Monday, 28 August 2017

28/08/17 - Cranham and Sheepscombe - 2 x Cotswold GBG Ticks

Distance - 6.5 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Pubs - The Black Horse Inn, Cranham, The Butchers Inn, Cranmore
Walk Inspiration - Walk 8 in Classic Walks in the Cotswolds

The walking guide states that this is a "Delightful walk encompassing two delightful Cotswold Villages, with three excellent Inns....".  I stopped reading at that point and banged the details into the GPS.

With a quick glance of the Bible, I also found out that two off them are in the CAMRA 2017 Good Beer Guide.

Seemed almost too perfect for the hottest August Bank Holiday since Twitter began.

We start in Cranham and head out across the common land to pick up Saltridge Woods.   This walk is completed almost entirely in woodland - providing shade from the midday sun but offering little in the way of views of the steep sided valley.

Cranham Common
Heading out of Cranham

Saltridge Woods
Into Saltridge Woods - the Vista for most of the Walk

Cotswold Views
For the occasional Valley View
Mid point of the walk is Sheepscombe.  It's best to arrive on foot, as the lanes are quite scary to drive along and the parking is nearly non existent.

I've completed my research and I know the Butcher's Arms opens at 11:30am.  It's 11:10am, so this gives time for a short geocaching detour but we are still sat outside at 11:20am, explaining to the locals that we are not alcoholics.

The Butcher's Arms, Sheepscombe, Prescott Ales Hill Climb

Plenty of time to take the obligatory photos.  According the bible, the 3 dimensional carved sign of a Butcher Quaffing Ales, whilst tethered to a pig is world famous.

Butchers Arms
Classic Cotswolds Boozer
World Famous Butchers Arms Sign
World Famous Signage

11:30 comes without the glorious sound of the door bolt scraping open, so I head off to investigate, finding the barman messing with barrels around the back.

Inevitably, the curse of the pub ticker strikes.   Yes, it normally opens at 11:30 but on bank holidays, it opens at midday.

I have to break this news to Mrs M, knowing its going to be my fault that she cannot use the facilities.

I am more concerned about whether I can class this as tick.

It's simply too hot to hang around with no shade, so we press on with the walk.  The return to Cranham is the same terrain, just different woods.  Initially Ms M (yes, we are  walking 3 today) starts complaining about the lack of variety for her Instagram feed but soon cheers up with the wildlife.   A vole running along the road was possibly expected, a large dead lizard was not.

Ebbworth Plantations
More of this in the Ebbworth Plantations

Much to Mrs M's relief, another 75 minutes walking has us back in Cranham, trying to find the ultra shy Black Horse, which unusually for a village boozer, is hiding up a tiny side street.

Black Horse, Cranham, Stroud Brewery Tom Long

Black Horse, Cranham
The Black Horse
The first thing that hit us on entry was not the flag stone flooring or ancient fire place but the flies.   Great big black ones, circling the low ceiling bar.

The girls are primarily here for lunch.  Suspicions that this may not pan out well are confirmed when the only other patron is trying to fashion something suitable by combing various starters and side dishes.  There is a menu, the items look delicious but who wants liver. bacon and mashed potatoes when its 29 degrees.   We inquire about sandwiches but are met with a "what you see is what you get?"

Ever the optimist, I try and promote the idea of baked Camembert and chips but Ms M is concerned that if we can see this many flies in the bar, what's the kitchen going to be like?

A superb Stroud Brewery Tom Long is taken outside, whilst we peruse our options.

Only one thing for it, off we head back to Sheepscombe.

The tick is earned honestly and the there was a chalk board full of delicious sandwich options.

The girls are still talking to me.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

26/08/17 - Deja Vu Geocaching

Distance - 7.5 Miles
Caches - Found - 39
First Cache
Pub - The Bridge Inn, Brewood

Geocaching numbers for August were looking fairly pathetic.  Another case of work getting in the way of life.  Fortunately, with the late summer bank holiday weekend, there is a chance to rectify some of the damage.

I've had my eye on this 40 Cache Trail in Brewood, Staffordshire, since it was published a couple of years ago.

It ticks all the required boxes for a lengthy Caching Trail.

Interesting Village - You can feel the history dripping out of Brewood, a place that I've not previously visited.  I don't think there are two buildings the same.  Two Churches, with the Church of St Mary and St Chad dominating the landscape on the early part of the walk.

Brewood Church
Brewood from the Shropshire Union Canal

Great Paths - Not only do I get the a couple of stretches along the Shropshire Union Canal, the Staffordshire Way and the Monarchs Way are also picked up.  County long distance paths are usually in good condition and the Staffs Way was no exception.  A really good walk, as well as a caching round.

Staffs Way
Picking up the Staffs Way
Pathway to the Hattons
A Country Lane down to The Hattons

Crossing the Avenue, with Chillington Hall in the Distance
Crossing the Avenue twice on the walk.  A one mile drive to Chillington Hall
Easy Caching - With 40 finds, you don't want to spend an age looking for individual caches.  The clues made finding dead easy and I could get on with the walk.  7.5 Miles walked in 3 hours and 12 minutes.   Even so, I cannot claim 100%.  #36 has gone, with 4 previous DNFs logged.  A mixture of dog walking muggles (duggles?) and barge driving muggles (chuggles?), along with my own lack of skill, stopped me getting #39.

Geocache over Shropshire Union Canal
Easy Caching.  Man in Blue may have been a cacher - he's coming from #3
Sense of Fun - I may have been without my caching partner today, but she does read the blog and wouldn't want her to miss out on this.

A Chance to dress up
All quiet on the Staffs Way - No one can see you dress up in cache contents
Refreshment - I had it all planned to go to on to Coven and grab a CAMRA Good Beer Guide Tick at the Harrows Inn.   However, the round starts at a Cask Marque Pub, The Bridge - so it seemed rude not to give them the Mappiman dollar.

The Bridge, Brewood
The Bridge Inn
Lancaster Bomber
Thwaites Lancaster Bomber

Marstons pub, with an admittedly high number of their regular brews.  The Lancaster Bomber was in good condition but it had to be drawn out, as the sandwich took 35 minutes to turn up.

I notice there's another caching loop North from Brewood.  I'll add that to the "To Do" list for a future low scoring caching month.

Thanks to the The Washers UK for the placing and maintenance of a top round.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

19/08/17 - Bidford-on-Avon for Geocache #7000

Distance - 8.87 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Walk 14 - AA 50 Walks in Warwickshire
Geocaches - 13
Pub - The Frog, Purity Ubu

A walk in the heart of Shakespeare Country, where after an day's drinking in the now disappeared Falcon Inn, he fell asleep under a crab apple tree and came up with this ditty.

Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,

Haunted Hillboro, Hungry Grafton,

Dodging Exhall, Papist Wixford,

Beggarly Broom and Drunken Bidford.
Not quite up there with "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them" but you know, the strength of Mead and all that.

We start our walk with one eye on the post match refreshments.  The Frog has a car park.  We will be using the premise later (have you read my blog?) but initial concerns with the signs that say "Frog Parking Only; All other will be Toad" are dismissed as japery.

A navigation of Grade I Listed C15th Bridge and we're along the bank of the River Avon for some gentle walking.

Bidford Bridge
Bidford's Ancient Bridge
Bidford Church
The Falcon Inn was the other side of the Church
Walking Along the Avon
Gentle Walking along the Avon

We start the day on 6992 found Geocaches.   We are not primarily here for the caches, but there is every chance that we can make it to the next milestone.   A number of "A Fine Pair Multis" are available, one looks like its in the middle of the river and there is a series based songs by The Who.   You know, the band that produced Geocaching theme songs of "The Seeker", "I can see for miles" and er, "Boris the Spider".

We make a good job of it, although two are walked past, simply because we are engrossed in the easy walking.  We are taken up nearly as far was Welford on Avon, where we leave the river to climb the banks.  The walk back is through some of the villages old Shakey was familiar with.   Dorsington gives way Bickmarsh which leads onto to Marcliff.  All black and white, thatched cottage loveliness.

Views over the Avon Valley
Views over the Vale of Evesham
Villages with Architecture like this

And Cache 7000?  Well, it should have been a traditional at Dorsington Manor.  But we couldn't find it.  We blame the pressure.

Instead, I fall back on all the ninja skills developed from 6999 other finds and grab "A Fine Pair" multi without having found the clues for the maths.  Cacher's Instinct.  It may not look much but I was delighted it was by my favourite CO, HKMHill.

I'll bet Mike is as delighted as I look.

Cache 7000
Life Goals counted in Film Pots
The walk back is functional, along quiet lanes, grabbing a 3rd Fine Pair in Marcliff and back along the river into Bidford.

Where we pay for our parking through lunch for two.

Purity UBU at the Frog
A Perfect Ubu Purity

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

14/08/17 - CAMRA Good Beer Guide Pubs of Reading - Part 2

I'm back with the Booze Bible in Berkshire.  Four weeks after rain stopped play on Part 1 ticking Reading's 8 Entries, I am repeating the bus journey on the Emerald 6, knowing exactly where to alight.

The Hop Leaf, Southampton Street, Downton Brewery New Forest Ale

7pm on a Monday night and there's the Bar Lady, me and the King of Sudoku.  Initial engagement is at the bar, where I shun the most obvious choice of several Hop Backs (pub is tied to the brewery) and have a first ever New Forest Ale.  Handsome looking bitter.

The KoS soon exits, leaving behind his work for me to mark.   Never, in the history of the Times, has the Fiendish been completed with no workings out.

Hop Leaf, Reading
By god, but he was neat
If there was company, I could have entertained myself with many of the available games, bar billiards and darts more traditional than the documented Pinball machine that I failed to locate.

Hop Leaf, Reading
Hop Leaf 
Eldon Arms, Eldon Terrace, Timothy Taylor Golden Best

I've found the HQ of the Berkshire Real Ale resistance movement.

Once again, I am in a near empty pub.   There's a couple taking selfies at the very far end of this long narrow pub and a guardian of 8 real ales.   Makes you wonder how they keep them turning over.

Eldon Arms, Reading
Really unsure about the Paint Job.  Don't think it was this colour last time.
Maybe Reading is like Spain and no-one comes out till 11pm.

I check in TT Golden Best into Untappd for the 2nd time in life, once again being surprised that its classed as a Mild.

Only way to entertain myself is to read Berkshire CAMRA's "Pint Taken", recognising the cover shot of Nag's Head from my last Reading ticking.

There's something deeply satisfying about reading about a documented pub closure in the actual said pub.

The fightback against pub flat conversions started here.  I only hope it wasn't the new owners who came up with the Bobby Sands colour scheme.

Eldon Arms, Reading
Good News - Nag's Head wins POTY.  Bad News - Eldon Arms is closed.  
The Purple Turtle, Gun Street, Doombar (Soz)

Now, I'm not as prolific as some of the pub blogging Twitterati, but I have managed to get 150 ticks since the 2017 edition was released last September.

I defy any of the Jedi Masters of GBG Ticking to come up with a more bizarre entry than the Purple Turtle.

I make no apologies for the shaky night time photo.   I was worried the bouncer was looking at me.

He was.

Purple Turtle, Reading
Mrs M catches my Untappd check in an in a hopeless confusion from Police Academy 1, thinks I am in the Blue Oyster Bar.  I have form.   Facebook Friends led me to Leed's New Penny.  The Cask Marque App led me to Oxford Street's City of Quebec.   And just because it looked nice, I once led myself into London's premier real ale bar for Bears in Poland Street.

There must be a reason why its in the Good Beer Guide.   Personally, any place that has a bouncer should be instantly excluded, in my opinion.

The bible's closing line on the place is "Beer Choice is eclectic, you never know what you are going to get from one week to the next".

I must have chosen a bad week.   It was Doom Bar or Hobgoblin on offer today.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the place and there is a lot more to it than you can see on entry.  On this visit, I ignored the empty stage and American Diner booths and headed out through the side door and out the back into a wonderful outdoor area.

A decent place on a mild August night.

Purple Turtle, Reading
Outdoor at the Purple Turtle
The Alehouse, Broad Street, Mr Chubbs Lunch Time Bitter

Longtime favourite in Reading and another chance to enjoy one of my favourite named beers at the wrong time of day.   Proper looking pub inside and out, with nooks and crannies that I would have been better off exploring to get away from the very drunk Irish Man and not so drunk co-worker who came to entertain me on my little table for 1, next to the bar.

Like any good journalist, I made my excuses and left.  Fully in the knowledge that it won't be too long before I am back.

Alehouse, Reading
The Glory of Mr Chubbs Lunchtime

Saturday, 12 August 2017

12/08/17 - Heart of England Way - Stage 5 - Lichfield

Distance - 8.5 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Pub - The George and Dragon, Lichfield, Banks Bitter
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3, Stage 4

Stage 5 on the Heart of England Way and it delivers it's first real highlight.  Lichfield Cathedral's three spires can be seen long before arrival into this charming city.

The Nelson Inn at Creswell green was found at the mid point of Stage 4 and provides the start of this walk.  A chance to pick up a couple more of the Chorley Circular Geocache Trail.

The walking is agricultural - country lanes and wheat fields, where in the main, the farmers have adhered to leaving the rights of way accessible.

Wheat Fields
Easy Walking
HOEW Views
Big Skies on the HOEW

1st Peak of the Cathedral
First Peak of Lichfield Cathedral
The Cathedral is not the first architectural delight to visit.  Lichfield has 4 entries in the 2017 Good Beer Guide.  We find the George and Dragon immediately on entering the town through the Park and Shaw Lane.

First surprise is that its a Marstons House, a brewery that's not usually troubling the Booze Bible. The 2nd is that it's open at 11:10am.  They might be still doing the cleaning up, with all the chairs upended on the tables, but this does provide an opportunity to explore.  Impressive tiling throughout and the Cask Marque certificate found, we make our way outdoors.

It's not every pub that has a beer garden complete with a memorial explaining the history.  Prince Rupert's mound was a siege position built during the civil war.   I'm always finding bits of Civil War history on my walks but here is the location of a rare Royalist victory.

It now makes a nice spot to enjoy a top quality Banks Bitter with commanding views.

George and Dragon, Lichfield
George and Dragon - Deserved Good Beer Guide Entry
Banks Sunshine in a Glass
Mrs M wondering what I'm not sitting with her.  There is a a memorial to read from here.

Next up is the Cathedral.  A group of lads are dressed as Peaky Blinders.  We spend the rest of the walk arguing whether they are on a stag do, a wedding or are the real Peaky Blinders.   No stag do I have ever been on has a professional photographer.

The Cathedral is as stunning on the outside, as I am sure it is on the inside.  I could spend hours admiring the intricate stonework.  Many photos taken but I will leave you with a shot of the restoration of Charles II shoe.

Lichfield Cathedral
Mappiman.  Peaky Blinders out of Sight
Lichfield Cathedral
Charles II - Paid for the Cathedrals restoration
Lichfield Cathedral
So he got a new shoe

The walk back is merely functional.  Through Lichfield's many alleys and a slightly rough housing estate and back into the not quite as well maintained wheat fields.

Stage 5 and the HOEW is really getting into its stride.  A top walk.

Wheat Fields
Battling the field borders

Monday, 7 August 2017

07/08/17 - The Kentish Town CAMRA Good Beer Guide Ticks

Kentish Town is a hotbed of CAMRA Recommended Boozers, with 5 available for the thirsty explorer.

I've previously ticked off The Southmapton Arms and the Grafton on an Archway to Camden Pub Crawl.

Starting at Tufnell Park Tube makes this a downhill walk.  Turn left out of the station and down Fortress road.

Junction Tavern, Fortress Road, Timothy Taylor Boltmaker

Estate Agents would describe this classic looking pub as "deceptively spacious".

The Junction, Tufnell Park
Up the Junction
A look through the front windows leads one to believe that this is a gastro pub but the labyrinth like interior leads to a back bar, a conservatory and if the weather was nicer, a very pleasant beer garden.

A look at the bar reveals 3 real ales and I see my inspiration in the form of a Timothy Taylor Pump.  I ask for a Landlord but I am wrong.  Its actually its lesser spotted brother,  Boltmaker.

Have I ever stumbled across this outside of Yorkshire?  I think not.

A very decent pint.  I foolishly stop for only one and leave without checking the weather.

The Junction, Tufnell Park
Should have stayed longer
The Pineapple, Leverton Street, Foundation Bitter

The heavens have opened.  Its only a short walk to pub number 2, but long enough to learn the waterproof effectiveness of Liam Gallagher's Pretty Green Jackets.  30 seconds.

I cut a very disheveled figure by the time I make it to the Pineapple, but the Journey was worth it.

This back street pub is a classic.

The Pineapple, Kentish Town
Worth the Walk
This is pretty much a blue print for a how a pub should look.  Entrance gained under a hanging basket  and into a central bar.  Every table is either occupied or reserved, waiting for diners who want to take advantage of the Thai Restaurant.

After ordering a pint of something new, East London Brewing Company Foundation Bitter, I manage to get a seat under one of these bad boys.

The Pineapple, Kentish Town
A matching one on the other side of the bar.
If only there was a roaring fire to dry off in front off.

The beer and atmosphere was spot on.   Well worth seeking out.

The Assembly House, Kentish Town Road, Sambrook's Wandle

Proof that I can make my mind up about which places to visit.  This is a non Good Beer Entry.  Despite this, and the fact it's a Green King, my Sambrooks Wandle stood up well to everything else sampled tonight.

Last week, I stumbled on a 1971 Film with Richard Burton, the Villian.  The film was pretty hopeless, although anything with Burton in it is worth watching.   Even one where he is sleeping with Ian McShane.  And has a dodgy Cockney accent that should be up for a Dick van Dyke award.  

In the film, they plan their blags in a very handsome looking pub.  It took me off a two minutes on google to find out this was the Assembly House.   I thought I would check it out.

The only thing that remains are the high ceiling rooms.
The Assembly House, Kentish Town
Looked better in the Film
Could be an inspiration for future blogs.   Drinking in pubs that are movie locations.  So far I have this and one in Berkshire where Carry On Dick was filmed.

Lion and Unicorn, Gaisford Street, Redemption Big Chief

If I was so inclined, I could mark off Kentish Town in the bible with a highlighter pen to show its completeness.

Last of the night and a bit underwhelming, if the truth is told.

This is a huge pub, half way along a residential street off Kentish Town Road.

Lion and Unicorn, Kentish Town
Night Falls in Kentish Town
It has a theatre upstairs, a very expensive bar and absolutely nothing else of interest.  As soulless as a sparsely populated posh hotel bar.

Lion and Unicorn, Kentish Town
I can smell the hops from my Redemption Big Chief from here

Saturday, 5 August 2017

05/08/17 - Two Bloomsbury CAMRA Good Beer Guide Ticks

The sights have been taken in through a delightful 8 mile walk through London's Royal Parks.  Rest has been taken a funky bijou Kings Cross Hotel, where the lights are controlled by a mobile phone app.  It's a couple of hours until the show starts in a Shaftesbury Avenue Comedy Club.

We'll go and get a couple of CAMRA Good Beer Guide Ticks, whilst on the look out for pre-theatre dining.

The Calthorpe Arms, Greys Inn Road, Youngs Special

This is a new one to me, despite knowing the area quite well.  Before the Bloomsbury Holiday Inn went into the £300's per night, it was my preferred work hotel of choice.

The bible says that "Unusual double doors lead into this single bar corner local".

Calthorpe Arms
GBG Stickers aside, what's unuusal?
And its a portal to a time that London forgot.  A more traditional local boozer, you could not hope to find this side of Norman's Coach and Horses in Soho.

This extends to something I haven't seen since I was a kid.   A couple in a classic Citreon DS, are having a pint in the car.   To add to the authenticity, the pint was in a dimpled jug.

Brilliant! You need to remind yourself that we are a stone's throw from the venue that hosted Oasis's first London gig.

Calthorpe Arms
A Trip out in the Motor.  Mrs M's Arm
Its a Young's House and the Special was in decent form, if not suffering from the usual Southern crisis of a disappearing head.

Calthorpe Arms
To spend your days in the sunshine
The Lamb, Lamb Conduit Street, Youngs Special

The Calthorpe may have been new to me but the Lamb has always been a favourite.  I found it back in the days when I could recognise a Good Pub, without a Guide to help me along the way.

Saturday evening is the time to come.  In the week, I've rarely managed to get a seat but tonight, up until the wedding party came in, we had the place more or less to ourselves.

Lamb, Lamb Conduit Street
Check out the Victorian bar mounted Snob Screens
I explained to Mrs M about how the bar mounted glassware was meant to stop the bar staff from seeing exactly who the C19th gentlemen boozehounds were entertaining.

She was more interested in what sort of a wedding ends with the majority of guests in the local.

A decent one was my response.

Lamb, Lamb Conduit Street
The Lamb Interior, in all its finery
A must visit London pub.  And if you are hungry, the Italian with the blue awning next door is superb.

Lamb, Lamb Conduit Street
Everything you need for a good night out, next door to each other