Monday, 29 May 2017

29/05/17 - Wye to the Thames - Walk 11 - Charlbury to Hanborough

Distance - 9.7 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Previous Walks - Walk 1Walk 2Walk 3Walk 4Walk 5Walk 6Walk 7Walk 8Walk 9, Walk 10
Pub - The Horse and Groom, Bourton on the Hill

The logistics of this Long Distance Walk from Hereford to Oxford become increasingly complex with every leg.   The distances to the start are getting longer and the gaps between when the pubs open and the trains are still running in the afternoon are getting closer and closer.

Today, to time it right, we need to arrive at Hanborough Station at midday, drink like a student on freshers week and arrive at the station a further half a mile away bang on 12:30pm.

We'll give it a go.

We start in the charming village of Charlbury, previously explored on Stage 10.  Complex parking, where all the machines at the train station are broken and Mrs M berates my sense of fair play, insisting we don't need to phone up to pay.

At least we right the wrong from last time and find the Sidetracked Geocache.

Everything of interest on this walk is within 2 miles of the start.

One of Three Charlbury Pubs
Charlbury Church
From the town centre, we cross the railway line and head into the spectacular grounds of Cornbury House.  Come back in 5 weeks for Bryan Adams and the Kaiser Chiefs at their music festival.
I predict a riot in roughly 5 weeks
Fine walking through the grounds, leading to woodland walking through Topples Wood, where we are serenaded by bird song.

Skirting the Edge of Cornbury House
And from that point on, it all gets a little agricultural.  There's a pair of geocaches, a game of guess the crop and the occasional Cotswold view.

If you are wondering why I'm on all the photos, I forgot my camera.  Images courtesy of Mrs M
We're making good time and hope for a cafe or early doors pub for refreshment.  A hamlet called East End has the big blue cup of joy on the OS Map but on the ground, its all domesticity.  The only clue, a house called the Leather Bottle.  Little on the Internet to provide any sort of a story.

Two miles to Hanborough and we're a good 90 minutes before the expected train.  The next pub closure is even more recent.  The Swan is currently shown on Google Maps with a grand pub sign attached to the building and another notice board pronouncing morning teas and coffees.   At Ground Zero, its a B&B.  Got uniform 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor but as much use to me as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Excluding the twin Co-Ops, Hanborough offers two final places of refreshment.  The Three Horsehoes is very obviously closed and unfortunately,  I misread the opening signs at the George and Dragon.  It closes at 11pm, not opening at 11am.  No one ever accused me of not being optimistic.

60 Minutes too early
This walk is in serious danger of being dry.  We check the Internet and an earlier train at 11:30am avoids us getting arrested for loitering.  A quick cup of tea at the bus museum (yes, really) and we are whisked back to Charlbury at the bargain price of 60p per minute per person.

£4.20 for a 7 minute train ride.

And then, inspiration.  I remember that there is a Good Beer Guide Pub at Bourton on the Hill waiting for the Mappiman Tick.  Usually, its impossible to park, but the gods are taking pity on me and there is one space left.

Horse and Groom, Bourton on the Hill, Banks Amber

At least we missed the rain
Any pub that charges £6 for soup, £15 for Fish and Chips and £14 for the four cheese dessert is worthy of note.  Its a gastro pub, impeccably decorated and with an extensive menu that contains exactly zero sandwiches.

But how did it get in the 2017 Good Beer Guide?

There's three hand pulls but on closer inspection, one is a cider.  This leaves a massively uninspiring choice of Marstons EPA and Banks Amber Ale.

We're a way from Wolverhampton, but Banks win.

A pint of Banks, significantly more expensive than in Wolvo
Another tick in the bible, but for me, an odd choice for inclusion.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

27/05/17 - Heart of England Way - Stage 2 - Glacial Erratic

Distance - 7.25 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Pub - Littleton Arms, Penkridge
Previous Stage - Stage 1

2nd monthly circular walk on the Heart of England Way and we're back in Cannock Chase.   Odd place Cannock Chase.  The heath land provides decent tracks and good walking, but its all a little monotonous.  There's really noting to separate this walk from Stage 1 and next month, we'll be back again for more of the same.

We pick up the HOEW at Glacial Erratic Car Park and head south through Brocton Fields.  Early chance of refreshment at a tea shop that also does camping.

Cannock Chase
Cannock Chase Monotony
Tea Rooms and Camping
Tea and Camping

The Katyn monument is marked on the OS Map and proves to me a significant memorial to 14,000 Polish intellectuals and officers, murdered by the Soviets in 1940.  We take a moment to read the inscriptions but even with Internet based research, remain unsure as to why the memorial is in this little corner of Staffordshire.

Katyn Monument
Katyn Monument
Back into the moor land and we make our way to the main visitors centre for a 2nd break of the day. This is where stage 3 will start next month.

Cannock Chase
More Cannock Chase
The rest of the walk is similar to the above photo.  A handful of very decent Geocaches provide some entertainment and we avoid the twin hazards of mountain bikers and a rifle range, complete with danger area red arrows on the map.  There's also a wonderful looking campsite in the woods, where plots look very random.  I imagine its a great place to think that you are in the Canadian Rockies, under threat of bear attack, rather than being 10 miles from Wolverhampton.

Son of Chainslapper
One of Several Mountain Bike Trails
With the threat of a thunder storm nearly realised by some very heavy raindrops that fortunately peter out to nothing, we head back to the car, 3 hours after setting out.

Coming Back
Ticking off another part of Cannock Chase
All that remains is post walk refreshment and here's the quandary.  There doesn't appear to be anywhere nice to go.  On the first leg, we had no plans and unfortunately ended up in a very chainy "Eating Inn" pub.  Keen not to make the same mistake, we searched and searched for real ale pubs that did meals.  Black Country Ales Crystal Fountain nearly came out a winner but lacked food and the rest were a horror show of Hungry Horses, Punch Taverns and 2 for 1 Marstons pubs.

The best hope appeared to be Penkridge, 6 miles away.  Even on the way, we kept our eyes open for alternatives.  Bednall looked promising, somehow advertising a Beer Festival but without a pub to actually host it in.  Acton Trussell had a Moat House Hotel, described online as "Elegant".

The celebrity dotted streets of Penkridge it is then, with the 1st person seen, the former WBA and Wolves striker Don Goodman.

The Mappiman dollar could have been spent in the White Hart but we were put off by the gaggle of smokers blocking the entrance who transpired to be the staff.   No other punters inside, I had the embarrassment of turning tail and announcing "we had changed our minds".

Instead, the Littleton Arms saved the day.  Proud signs announcing it as "Staffordshire Pub of the Year" lured us in.

Littleton Arms, Penkridge
2016 Staffordshire Pub of the Year
A prize that seems wholly deserved.  Six real ales on, all with tasting notes in a menu and chalkboard. Fine home made fish finger sandwiches.  Only improvement I could suggest is serving the right drink in the right glass.

Three Tons Solstice and an Old Mout
Three Tuns Solstice and an Old Mout
We'll be back next month.  Happy for any recommendations on where to take the next post walk refreshment.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

18/05/17 - CAMRA Edinburgh Pub Walks - Walk 6 - Rose Street and New Town

Distance - Less than a Mile
Pubs - 3

Bob Steel has been my guide for many pub related adventures in London.  He knows more than one City.

The Guide
More Adventures Within
It's only a question of which walk to complete.  I am limited both on time and a lack of understanding of Edinburgh Bus Routes, so a three pub jaunt in Rose Street seems just the ticket.

I've read a lot of Irvine Welsh and he described Rose Street as being for "Tourists and Walkers", so it's just perfect for my needs.  I may have mis-remembered a single letter in that summary.

The Oxford Bar, 8 Young Street, Cairngorm Trade Winds

Yep, I've read all the Ian Rankin Books and Yep, I have previously seeked out this key location for Rebus to ponder his evidence when solving crimes.

I'm not going to sugar coat it.  It's a tough experience to walk in as a stranger, although for a minute, I do wonder if its been gentrified.

The Gentrification of the Oxford Bar
Maybe selling more than Corn Beef and Beetroot Sarnies?
The makeover only extends as far as the outside.

The Gentrification of the Oxford Bar
External Makeover
Misconceptions of gentrification are dismissed on entry.  To the left, is the narrow bar, presided over by a picture of Ken Stott and Ian Rankin.   There's no music to mask your approach and you are forced to budge through the locals gathered, eyeing up anyone they don't know.

There is a hush as you order your drink.  It's prison yard rules and survival is dependent of someone being weaker than you - so I let the American in front of me try and order a Malt.  The landlady (slighter than the landlord I remember, but still as fearsome) refuses to serve him until he pronounces Glenmorangie correctly.

It takes three goes in an atmosphere you could cut a knife with.... with me thinking "get it right, Brad or for god's sake have a Highland Park" as he goes through the pantomime.

My order for a Cairngorms Trade Winds is easier and appears to be met with approval.  Bar conversation resumes and I take my drink to the sparsely furnished side room, set aside specifically for tourists and Rebus fans.

Uncompromising, rough around the (interior) edges and I wouldn't change a thing about it.

The Kenilworth, Rose Street, Timothy Taylor Mild

Rose Street is packed with pubs / bars / restaurants and middle aged men being sick, whilst comforted by their drinking partners.

I'm sure I've been to the Kenilworth before, but you need a Guide to point out its beauty.  For it is beautiful, inside and out.

The Kenilworth
Timothy Taylor Mild
Captures the Ceiling, The Island Bar and the Beer

I have the place more or less to myself and get to photo all the things pointed out in the book.  Beer wise, I usually go LocALE but this was a chance to sample the lesser spotted Timothy Taylor Mild.

They kindly put it in a Deuchars glass so I wouldn't stand out.

The Abottsford, Rose Street, Strathaven Ales Old Mortality

A similar experience to the Kenilworth.   Without someone to point out the features, it would be just another pub in a long street of pubs.  A nondescript sandstone exterior does however lead to a pub that it is on CAMRA National Inventory of Pub Interiors.

Abbotsford - Outside
Abbotsford - Inside

Another fine example of a beautifully ceiling-ed, Island bar boozer and a guide who has shown me the best of the area.

Monday, 15 May 2017

15/05/17 - The Inn Way to Lake District Summary

Distance of the Inn Way to the Lake District - 90 (82.5 Completed) Miles
Days completed in - 7
Pubs Visited - 35 (44 Available if you get the opening hours right)
Geocaches - 19
Timeframe - 09/05/17 to 15/05/17

The Inn Way to the Lake District is an out of print guide book to a walking route that takes in the best that the area can offer.

Fine walking routes stops at various sized villages for lunch and evening meals/accommodation.  The only criteria for the stops are there has to be at least one pub.

And the pubs, hotels, food and beer were universally excellent.

As with all undertakings - there needs to be a roll of honour.

Best Walk - Coledale and Crummock Water on Day 3
Best Pub - Kirkstile Inn also on Day 3
Best Pint - Coniston Bluebird on Day 6
Most Interesting Character - Landlord at the Sun Inn, Coniston on Day 6
Bucket List Items - Black Sail YHA and Wasdale Head Inn on Day 4

The walk provided a perfect opportunity to get away from it all and immerse myself in a week where the only thing to worry about was what time was lunch (usually liquid) and what sort of pie to order for tea.

Each leg of the walk has been detailed on a separate blog, available at the link;

Day 1 - Ambleside to Rosthwaite
Day 2 - Rosthwaite to Braithwaite
Day 3 - Braithwaite to Buttermere
Day 4 - Buttermere to Boot
Day 5 - Boot to Broughton In Furness
Day 6 - Broughton In Furness to Coniston
Day 7 - Coniston to the Old Dungeon Ghyll

The Photo Album on Flickr


15/05/17 - Ambleside Pub Crawl

Pubs - 6 (35 in Total on the Inn Way to Lake District)
Walking Day Blog

The Inn Way to the Lake District came to a rain enforced end at the Old Dungeon Ghyll.  I'm not too proud to say we abandoned miserable walking for a bus ride back to the luxury of the Salutation Spa.

After an afternoon relaxing in various water based treatments, we picked the book back up to knock off the pubs in town.

Pub 30 - The Goldend Rule, Ambleside, Hartley Cumbrain XB

Old school Robinsons pub hidden in a back alley away from the tourist masses.  If I'm telling the truth, the beer is better in the next Robinsons Pub - The Unicorn.

Golden Rule, Ambleside
Side On - The Golden Rule
Golden Rule, Ambleside
Old School Decor

Pub 31 - The Unicorn, Ambleside, Hartleys Cumbrian Way

This would be my recommendation for food if you are looking for traditional, post walk grub.  Proper ramblers dishes and huge portions.   We were going to eat somewhere else for a change until seduced by a giant Yorkshire Pudding filled with beef stew.

We are but mortal hill walkers with little self control.

Unicorn, Ambleside
Pub Grub Ahoy
Pub 32 - Churchill Inn, Ambelside, Wainwright

By the time you arrive here, there will be a new beer shop open around the corner.  There is also a wine bar over the road, Lily's, that was recommended to me on Day 3.  However, if you are following the book, this is next on the list.

Its had a make over but think Wetherspoons, without the cheap drinks.  One for completists.

Churchill, Ambleside
Pub 33 - The Royal Oak, Ambleside, Golden Sheep

Royal Oak, Ambleside
Royal Oak on a Rainy Monday

Apologies for the picture - it was raining and I was in a rush.   If you want to see a better image, have a look at Half Man, Half Biscuits album "Ambleside CSI".

Everything as I remember it.  A smell of damp and sticky tables.   A second one for the completists.

Pub 34 - The White Lion, Ambleside, Wainwright

For those that like meal deals, although to be fair, the real ales are on offer mid week at a bargain £2.Something.

Not really our cup of tea.  We came for the tick.

White Lion, Ambleside
White Lion
Pub 35 - The Queens Hotel, Ambelside, Coniston Bluebird Bitter

This is it - the 35th and final pub on the Inn Way to the Lake District.  Somehow, we missed nine.  I know three were missed out on by cutting the final days walking at the ODG and we didn't have a drink at the Salutation (our hotel).   Once again, I forgot the Sportsman in Ambleside and it was too early on Day 1 for Badgers Bar, Rydall....  still leaves me 3 to check up on.

I love the Queens, although I am sad to report that the downstairs bar was closed down.  I hope it will re-open - had some interesting nights in there over the years.

In a fitting tribute, the choice of the last drink came down to a battle between the pints of the week...

Loweswater Gold - Makes perfect sense on a warm sunny afternoon, nestling in a beer garden in the shadows of the fells.

Coniston Bluebird made sense on a rainy Monday night in Ambleside's only Good Beer Guide Entry.

As a footnote, there was no sign of any of Ambleside Barngates Brewery excellent products anywhere in Ambleside.  One to watch out for.

Queens Hotel, Ambleside
The Queens - 35th and Last of the Inn Way.

15/05/17 - Inn Way to Lake District - Day 7 - Coniston to Old Dungeon Ghyll

Start - Coniston
End - Old Dungeon Ghyll
Distance -  7.5 Miles
Key Features - Furness Fells, Tilberthwaite
Geocaches - 1
Pubs -  (7 - 35 In Total)
Previous Legs - Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5, Day 6

The final day of the Inn Way to the Lake District was always going to be the tough one.  For a start, its meant to be 15 miles.   Lakeland miles count double.   It also has a very high number of pubs to visit - four before you get to the eight in Ambleside.

We already had a choice about whether to complete the High Level route or the "Low Level" alternative.

Ultimately, the weather dictated the day.  On Day 3, I wrote about the drought.  The drought is over.

We looked out the porch of the Black Bull in Coniston, saw the rain bouncing off the tarmac and vowed to take the Low Level and make a decision on how we felt when we got to the Old Dungeon Ghyll, 1st pub of the day.

Rainy Coniston
The term "Low Level" is all relative.  We have the same early climb up the Coniston Fells but veer right at Milners Bridge, avoiding Swirl Hause and taking in the wonderful steep valley of Tilberthwaite.  In total, we still manage 1840ft of ascent - very nearly a whole mountain.

Tilberthwaite would have been even more spectacular if we could see it through the mist.

A rare glimpse
I'm not going to try and pretent it was fun.   The paths are turning to streams, there is little to see and our soggy pants confirm what we already know.  Goretex just does not work.

A Rambler with the 1000 Yard Stare
No point getting the camera out too often as we fight our way down to the road and up and over Knotts to Blea Tarn and ulitmately the Langdale Pikes.  Delighted to say, it looked exactly as we remember it from March.

Langdale Pikes
Langdale Pikes
Pub 29, The Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale, Yates Bitter

Gav heads to the pub first and I am in charge of a) finding out what time the bus leaves for Ambleside and B) get the Geocache.  I succeed in both and we have nearly two hours until 2:05pm to determine what to do next.

I'll never write Mystery Novels.  Of course it was this.
The ODG is perfect for our needs in every way.   The vinyl floor slopes away from the bar, so the run off water from our sodden clothes flushes away, causing only a minor trip hazard.  The log burner is on.  The beers are excellent.  The Staff (and other punters) are once again in great spirits.

We could not have stood around in our sodden stuff, so we were forced to change into what we had dry in the Gents and confirm our abandonment with the locals.

Those that were there to see the conditions, agreed with our choice.  Those that saw my Twitter check ins called us quitters and wanted their sponsorship money back.

Can't begin to explain how nice this was.
So, not quite the finale I was expecting but the ODG is a fine place to end any adventure.

The bus was bang on time and not without its own excitement. Splashing through the huge puddles was more akin to the Log Flume at Alton Towers than any regular bus journey.

Inglorious End
Inglorious End to the Inn Way Challenge 2017
We've done the other pubs (New Dungeon Ghyll and Sticklebarn) in Langdale before, so not too worried about missing out on these but it was a shame that we missed out on the Britannia in Elterwater - a pub I had heard really good things about.

However, once we were ensconced in the new outdoor Hot Tub on the Salutation in Ambleside, rain beating down on us but gently warmed and massaged, we knew we had made the right decision.

Ambleside Pubs in a separate blog - as well as an Inn Way to the Lake District Summary.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

14/05/17 - Inn Way to Lake District - Day 6 - Broughton in Furness to Coniston

Start - Broughton In Furness
End - Coniston
Distance -  13.5 Miles
Key Features - Beacon Tarn, Walna Scar Road
Geocaches - 3
Pubs - 7 (28 In Total)
Previous Legs - Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4, Day 5

Whatever climbs are going to be made today, we are going to have earned it.  Broughton In Furness stands a whopping 10m above sea level.  With the exception of the grand finale at Ambleside, we also have the biggest pub day, ultimately leading to the home of Coniston Bluebird - The Bull.

Gavin's introduction to the Inn Way couldn't be easier.  Farmland - with great views of the Coniston Fells - take us to Beacon Tarn and the Blawith fells.

Leaving Broughton
Old Man Ahead
Beacon Tarn
Beacon Tarn
Coniston Views
Gav - Lost in the scenery

We know we are having an easy day.  We share the route with dog walkers.

Torver - a two pub metropolis - is reached at 1:15pm.   I can show Gav what the Inn Way is all about.

Pub 22 - The Wilson Arms, Torver - Loweswater Gold

Day 6, 22 pubs and finally, I have the same pint in the two different pubs.   Shows how the independent brewery trade in the North is really flourishing - there's been so much variety.   No hardship to have a repeat of the Loweswater Gold.  It might be pint of the week.

Wilson Arms
Wilson Arms
Wilson Arms
Introducing Gavin to the potential Pint of the Week
Pub 23 - The Church House Inn, Torver, Theakston XB

Hardly worth putting our rucksacks back on.  Pub 2 is directly over the road and the pick of the two in Torver.  Multi roomed tardis pub, oozing history and with a lovely sun trap beer garden.

Theakston XB was pint of the week on last years Inn Way to the Yorkshire Dales.   I was keen to get reacquainted.  Unfortunately, it wasn't as I remembered it.

Maybe it doesn't travel.

Gav goads me with his beautiful pint from the Barngates Brewery.

Church House Inn
Church House Inn - Fine Pub.  Disappointing Theakstons XB
The afternoon's walking is top quality.   We climb past some deserted quarries and pick up the Walna Scar Road.  There is a serious suggestion of actually climbing the Old Man.  There's no real need when the views are just as fine from where we are.

Off to Coniston
Fortified by 2 pints, Gav leads the charge onto the Old Man

Homestead Quarries
Homestead Quarries
Coniston Views
Looking over Coniston Water
An argument with the landed gentry about rights of way leads us to the next pub and the day's exertions are over.

Pub 24 - The Ship Inn, Bowmanstead, Hartleys Cambrian XB

The Ship Inn clings to the side of the hill above Coniston Water.  A choice of three real ales but one is turned around, the 2nd goes on selection and we are left with the final choice.

We take it outside and watch a man nail a massive Lib Dem sign to the fence.

Ship Inn
Ship Inn, Bowmanstead
The landlord come out and asks us who nailed the sign to his property.

We dob in the wannbe Tim Farron.

A quick look at the lake and a short stride into what has become my favourite Lakeland village. We've been to Coniston before and it now seems like its had a bit of a facelift.   The four pubs were immaculate.  3 of them are in the 2017 CAMRA Good Pub Guide.

Coniston Water
Coniston Water
Coniston Views
Approaching Coniston.

Pub 25 - The Bull Inn, Coniston, Bluebird

Black Bull, Coniston
Dream Location
All our dreams have come true.  Not only are we staying in a brewery - its the Coniston Brewery.  It might have won Champion Beer of Britain back in 1998 but we are traditionalists.

The rooms have had a major revamp since our last stop 9 years ago.   A quick drop off of our rucksacks and we are down to a pint in our stockinged feet, taking the banter from a group of Geordie walkers who learn all about the Inn Way from the "Sandie Shaws of Rambling".

No doubt some more converts.   A glorious sit in the sunshine before making ourselves presentable for the remaining three pubs in town.

Pub 26 - The Sun Inn, Coniston, Loweswater Gold

Sun Inn, Coniston
Sun Inn - Magnificent

Well, we meet the Landlord.   A cross between Jeremy Clarkson and Nigel Farage and yes, he is standing for UKIP in the elections.

He is also as drunk as a lord.  His gaff, his rules.

He keeps us mightily entertained, first by telling us how to to get Britain out of Europe.  At least three times and moving on, once we have got the answer correct.

Confidence gained, he then proceeds to show us the hoohah caused by a little joke of his about FGM on his smartphone.

Mr Alan Piper, you brightened up our visit and left us in high spirits.

Sun Inn, Coniston
The Sun Inn.   Alan went for a lie down.
Pub 27 - The Crown Inn, Coniston, Hartleys Cumbria Way
Crown Inn, Coniston
A bit of TLC has been applied
Much, much smarter than I remember it from my last visit.  Its had a make over both inside and out.

No Landlord based entertainment.

Pub 28 - The Yewdale Inn, Coniston, Barngates Tag Lag

CAMRA regional pub of the Year 2016/7.

Yewddale Inn, Coniston
Deservedly So
Its here that I took Gav's advice and went for a Barngates Brewery option.  A top quality pint, perfectly kept.   We'll look out for Barngates in their Ambleside location tomorrow.

A top day - walking in glorious sunshine in great locations and a very pubby day.   We celebrate the way Alan would want us to, back at the Black Bull with a final nightcap.

And we try not to worry about tomorrow's weather.

Back at the Bull, Coniston
To Alan.