Tuesday, 29 November 2016

29/11/16 - The Station Inn, Kidderminster

Who would have thought that Kidderminster, a town that's not had the best of fortunes, has five Camra Good Beer Guide entries in 2017?

Who would have thought that the King and Castle wouldn't be one of them?

Due to a very delayed train, I found myself in K&C.  Characterful pub, linking in with the Severn Valley Railway themed nostalgia.  Roaring fire.  8 real ales on hand pull.  I know some would say this is 6 too many - and I know some, myself included, who would never stray from the Bathams but honestly, its like a real ale theme park where you could spend a day.

And sadly omitted.  Makes me wonder what other gems I could be missing out on in towns I don't know.

Not to worry, the Station Inn is just around the corner.

The Station Inn, Fairfield, Wye Valley Butty Bach

Random BeerintheEvening Quote - "Wow..... The back street boozer is alive and well"
And that was my review - from 2013.

Station Inn, Kidderminster
Heart of the Community

This was winner of CAMRA Community Pub of the Year 2015.  By Community Pub, I think they mean it has people in it.  Once again, earlyish doors on a Tuesday night and the place is packed.  No room to sit in the front bar - where in a trip down memory lane, green baize crib boards are being used for their true intention.  So around to the back room, where we have the place to ourselves.

So what to have?

Station Inn, Kidderminster
Always going to be Wye Valley
The Butty Bach was in excellent condition.

Station Inn, Kidderminster
Wye Valley at its finest
Last time we came in, we left with half a dozen eggs.  Today, we were hoping for a evening meal. However, despite a full and extensive menu pinned to the outside pub sign, food is only served until 6pm.  Mrs Mappiman was most disgruntled, moaning about what sort of people come out for their tea at 4pm on a weekday.

She settled down after half of her Thatchers and the promise of a Captain Cods.

I expect to knock off the four remaining entries within a couple of weeks after my annual walk along the canal to Kiddy Xmas themed walk.

I'll report back on whether the King and Castle really still is the King of Kidderminster.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

26/11/16 - The Red Lion, Cropredy - Millennium Way Stage 42

Distance - 8 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration

The countdown to the end of the Millennium Way begins in earnest.  Just three stages left.

A return to Cropredy - a small, two pub town on the Oxfordshire / Northamptonshire border.  I've walked here once before, breaking up a journey back on the M40.

Straight down onto the canal, where a full on regatta is taking place.  A few paces before heading East alongside the River Cherwell, passing Prescote Manor.

Oxford Canal
Canal Action
Prescote Manor
Prescote Manor

The walk takes me across fields and along lanes, passing through Wardington and Edgcote, finding the only caches of the day, before deliverance in Chipping Warden.

Nice looking place, Chipping Warden - proud of its history.  There are information boards to the civil war battle sites and a town standard featuring a medieval yokel bothering the farm stock as a WWII Lancaster Bomber flies overhead.   Two pubs, but the Rose and Crown looks long dead.

Chipping Warden
Chipping Warden Church
Chipping Warden
Yokel. Pigs.  Bomber.

The Millennium Way shares paths with the McMillan Way over farmland.  Route finding is easy, in a first - someone has spray painted the footpaths.  These lead back to the Oxford Canal at Claydon Locks.

Way Marking
Easy Path Marking

Oxford Canal
Picking up the Oxford Canal
No one else using the towpath today - I have two quiet miles passing moored barges, a couple of boatyards and a marina.

Just the post walk refreshments to knock off.  Cropredy has two pubs - The Brasenose Arms is shunned for the Red Lion.  It must have been the advertising.

Red Lion, Cropredy
Good Advertising
Cask Marque Lapsed
But Someone's not been paying their dues

The pub is picture post card perfect.  Thatched roof building in a terrace of similar buildings along a hidden, very narrow lane and directly opposite the Church.

Red Lion, Cropredy
The Red Lion
I deboot, enter and get looked up and down by the two old boys at the bar who are getting tips on the use of Tinder from the young bar man.  The Scot sees potential but the cockney is horrified at the type of woman who would advertise.  I am forced to invade their space to eye up the wares.

A top quality Purity Ubu was chosen in preference to the ubiquitous Doom Bar.

Red Lion, Cropredy
Purity - Not Hook Norton

Saturday, 26 November 2016

25/11/16 - The Bush Inn, Worcester

Down a country lane signposted Uphampton, overlooked by nothing but the Worcestershire countryside, is the Canon Royall Brewery.

On a ring road, next to a pizza takeaway, overlooked by blocks of flats is their one tied pub, the Bush Inn.
The Bush Inn, Worcester
The Bush Inn
I must have driven past it 1000 times without even noticing.

This all changes as I get another tick in the Good Beer Guide 2017.

It doesn't look too much but nice etched windows hints at the Victorian Age.   Internet research is even less promising.  A landlord ousted for a seven man brawl and losing his licence.

Still, with just two ticks required to finish our county capital, I need to be brave.

Through the door into a single roomed pub.  Choosing a Canon Royall Teddy Bear may not show the correct level of manliness, so I look at the options, ignore the cider and go for a North Cotswolds Shagweaver, breaking with tradition and ordering it by it's full name.

The Bush Inn, Worcester

One free seat, which I take.  A band setup - guitarist and a lady singer.  Unfortunately, I cannot stay for long but their rehearsal does prompt me to listen to Melody Gardot on the way home.

She had that kind of voice and it's a shame I couldn't have stayed to hear the set.

The Bush Inn, Worcester
Close to the Action

Sunday, 20 November 2016

20/11/16 - Old Green Tree, Bath

There are 13 Bath entries in the 2017 Good Beer Guide.  Its rather a good job that our son is at University for 5 years.

Slowly, slowly, we will tick them off.

On a flying visit to the Spa Town on the way back from Cornwall, we drop in to buy him lunch at a fine Italian.  Not content to just go shopping or admire buskers who's talents range from playing the guitar behind their necks to enticing pigeons to scare young children, we head off to a pub that I have previously visited.  Camra pub of the year 2016 - Borders Region, is a sensible place to start ticking them off again.

Old Green Tree, Green Street

Random BeerintheEvening Quote - "Met a very interesting chap sat at the bar that 2 of us instantly decided he could be a mass murderer"

Old Green Tree, Bath
Pretty Green Street
Old Green Tree, Bath
The Unspoiled Old Green Tree

On our visit, there were no mass murderers.  With the exception of the lady behind the bar, there were no people.  I commented on its quietness, to be met with "It was packed until you came in".

They must have been expecting me.

This provides us with a chance to admire the simple elegance of this unchanged pub.  This must be the only place where a spring clean involves solely the use of polish (not people of Poland).  Every surface is covered in wood.

A handful of real ales on - I shun the Butcombe in the name of adventure and chose a first Loxley Ale.  It was in as fine a condition as my smartphone camera suggests.

Loxley Ale
A first Loxely ale
Not long before the pub starts to fill back up again with weary shoppers seeking a real 1950s pub experience.

1 down 12 to go.

20/11/16 - The Tintagel Coast

Distance - 3.5 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Walk Inspiration

We couldn't leave the South West Coast Path without a final goodbye.

So its up at first light, after the worst of Storm Angus has disappeared and down to Tintagel Youth Hostel.  A fine potential place to stop for when I attempt the Coast Path in one go.

To the YHA
Path to the Coast
Another stretch of exciting coast line, although mercifully without yesterday's ups and downs at Boscastle.  A number of geocaches to keep us entertained between the dog walking muggles.

Church at Sunrise
Tintagel Church at Dawn
The highlight of the walk is Tintagel Castle - where King Arthur may have been conceived/lived/died - delete as applicable dependent on how much you buy into the legend.  We have fond memories of bringing our youngest here when all he demanded was a sword and a shield.

We now have to stop off on the way home at his University Town, Bath, to take him to the finest Italian available in Avon.

Tintagel Castle
King Arthur's Castle
We circuit Barras Nose, grab the last cache and head into town to say goodbye to the pubs we investigated on Friday night.  A distinct lack of Good Beer Guide pubs on this stretch of coastline but if you find yourself here, the King Arthur's Arms (corny, I know) is the best by a mile.  The food is good and the pool is 50p a frame.

Last Geocache of the Weekend
Farewell Cache

Saturday, 19 November 2016

19/11/16 - Boscastle Coast and Rocky Valley

Distance - 7.1 Miles
Geocaches - 9
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine April 2014, Walk 1

This is the best walk I have completed this year.   Well, at least since the last Cornish Coastal walk, from back in April.

We head out to Boscastle - 3.5 miles away from our cottage.  We start at the Harbour Car Park right in the centre.  From the drive in, we know just how steep the early ascent back up the hills will be.  Add the mud, rain and hail into the mix and we have to question why we have left The Times and and an afternoon of Scrabble behind.

Uphill, before we hit the mud
One of the greatest things about walking is stumbling on the unexpected.  This happens at St Nectan's Glen.  We have no idea what it is, it kind of looks like a private dwelling.  However, the signs show a shop and it may be a shop that sells tea and cake.   But surely it won't be open Out of Season?  Last night, we attempted an Italian in Tintagel who's opening hours were April to September.

St Nectan's Glen
St Nectans Glen
Transpires that it is open - so lovely refreshments are had, whilst I contemplate buying a crystal skull, without knowing exactly what I will do with it.

We are almost seduced by the hard sell of seeing their Waterfall.  I say yes, until Mrs Mappiman points out there is a cost associated.  £5.95 per adult?  I'll use Google.

Much debate about whether natural wonders should be charged entry, as we follow the stream downhill.  We do get a glimpse of the Waterfall.  And I have £12 left for lunch.

St Nectan's Glen
At the foot of the Waterfall
The walking is delightful.  Pefect time to walk this route, with the leaves turning colour.  As we get closer, the signs change to show we are now in Rocky Valley.  It lives up to its name.  It shows man's influence in the area, with bronze age carvings in the rocks and deserted mill houses.

Rocky Valley
Rocky Valley
The path leads us to the sea and a spectacular up and down section of the South West Coast Path.  I could load a tonne of photos up - but you get the idea.

Easily our favourite type of walking, even if I have to promise that Boscastle is just the other side of the every coastal rise.

Hitting the Coast
Arriving at the Sea
Ladies Window
Ladies Arch - An EarthCache Ground Zero.
Coming Back into Boscastle
At Last, Boscastle is in view

The last half mile were completed in torrential rain, so Boscastle is a sight for sore eyes.  We just need to make our minds up of which of the two pubs to dry off in.

The Cobwebb Inn looks a bit more down to earth.

A Rainy Return
The Cobweb Inn
The Cobwebb Inn

It near perfect. Quirky interior, with bottles hanging from the ceiling and every available wall space taken up with old photos / posters from the area.  They also have the full range of Tintagel Ales - brewed just down the coast at a farmhouse above Trebarwith Strand.  I use their Wi-Fi to see if they have a Brewery shop, sensing an export opportunity.  We would love this in the Midlands.

Tintagel Brewery's Finest
Harbour Special today - managed to try them all during the weekend.

Perfection would have been achieved if there was a log fire to dry off in front off.  Instead, we make do with their fine fishfinger sandwiches.

Comes with salad and chips and cheaper than looking at a waterfall.

Friday, 18 November 2016

18/11/16 - The Globe Inn at Chagford

Distance - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Walk Inspiration - Jarrold Pathfinder Dartmoor Walks

Cornwall is just too far away to drive in a straight run.  Investigation is made into a suitable place to stop for a ramble, sandwich and a tick in the Good Beer Guide.

Chagford seems most suitable.  On the edge of Dartmoor and a little further along from Fingle Bridge, where we had a cracking walk a couple of years ago.

The car park will not be forgotten.  Seemingly built in the 1950's when everyone had Morris Minors, it is possible to cram an X5 between the white lines.   But unfortunately not to be also able to open the doors.  I clamber out the boot to check out the car park fees, expecting a surcharge for the added obstacle course.  Find both machines with Out Of Order signs.

Mrs Mappiman is still laughing about the note that I pinned to the dashboard.

Into the Tin Town of Chagford.  The Good Beer Guide Pub found, directly opposite the impressive church.  The twin pillars of a good village.

The Globe Inn
Post Walk Entertainment Sorted
Chagford Church
Chagford Church

All the hard work is completed on a stiff ascent of Nattadon Common.  The distant moors have had a covering of snow.  Having driven down through hail/sleet/rain we are blessed with clear blue skies for all of this two hour walk.

Snowy Hilltops
Snowy Hill Tops
Breathtaking Views
Breathtaking Views
Winter Mountain Coat

A couple of geocaches to be found as we clamber back down ancient tracks.  This is so much better than a Greggs at a motorway service station.

Ancient Tracks
Ancient Tracks
The Two Moors Way is picked up at the River Teign, which is our hand rail back into the village.

A final geocache in the town, with a white van driver laughing at our attempts at discretion and then into the pub.

This is grand former coaching house.  We know its grand, as there two front doors.  Right hand door takes you into a formal dining area.  You can either go back out and use the left hand door for the more earthy drinking bar or ask politely if you can sneak through the serving hatch.

A declined invitation to dine is met by the negotiating tactic of offered crisps.  A choice of four real ales and I went safe with an Otter.

Safety First
There are two other couples.  One man holding court is getting big laughs by slagging West Bromwich.

I choose a suitable gap in conversation to announce that I was born in West Bromwich.

His mate finds this potential territorial row hilarious, whilst his wife scolds him that "that's nearly as bad as that time you upset the Germans".

West Bromwich Hater
The Globe Interior

Monday, 14 November 2016

13/11/16 - The Bath Skyline

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine, Dec 16 Walk 1 or this link
Pub - The Inn at Freshford, Steam Box Brewery Tunnel Vision

The beautiful thing about our hobby is that new and interesting opportunities are available to you, anywhere in the country.

Today, we agreed to drop our post Cat Fish and the Bottlemen gig going student back off at Bath University.  He avoids a 2 hr 20 minute train ride, we get to explore another superb bit of Britain.

And as luck would have it, this months Country Walking Magazine has a route that starts from the University car park.

File under all round result.

We are barely out of the car park when we see our first signpost and know that route finding will not present a challenge.  Good old National Trust.

Bath Skyline
Students - This way for Fresh Air and Exercise
We make our introductions to a few friendly cows and progress to Claverton Down.  Autumn really is the time of year to be doing this walk.

Claverton Down
Walking on a leafy carpet
As if the walking wasn't pleasant enough, NT have laid a geocache trail within the woods.  All nice and easy to find.

NT Caches
National Trust themed caches with logo log book
The first views of Bath are revealed at the Priory and they don't leave you for half of this walk.  I doubt there's a finer vantage point of this great city.

First Views of the City from The Priory
So we slap us two in front of the view
More Views from Smallcombe
With other assorted walkers and football players

Sham castle more than lives up to its name. Nice to know that people had delusions of grandeur, even in 1762. How his neighbours must have laughed at his one wall castle.

Sham Castle
Through the Arch and nothing is there
The return to the car is through Bathampton woods.  Just chance for a bit of off piste Geocaching to get the final piece of a multi cache which works only if you are walking the route clockwise.  Signing the log book required some rather serious scrambling skills - but always worth it when you find the treasure.

All that remains is to take the Student for his promised lunch.  Parking in Bath is not the easiest, so we head for Freshford - reminding us of a another CW walk we completed three years ago.

The C16th Freshford Inn was as stunning as the walk - honey coloured stone exterior, stripped pine interior, great service and a chance to try a new beer.

Steam Box Tunnel Vision
Steam Box Tunnel Vision and an expectant, hungry Student, previously living off Pot Noodles
They also have fine taste in literature.

Fine Literature in the Freshford Inn
Perfect Pub, Perfect Publication

Saturday, 12 November 2016

11/11/16 - Duke William, Stourbridge

Odd place Stourbridge.  Presumably, the ring road is designed to stop people getting into the centre to discover its gems?

And there are a few gems.

Monthly Comedy nights in the Mitre.  Last night it was one of the world's top comedians, Brendon Burns.  Playing to, in his own words, 50 punters in a room above a shitty pub.  The only person to question this was the landlord - who often pops up and enjoys the acts from the safety of his own little bar.   Burns is a talent.  The show was part of his "Black Comedian" tour, but the first half was total improvisation on Trump's victory.

A particularly rich source of material for any comic.

There's also three Good Pub Guide entries.  We have blogged about the Royal Exchange before.  The Wagon and Horses is slightly too far away from our hotel.

The Duke William is on the way.

Duke William, Stourbridge
Excuse the Photos.  Only a Samsung S3 Mini to hand
Duke William, Stourbridge
Home of Craddocks

This has to be my definition of a perfect pub.  Brewery to the side, they host their own beer - I went for a too hoppy for me Crazy Sheep (noted here, so I go for something different next time).  They also stock Bridgnorth Breweries wares - a brewery that surprisingly in this day and age has no web presence.

The pub is split over a couple of rooms - all old school seating and constant reminders that you should purchase one of their pies.  An extensive library of books - including a 1980s pop music encyclopedia of chart listings that I used to own and nearly of of the George Macdonald Fraser Flashman novels.

Duke William, Stourbridge
The former was put to good use to set up an improvised music quiz that Mrs Mappiman soon bored of.  Although she nearly successfully guessed Depeche Mode's first single.

Other things to admire about the pub - themed nights - Monday Night is Craft Night (real crafts, not craft beer), Wednesday is Quiz night and they seem to hold the occasional film night.

And in a nod to political incorrectness - they offer a buy 8 get one free loyalty scheme.  Presumably not date stamped or time bound.