the taster to make up my mind, he says that they often get people asking to just try them.

Must remember this.

So, this is where tasters go wrong.  My smidgen of ale suggests its cold, tasty and with a reasonable head.  I am sold - order a pint.

It quickly becomes flat warm and tasteless.  Check in on Untappd shows its the "House" Greene King beer.  One to be avoided.

Still, the pub garden is lovely.

Mucky Duck
Other side of the Sign is different
Dirty Mallard
Poor Start - beer wise

Rose and Crown

Beerintheevening Random Quote - "We did eat in here once, don't think would do that again"

Another ancient boozer, tracing its history back to 1596.  It looks great from the outside but investigation proves it to be a horror show of screaming kids, litter strewn and with very bad beer.

Cask Marque - just under what criteria do you allocate your status?

I went for an Immortal - seeing as it is labelled as Stratford's brewery.  How ironic - if I had actually drank this rancid bilge water, I would have probably died.  One look and I complained.  The barmaid asked me what was wrong with it.  I said smell it.

She did and she wished she hadn't.  Swapped for a no risk Peroni.

This is not going well.

Rose and Crown
The Rose and Crown - Keep walking folks.
The Immortal
Golden Bee

Beerintheevening Random Quote - "Pretty standard 'spoons pub, cheap beer and food, no ambience."

Short commute to the Golden Bee.  It's over the road.  And its a Wetherspoons.

And that's why we didn't go in.  Not prepared to take a risk with the Warwickshire Underclass.

The Golden Bee
Handsome Building

The Garrick

Beerintheevening Random Quote - "Foul Brummie scum in the front bar again this evening, why these vermin get served I really don't know"

The oldest pub in Stratford, with parts dating back to the 14th Century.  Can this save the day?

Yes it can!

How can you fail to be impressed by a pub that can charts its owners back to before the black death?  It's a wonderful location, with the history dripping off the walls.  Its worth me asking for, and making a fool of myself, to get the Cask Marque logo scanned into my SmartPhone app.  43 to go for the free glass.

I am not prepared to risk a real ale - recognising only more Greene King Ales - so another Peroni and a wonderful Fish Finger Sandwich.

Well worth checking out this place.

History Traced
Roll of Honour
The Garrick
Beautiful Tudor Buidling
Euro Fizz is our new friend
Golden Great

Queens Head

Beerintheevening Random Quote - "the owner seems to have lost interest with this place. expensive and full of billy bozzos"
Things continue to improve when we enter and The Hives "Hate to say I told you so" segways into The Beastie Boys and "Sabotage".  What a fine jukebox.

And the beer was wonderful.

We sit in the outside patio - a lovely sun trap.  The tunes expire.  I hit the jukebox and recreate the soundtrack of Peaky Blinders with liberal helpings of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey.  Just what the Warwickshire locals deserve on a fine sunny afternoon.

Easily, pub of the day.

The Queens Head
Queens Head
Pride saves the day
Not quite a Red Right Hand

The Old Thatch

Beerintheevening Random Quote - "Came back again and still a cracking pub"
Yes, BeerintheEvening has got this one correct.  Wall to wall excellent reviews and well deserved.  Its on the way back to the Station and another Fullers Pub.

With Pride the first decent real ale of the day, a repeat performance was required.

Mrs Mappiman also got her 2nd wind when she discovered that the barman can make up a wicked cocktail.  It has no name, but includes Apple Juice amongst the £6 worth of spirits.

It's a lovely little boozer.  Full of delightful Chesterfields to lounge around on.

If it had indie tunes, it could have given the Queens Head a run for its money.

The Old Thatch Tavern
The Old Thatch - Final Destination
Keep taking pride
And Pride Saves the Day

What have we learned from our excursion?  The further away from the tourist hordes, the better the pub but can we trust Cask Marque as a sign of quality?

28/05/16 - Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Distance - 6.5 Miles
Geocaches - 9
Walk Inspiration - Historic Walks in and Around Birmingham - Walk 21
Pubs - Worthy of another blog

So, what to wear when completing an semi-urban walk that is going to involve an investigation of the pubs of Stratford-Upon-Avon?  I decide full on walking kit is a touch overkill, so go for my finest adventure clothes.  A reassuringly expensive pair of Fjallraven walking strides, a Crag Hoppers adventure shirt (secret pocket) and my Scarpa bowling shoes.  I confess to Mrs Mappiman that I may look like a bit of a tit.  In reality, I don't have to worry at all.  We share the train with the Worcestershire LGBT community who are off to Brum for the Pride Festival.

Compared to a fat man dressed as Alice (from Wonderland) and another, not dressed in a fluorescent wet look leather effect jacket, matching socks and very tight trunks - I am a vision in Millets conservatism.

And when we alight at Stratford, all the other tourists are dressed just like me.

Primarily, I am here to check out the cask marque pubs in the town centre.  To make the 90 minute journey worthwhile, I am talked into doing a walk first.  In no way related to the 400th anniversary of his death or the execrable one joke sit com that is Upstart Crow, we accidently complete a Shakespeare related ramble.

We are off to Anne Hathaway's Cottage.

This Way to Anne Hathaway
Nice Signage
The walking is through a series of alleys in housing estates.  How the locals must love the scores of American and Japanese selfie takers when they are walking their dogs.  A relatively high number of geocaches provides suitable distraction.

Anne Hathaway Cottage
In no way am I starting to resemble my dad.
We complete a circuit of the Shottery - gaining a small amount of height to get reasonable views over Stratford.

From the Shottery to Stratford
Stratford - Far Away
The caches dry up as we reach the Race Course.  Evidence that we may arrived slightly early is countered by my plans to sample the best of the town's hostelries.

Peaked too Early
Beer Festival.  England's 1st Game in the Euros.  What could go wrong?
Through the Race Course and pick up the River Avon, which will take us back to the town and all it can offer in refreshments.

River Avon
The River Avon
A couple of sights to see - first the Holy Trinity Church - where the Bard is buried and then the Royal Shakespeare's Theatre.

Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity
Swan Theatre
Royal Shakespeare's Theatre

Once we finish at the pubs, we must not forget to complete the circle and see Shakespeare's Birthplace.

Friday, 27 May 2016

27/05/16 - The Harbour Inn, Arley

Distance - 3 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Pub - The Harbour Inn, Arley

At the end of a single track lane just outside Bewdley, is a little free house that is unchanged for decades.

The Harbour Inn can only survive through passing trade from the Severn Valley Railway - with a stop just up the hill - and from like-minded Ramblers.

This simple three mile walk is a joy, offering variety and a chance to earn your drink.  We start by crossing the footbridge and heading downstream along the Severn.

From the Footbridge
View from the Arley Footbridge
This is a walk that I have completed many times.  This is the first time back for around 3 years and there have been some changes.

New B&B has created a beach on the Severn
New Signage at Trimpley
Trimpley Reservoir has a new sign
There's also some new geocaches.  I would have achieved six new smileys, if it hadn't been for some muggle picnic'ers having lunch right next to a GZ.  Instead, settle for just the five.

The Reservoir
Trimpley Reservoir stays the same
A circuit of the reservoir before heading back along the river.  If you time things right, you can get a wonderful view of the steam trains crossing over the Victoria Bridge.  You either need to be lucky or patient.  I was neither today.

Victoria Bridge
The sadly empty Victoria Bridge
Before we know it, we are back at the pub.  This is the definition of a simple boozer.  The first task is to summons service - there is no-one in the pub apart from the yellow canary caged up in a lounge that looks exactly like you remember your Nan's.  Eventually, after much hello-ing, someones Nan does come.

One real ale on - its from Wye Valley and labelled "Harbour Ale".  From the colour and taste, I am going to bet this is re-badged Butty Bach.  It was typically high quality.

Drinks taken outside, where the past menagerie of animals appears to be reduced to a couple for goats.  We look at the menu,  We don't know what grey peas are either.

The Harbour, Arley
Unchanged for decades
Wye Valley - Harbour Ale
Harbour Ale or Butty Bach?
The Menu