Sunday, 31 July 2016

30/07/16 - Malvern Pub Crawl

Public Transport and a lovely walk from Colwall to Malvern, left me in the town with three hours to spare before the first direct train home.

What to do?

I know, I'll investigate the pubs.

The first three are within spitting distance of each other.  At 11:55am, only the Wetherspoons is open.  Wetherspoons are always open.

The Foley Arms - Malvern - Inveralmond Lia Fail
Foley Arms, Malvern
Pub Number 3, the Unicorn, is in view
One of the more architecturally interesting Wetherspoons.  This is a 200 year old former coaching house and with it wouldn't look totally out of place in New Orleans.  You can imagine people hanging off the gallery during a mardi gras.

Finding the long bar packed with thirsty pre dinner drinkers, my mardy server caused pub chaos by making the classic mistake of shouting "who's next?".

Why of course, it was me.

As well as rescuing old buildings, JDW does a good job of introducing you to interesting beers.  Who would have thought in a Worcestershire spa town, I would be drinking a decent pint from Perth (Scotland, not Australia).

Taken outside to a lovely beer garden with the 2nd finest views from a pub in Worcestershire.  Try the Brewers Arms in West Malvern for the best.

Inveralmond Lia Fail
Superb Scottish Ale
Foley Arms Beer Garden
2nd Finest Views from a Worcestershire Pub

I could have spent a while here but a sandal and sock wearing Brexiter was quoting too many statistics to a bored looking couple.  When he shouted loudly "how would you like 5m Muslims living here?" it was time for me to find the Cask Marque sign, scan and move on.

The Red Lion - Ringwood Boondoggle

This could have been pub 1, but wasn't quite open after my descent from the hills.  It must be good, as there were at least four people waiting patiently for it to open.  Maybe, they really like Thai food - as this was half pub, half Asian restaurant.

There comes a time in a man's life when he wants to read weighty WWII fiction - and the beer garden here provided a perfect spot.

Red Lion, Malvern
Red Lion - Part Pub, Part Thai
Boondoggle and Nazis
Boondoggle and Nazis.

The beer was exceptional.  Library style peace and quiet only interrupted by the families marching up to the hills and a couple who came in for a liquid lunch.  Conversation;

Lady - "Would you like a pint?"
Man - "yes"
Lady - "Of anything in particular?"
Long Pause.....
Man - "No".

Two chapters read and its off to pub number 3.

The Unicorn - Wye Valley HPA

This is the earthy one.  Every town has one.  Barman with a tattooed neck.  Jukebox with every top 40 hit from 1952 contained within.

The Unicorn, Malvern
Plays all the Hits
A quartet on the next table are discussing box sets.  Man 1 has Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders to watch.  Man 2 has Lovejoy to offer in riposte.  It's a wonder they got on so well.

Inspired by Peaky Blinders reference, I hit the music machine.  A bit of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey on a sunny afternoon really warms up a Malvern Pub.

I leave as my music choice expires to see the bar man feeding the machine.  Hit the streets to the Blues Brothers soundtrack.

The Morgan - Wye Valley HPA

A short walk in the general direction of the train station and into a previously undiscovered pub.  Its a tied house to the Wye Valley and judging by what they have done with the Black Star in Stourport, I am highly optimistic.

The Morgan, Malvern
The Morgan
Wye Valley HPA
Perfect Pint

It lives up to its promise.  Nice interior and fine beer garden to consume some fine beer.

I could have spent longer listening to some very knowledgeable boxing fans on the next table, but the 15:32 express to Kiddermister was calling.

Just need 5 minutes to spend on a fruitless search for the cask marque certificate.

30/07/16 - Wye to the Thames - Walk 3 - Colwall to Malvern

Distance - 4.9 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Previous Walks - Walk 1, Walk 2
Pubs - The Malvern Pub Crawl

Mrs Mappiman going to work on the train provided a perfect opportunity to tackle Stage 3 of my epic walk from the Wye at Hereford to the Thames at Oxford.  She heads North, to the England's 2nd City, I head South to Colwall.

I'm excited about today.  Stage 3 may be the shortest walk in the book but I know I will have a decent scale of Worcestershire's highest peak.  As I am on public transport, with a couple of hours to spare, I can also complete a Malvern Pub Crawl - worthy of a second blog.

Alighting the train at Colwall, I cross the footbridge to get to the countryside.  Worcestershire Beacon is in view.  I know what I have to do.

Colwall Station and Destination
High Point Ahead
I have a chance to right some geocaching wrongs.  There's a series of micros called the Colwall Circuit.  I had a go at them almost four years ago to the day.  The first still proves elusive today, despite a good 20 minute hunt.  I do manage to correct one previous DNF, as I climb ever upwards on Malvern's Western flank.

It doesn't matter how many times I walk Malvern, I never seem to complete the same paths twice. The Victorians certainly made it eternal walking country.  Today, I dissect the hills at Wyche Cutting and head arrow straight northwards on Shire Ditch to join the hoards at Worcestershire Beacon.

As expected, fine views on a lovely summer's day.

Views West
Views West into Wales
Views South
Views South, over British Camp
Views East
Views East - over the Next Leg of the Wye to Thames Path

Quick photo of the Trig and down, down to St Anne's Well - where the water bottle can be topped up, gratis.

Third walk out of 12 and I've enjoyed them all immensely.  Next leg takes me from Malvern to Worcester - 10 miles, but all flat.

Worcestershire Beacon
Highest Man in Worcestershire
St Annes Well
Refuelling Pit Stop at St Anne's Well.  Borrowed Dog.

Now, onto the Pubs of Malvern.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

24/07/16 - The Hollybush - Priors Marston - Millennium Way Stage 38

Distance - 5.5 Miles
Geocaches - 2 - 1 Found, 1 Not so Found
Walk Inspiration
Pub - The Hollybush, Priors Marston, Black Sheep

Last real chance this month to keep up my tally of adding a leg onto the Millenium Way.  38 Months consecutively, just the 6 to go.

It's getting harder to get to the destinations.  Priors Marston is one of those hidden little villages, seemingly not on a road to anywhere and centered on the OS Map in terrain that confirms Warwickshire as one of the countries most boring walking counties.  There is nothing marked on the map, with the exception of Marston Doles - a lock on the Oxford Canal.

There's also only two caches.  The first of the day I look for on the way out and the way back and come up with nothing.  Another go expected next month, when I return to the village.

Priors Marston Church
Fruitless Searching at Priors Marston Chuch
Out into the fields, across stiles that require ever increasing bouts of acrobatics, I am pleasantly surprised.  Someone has planted a forest.  The Millennium Way takes a broad track through the middle, so I am offered some cool, shady walking until I emerge at Potash Farm for some fine views over Napton Hill - the centre point of Stage 37.

Route Out - Through the Trees
No trees marked on the OS Map
Views to Napton on the Hill
Emerging for views over all of Warwickshire and its Peak of Napton Hill

Soon time to turn back for easy walking through sheep fields.  Ovines turn to Bovines and one is conspicuous by its lack of an udder.  A stare off leads to him making a move at me.  He increases speed.  I fly over the stile in the same manner as Alan Partridge when he escaped his mentalist fan.

Mug shot taken for police records.

Bull Attack
The Bull guarding his field
I think even the 2nd cache of the day will evade me.  GZ is guarded by a pensioner who has all the signs of going nowhere fast.  Sat on a bench, tub of sarnies and book out.  I adopt a combination of the brazen Mrs Mappiman approach to diving in and a more cautious classic "pretend to tie my shoe lace" technique.

Back across a couple of fields and I can hear music to guide me in.  Nothing like a bit of bluesy rock to act as a beacon.  It is coming from my watering hole and rather adds to the whole experience.

The Millennium Way seems to always start its short walks from a pub.  Today's - The Hollybush - may very well be the best of the whole lot.

Like all village pubs, it seems as though its in the centre and the village was built around it.  As if the regular selection of 4 real ales isn't enough - there's also a sign outside proclaiming its a beer festival. The music is coming from a decent band setup in the garden.

The whole village seems to have come along to join in the fun.

My black sheep went down wonderfully and I thought long and hard about sparking up google and searching on Priors Marston B&Bs.

Hollybush - Priors Marston
Oh, go on then.
Hollybush - Priors Marston
If I hadn't gone Black Sheep, it would have been UBU
Garden Party at the Hollybush, Priors Marston
Sunday Blues

Saturday, 23 July 2016

23/0716 - Flyford Flavell Movie Caches

Distance - 4.1 Miles
Geocaches - 18
First Cache
Pub - The Ivy Inn, North Littleton, Doom Bar

Holiday traffic and an overturned caravan on the M5 put paid to my plans of investigating Gloucestershire's premier neolithic long barrow.

Mrs Mappiman was delighted.

Instead, we planned to complete a more local walk and visit our friends who have just taken over the running of the Ivy Inn in North Littleton.  31 miles away from Chez Mappiman - just enough distance that I cannot make a nuisance of myself by calling around for frequent freebies.

I noticed that a new Geocaching trail had been placed at Flyford Flavell.  I know FF pretty well.  Its on the early stages of the Millennium Way and all the local pubs down A422 - including the Boot Inn where we parked - have been previously investigated.

The cache trail is perfect.... lots of adventures for a good day out, a variety of caches - including a couple of multis and bonuses.  The CO, Team Squishy Hamster, have a wicked sense of humour. 

Great job on your trail!

I'm not going to describe the caches in any detail, other than to stick with the movie theme and quote Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon.  Having got stuck up a tree at the grand old age of 46, I declared that I was "too old for this sh*t".

And if you are doing this trail, and I suggest you do cachefans, don't miss the classic in the phone box back at the village.  It's beyond brilliant.

Too Old for this
Call Flyford Flavell Fire Brigade
Leap into the Unknown
Leap into the Unknown
Millennium Way
Millennium Way
Classic Container
King of the Caching Containers
Circuit Completed with 1x DNF and 1xDNL (puzzle too hard to work out in the field), we make our way to the other side of Evesham.

Now, I thought I had walked everywhere in Worcestershire but Offenham and the Littletons (there's a South and Middle) are completely new to me.  Prime walking country too - nestled below Bredon Hill and the Malverns - with great views.

The pub is a classic piece of little England.  It's next to the village green and the centre of the village with everything a pub sportsman could want - including a skittle alley.  I'm sure last night's Morris Dancing on the green would have further enhanced it's timeless feel.

Next time we come, we are bringing a tent.  Sticks.  And some bells to wrap around our knees.

Ivy Inn, North Littleton
Which Way to the Ivy Inn?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

16/07/16 - Thames Path and the Wey Navigation

Start - West Byfleet
Finish - Hampton Court
Walk Inspiration - Saturday Walkers Club, Walk 45
Distance - 11.5 Miles
Geocaches - 11
Pubs - The Old Crown - Youngs Bitter, The Mute Swan - Triple F Moondance, The Albion, Exmoor Silver Stallion

I'm back down South, this time walking the wonderful waterlands of West London.  I found this route on the Saturday Walkers Club, which seems to be an online version of the excellent Time Out Country Walks in London books.  I'll check, but I'm fairly sure that this great walk is not in the printed version.

The walk starts at West Byfleet and instantly picks up the Basingstoke Canal.  After this walk, I may have to revise my views on canal walking - which normally, I have no time for.  This canal has crystal clear water, interesting buildings, great geocaches and not a single submerged shopping trolley in sight.  It may be because this is not strictly speaking a canal, but a Navigation - a waterway that follows a river and empties into the same basin.

Start at West Byfleet
Never found a decent pub called the Station
The Wey Navigation
House Boats that look like House Boats
Under the M25
Even the M25 cannot spoil this walk
Mill at Coxes Lock
The Mill at Coxes Lock

I was looking forward to Weybridge, never having previously been there.  It didn't disappoint.  The walk skims the town but does provide the chance to look at some very fine houses on the riverbank.  Mrs Mappiman informs me that residents are Cliff, Shakin' Stevens and Ronnie Corbett.  My mate Neil tells me at least one of those is pushing up daises.

Into Weybridge
Into Weybridge
Who lives in a house like this?
One of many fine residences

The Wey Navigation, enjoyed as it was, ends at the Thames Lock.  There is a little hay strewn visitor centre in an old barn.  I learn the differences between man made waterways.

Before getting to the Thames, I have a short amount of road walking and I am faced with a choice of recommendations. Two pubs, one Cask Marque, one Good Beer Guide Accredited are directly opposite each other and a battle ensues for who gets the Mappiman Dollar.  The Minnows (CM) loses out to the Old Crown (GBG) by virtue of the fact that its open at the very civilised hour of 10:30am.

A good choice - I loved it's weather boarded exterior, old school interior and a very decent pint of Youngs Bitter.  Lovely landlady stopped her cleaning duties to talk about the price of some of the riverside properties for sale (£3.9m but its been up for 18 months and they may take an offer) and to tell me that I have two hours more walking before hitting my destination.

The Old Crown, Weybridge
Too Beautiful to walk on by
The Old Crown, Weybridge
Take Courage
The Old Crown, Weybridge
Old School

Refreshed, I hit the Thames.  Its a hive of activity.  The Molesey regatta is in full swing,  The banks are full of spectators, the paths are full of cyclists (one more bell ding and someones in for an early bath) and the river is full of racing craft of all shapes and sizes.

I am also being serenaded.  In Jerome K Jerome style, a boat full of Carling drinking toffs are out for a pleasure cruise that heads in the same direction as me, chugging along at the exact walking pace of a 46 year old, one pint in.  I find it quite soothing to listen to a medley of Beatles tunes belted out by posh lager louts with a trilbeyed tit on a Ukulele.

Shepperton Ferry
Race Day
New Bridge at Desborough Island
New Bridge
Musical accompaniment into Henley
Better class of House Boat
Where the House Boats are two storey 
Ukulele Tit in a Trilby 

The bridge marks the end of the walk.  A final cache and a drop off a TB rescued in Ibiza and a quick look at Hampton Court - scene of many a Tudor drama.

Hampton Court
Touristy Sight Seeing
Directly opposite Hampton Court is the Mute Swan.  A beautiful building but chain owned and obviously full of tourists (self included).  It could have been terrible.  It was wonderful.  Six real ales on and a barman who knew his stuff and made a fine recommendation of Triple F Moondancer.  Top pint, top food and excellent service.   Highly recommended.

The Mute Swan
Great Beer, Great Food, Great Service
And in juxtaposition to the touristy poshness of the Mute Swan, I head for the Cask Marque approved Albion.  Down a side street full of antique shops and estate agents and bistros, it can be filed under "earthy".

A proper drinkers pub, filled with proper drinkers and another first beer for me, a wonderful Exmoor Ale Silver Stallion.

The Albion
Boing Boing Boozer
Enter ye who dare.
All Badged Up

So, that's the Thames Path walked from Crayford Ness all the way to Windsor.  Time to head into the home counties, upstream.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

10/07/16 - The Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill

Distance - 4.5 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Pub Walks in Worcestershire, Walk 6
Geocaches - 2 found, 1 Seen
Pub - Coach and Horses, Weatheroak Gold

Just over two years ago, we celebrated completing the writing of the Brummie Ring by shunning the refreshments available in Alvechurch and finding the more remote Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill.

We vowed to come back and complete a walk from here - after all, it is number 6 in the top 10 pubs in the West Midlands (although is actually in Worcestershire).

It's taken a while.

First, lets get the walk out of the way.  It wasn't the best, battling as we did against appallingly maintained stiles, dense undergrowth, disappearing paths (god damn you Alcott Farm with your roping off of horse enclosures) and one spectacular stumble before I had even had a pint.

It could have been worse - after a stagger, lurch and roll, I came to rest with my head inches from a large pile of horse manure.  It would have been messy but a strangely symbolic walk review.

We start at the pub and head up the Roman Road of Ryknild Street.  A geocache is halfway along a tunnel used as a stream conduit - I had a torch, clambered down and thought, Na - I want to be half decent for my pint.  Always sad to spy one but not get the smiley.

Another lonely pub - The Peacock is at the top of the hill.  Unlike the Coach, its shed it's agricultural watering hole roots and is now a Chef and Brewer.

The Peacock
Must win a prize as the most remote Chef and Brewer
Rest of the walk is made up of a stretch of the North Worcestershire Way and a drop down to walk alongside the M42 to the horsey hellhole of Alcott Farm.

These are the highlights;

The Sun came out
Lovely Blue Skies
2 Cache Finds today - this one next to the M42

Things reached a nadir when we were faced with a totally overgrown swamp or a clamber over a barbed wire fence to make our escape.  The fence won.  No way for two 46 year olds to behave.

Pleased to get to the pub, where they have got everything correct.  They have left the original building for drinkers and inside, its probably not changed much in centuries.  To cater for diners, they have built a smart extension on the side.  The two groups of punters can exist in splendid isolation.

In an old stables at the front, they have their own brewery.  I went for a Weatheroak Gold and as you would expect, it was in perfect condition.  Top pint - with a choice of four others from the brewery and a number of guests ale.

The real highlight was seeing the mound of cling film wrapped cobs (not batches, barn cakes - cobs) behind the bar.  So many times we only have the offer of a full Sunday Lunch when out on the Sabbath.

The pub is only a couple of miles from Hopwood Park Services at J2 of the M42.  If you are passing and want a break - come here instead.  Its an improvement on KFC.

Weatheroak Brewery
The Stable Brewery
Coach and Horses
Drinkers Quarters
Weatheroak Gold and a Cheese Bap
Balanced Lunch