Sunday, 29 October 2017

29/10/17 - Mow Cop from Congleton

Distance - 9 Miles
Geocaches - 19
Walk Inspiration
Pub - Queens Head, Congleton

Our two Mancunian offspring have been complaining that we don't come up and see them.  Taking advantage of Premier Inn's generous early bird offer, we rectify this position.  On the same weekend they both decide to come back home.

No worries, there are walks to do, CAMRA Good Beer Guide Pubs to tick off and generously, they have agreed to meet us in Manchester, so we can buy them dinner.

Today's walk starts at Congleton Railway station and instantly heads out onto the Macclesfield Canal.  With October's geocaching smiley count looking poor, its fortuitous that there is a Power Trail of more than 100 caches laid along the canal's 15 miles.   We only do around four miles and Mrs M gets bored, leaving me to find what I can in short time frames at many GZs.  She pays for leaving me, as she misses our canal exit point and needs to retrace her steps.  She takes the extra 1/2 mile quite well, all things considered.

Macclesfield Canal
Mrs M deciding that finding film pots on canals is not for her
The exit is at the foothills of Mow Cop.  We have a stiff climb up tracks and fields to reach the hamlet of Mow Cop.  The views behind include Jodrell Bank and most of Cheshire.  Stunning day for it.

Views over Cheshire
Mow Cop is where all the action is.  Along with the views, a lunch time bench, we also have the Old Man of Mow and Mow Cop Castle to explore.

Old Man of Mow
Old Man of Mow - left over Quarry Stack
Mow Cop Castle
Mow Cop Castle - 1754

A gentle walk downhill, along a vergeless road before we eventually get refuge in Willocks Woods.

Through Willocks Woods
Willocks Woods
Fields return us to the outskirts of Congleton, where our 2018 Good Beer Guide Tick awaits.

Queens Head Hotel, Park Lane Congleton, Bass Premium Ale

Queens Head, Congleton
Queens Head - from the Railway Bridge
Plenty to admire in this solid looking community pub.  I'll start with the monthly Sunday dog walks.  If you partake, you get a discount on their highly recommended Sunday Lunches.

There's two entrances, the main reception and the intriguingly named "Tap Room".  We deboot and enter through this door to a central bar.

And what a choice of beers!  We can only stop for one and I am forced to choose between TT Landlord, Black Sheep and a couple of others.  I eventually plum for the Red Triangle of Bass.

Bass Premium Ale
And the Sunday Rags
Stunning walk from again.  Enough to justify this year's subscription.

29/10/17 - Knott the Greatest Start to GBG Ticking in Greater Manchester

A Sunday night in Manchester, where there is much work to do.  There are 17 Good Beer Guide entries in the 2018 Bible.  In a typical no nonsense Northern Way, one is called in "Micro Pub" and one is called "Pie and Ale".

With both adult offspring residing in the City, there is a chance to take our time getting the ticks.   I live in hopeful expectation that one may even buy a round.

The Knott Bar, 374 Deansgate

After feeding them at the Wharf (a 2017 Entry, inexplicably removed), we use the power of Google to find the Knott Bar.  Its just up the road from Deansgate Locks, where in 2001, I nearly drank in the same establishment as Kylie Minogue.  I'll always rue the day I chose Revolution over the Sugar Lounge.

The bible promises an "Electronic Poster Board", so I should have guessed what to expect.  It's crammed under the railway bridge and full off exposed ceilings, providing a gritty urban experience.  Every time a train goes over, the artisan gin bottles rattle.

The Knott
Mappiman going Trendy
I have no problem drinking in establishments not really designed for me.  After finishing up here, I take my son to the Temple Bar and attempt to wow him with my tune selection on the jukebox.  He gave up after a 90 minute wait, claiming a £1 con and music fed by iPod.

So back to the Knott.  It is a Sunday and Mrs M suggest that I make allowances. following what may have been a busy weekend.  There are around 8 handpulls on but all but 3 are turned the wrong way round.  I am left with the choice of a dark stout, a pump with three lines of description that the barman cannot explain and a Pale Ale from Dan's Brewery.

The North really doesn't do superfluous marketing.  It was Pale.  And presumably made by Dan.

Pale Ale
Pale Ale and a Three Lined Sign that the Barman couldn't decipher

The beer was OK but nothing special to make me wonder how this got in the Bible ahead of many similar City Centre bars?

Maybe Sunday's not the best evening to go ticking.

Dan's Brewery Pale Ale
Dan's Pale Ale and half of Mappiman Offspring #1

The Britons Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater Street

An interlude for Coniston Bluebird in the Temple Bar and I need to redress the Pub Ticking balance and go for something more traditional.

With the Peveril of the Peak all in darkness (again!  Is it ever open?), it falls on a pub that sounds like a recruiting ground for the English Defence League to provide some tradition.

Horrifyingly, Google suggests it is now a Gastropub.  It's not, its same as it has been since the 1930's refit and a worthy entrant in CAMRA's Heritage Pubs.

Britons Protection
It's tiling like this that gets you Heritage Pub Status
For the first time, I stop admiring the whisky collection in the narrow front bar and head around the side to see two enclosed sitting rooms, providing a very homely feel.

Beerwise, I only noticed Robinsons Unicorn.  I know its not got many fans but here, it was perfectly presented and a lovely colour.

Britons Protection
Snug in the Britons Protection
2 ticks down, 15 to go.  I wonder where I can get a decent Pie in Manchester?

Saturday, 28 October 2017

28/10/17 - Bodenham Arboretum

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Walk Inspiration

Second week running where I struggle to spell Arboretum.

Mrs M declares she wants a quick local walk to see the autumnal colours.  I flick through walking books, consult old Country Walking Magazines and eventually settle on typing "Worcestershire Arboretum walks" into google.

This results in finding a decent looking walk that ticks most of the boxes but fails to have a pub on route.  The name of this blog is in jeopardy.

It does, however, meet with Mrs M's approval.  She's always wanted to go to Bodenham Arboretum.  I have to explain that due to a £6 entrance fee (per Adult), we are merely passing by the Arboretum.  But don't worry - we will still be able to see the trees.  I am accused of a meanness not seen since the kids dobbed on their grandfather for putting them on a ride outside a shop and shaking it, rather than putting in the coin.

Putting hereditary skinflintism to rest, we'll get on with the walk.  Its a gem.  Sometimes you don't need to travel miles - real beauty can be found on your doorstep.

Early walking takes us up sunken lanes, climbing always to Witnells End Farm.  The rising mist and crystal clear blue skies add to the Autumnal feel.

Leafy Paths
Leafy, sunken lanes
The Ridge
High Point, the Ridge
Worcestershire Views
Great views over Worcestershire

We head through Arley Wood.  No need to show you photos of trees.  We find the solo cache of the day - an ingenious field puzzle that takes me an age to decode.  Mrs M asks what's wrong with just having film pots.

A long straight track takes us down from Castle Hill.  No sign of a castle although there is a rumour of King John's Hunting Lodge.  The hamlet below is Kingsford, so it kind of rings true.

Coming down from Castle Hill
Coming down from Castle Hill
Walk over, we head to the Arboretum's cafe for refreshment.  It was a delight.  Mrs M was most taken with the carvery meats available on a baguette.

I found something to maintain the blog's authenticity.

Town Crier
Town Crier at the Big Pool

Monday, 23 October 2017

23/10/17 - Bull Baiters Inn, Worcester

Time flies... it's almost a year to the day when I last visited St Johns area of Worcester to get a pub tick.

So, what has the Bible done to the area in its latest release?

Well, it's taken out two traditional pubs and replaced with a promisingly named Inn.  Farewell to The Bell and The Bush, Hello to the Bull Baiters Inn.

Except it's not an Inn.  It's housed in a former patisserie.  It can only be a micro pub.  The Halloween Horror.

Bull Baiters Inn
Mistimed the Neon.  It doesn't always recommend "Soft Drinks"
Enter through the shop door into a single room.  There's no nooks and crannies to hide the punters.  To make matters worse, the electricity meter must be spinning off its axis, powering a lighting system that could probably be seen from space.

There's no escaping the glare from the four other patrons or the Shop Keep (Is Landlord the correct term in a Micro?), who looks out from behind his bar, king of all surveyed.  I am chillingly reminded of my old English Literature teacher.

It couldn't have helped that I had popped in from evening Geocaching.  What is a rambler doing trying to take photos when no-one is looking?

Three Tuns Stout at Worcester's Bull Baiters Inn
Close Encounters of the Micro Pub Kind
Beerwise, I will always remember this place for my first Three Tuns Stout.  Big fan of their beers but never seen this one before.  And I have been to Bishops Castle.  Other choices included a few hand written labelled ales and a barricade of Cider Boxes.

Decor wise - read the Bible.  Furniture fashioned from hop sacks and yes, I could have partaken in a game of "Ring the Bull".

The Sport of Kings.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

21/10/17 - Godalming and Winkworth Arboretum

Distance - 12 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Pubs - 3 (all 2018 Good Beer Guide Entries)
Walk Inspiration - The Blackheath Ramblers

Without wishing to sound all Agatha Christie, the inspiration for this walk came from a chance conversation in a waiting room at Seven Sisters railway station.  I was waiting for a connection to start the Lea Valley walk, when in came a lady, identifiable as a fellow Rambler from the top to toe Berghaus.  She asked me if I was also with Black Heath Ramblers.

I wasn't but we got talking about this particular faction and their fame across the South East for challenging power walks.  I had a look at their walking programme and found inspiration in a decent 12 mile circular route from Godalming.  It may have been the promise of a lunch time pub stop that sold it to me.

It's apparent from the minute I step off the train that I am going to like Godalming.  Instantly, I am following a pretty path next to a Church, into Phillips Memorial Park and alongside the River Wey.

We'll meet up with Jack Phillips again, later in the walk.

Two minutes from the Station
Phillips Memorial Park
Jack Phillips, Godalming native
River Wey
Easy walking along the Wey Navigation
Good bridlepaths take me to Winkworth Arboretum.  If you're going to visit an Arboretum, Autumn is the time to go.  Leafy Surrey indeed.

Winkworth Arboretum
Winkworth Arboretum
Near the 1st Cache of the day, Busbirdge Woods
The Merry Harriers, Hambledon Road, Hambledon, Loxhill Biscuit

Perfectly positioned, exactly half way through the walk is the Merry Harriers.  A picture postcard, classic English Country Inn.

Merry Harrier
Off the Path, Into the Pub
I enter and am greeted with a "Welcome to the Harriers" from an enthusiastic bar man, who obviously finished top of the class at Landlord School.  He then talks me through the beers available and agrees that the choice I made would have been met favourably by his dad, who "is a bit of a beer nut".

It doesn't take much to make a stranger feel at home.  I feel I know him well enough to ask to go behind the bar to scan the Cask Marque Certificate.  100 scans off a free pint glass now, blogfans.

Merry Harrier
Approved by the Bar Man's Dad
Its only on the way out, I see that its also in the Good Beer Guide 2018.  A double whammy!

On with the walk.  It's all the Surrey Hills in their finest, even if the ground does not cope well with rain.  Waterlogged and muddy paths all the way through Great Enton, Witley and back to Godalming but my Meindl walking shoes pass their first real test with flying colours.

Surrey Hills
These Views, fine architecture and mud
I'm delivered in Godalming High Street, feeling like a conqueror in my walking gear amongst the Saturday Shoppers.

Godalming High Street
Love to end a walk in Civilisation.
Jack Phillips, High Street - Nothing more than a Mooch

Good Beer Guide or not, I tend to take Mrs M's advice and avoid Wetherspoons.  But this is no ordinary Wetherspoons.  According to the Bible its decorated in the style of an ocean liner.

Why?  Well, we are back to Jack again.  This local hero has the park and a pub named after him.  He was the wireless operator on the Titanic and refused to leave his post, even after the captain declared "Every Man for Himself".

Which is the mantra you are forced to adopt when trying to get service at one of JDW's huge bars, staffed by incompetent teenagers.  It was getting tetchy.  I decided to delay getting a drink by taking photos and a forlorn hunt for the Cask Marque Certificate.

Jack Phillips, Godalming
Life on the Ocean Wave
With no sign of any order at the bar, I consider installing the ordering app on my home.  Seemed overkill.  Instead, I reflect on whether I have the feeling of being on a cruise liner.

I didn't.  There's far fewer angry looking people and tables covered with dirty glasses on ships.

I left for a proper pub.

The Star Inn, Church Street, Hampleton Ales Gulping Gold 

Oh yes, this is more like it.  Not a converted shop but something that looks exactly like a pub should.

The Star, Godalming
Back in the Game
There's one fella in front of me at the bar who orders a Betty Stoggs.  He has been more diligent than me and has noticed there are two banks of clips on the bar - four on the hand pumps and another four on bottles in front.

The barlady heads down to the cellar and I comment that "Betty Stoggs is rarely found out of Cornwall".  When his headless pint comes back he replies "it should have bloody stayed in Cornwall".  To be fair, it was a beautiful colour.

Ironic, as all the heads were above the bar.

The Star, Godalming
What Year Did England Go Mental for Halloween?
I would have probably had Betty Stoggs but went for a previously untested Gulping Gold.  Down to the cellar she went but mine did have some life in it.

At least at first.

The Star, Godalming
Pint Taken, with the Times and Heath Ledger

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

16-17/09/17 - Finishing off the St Albans Good Beer Guide Pubs

Three months have passed since I started ticking off the Good Beer Guide pubs of that most pubby of all cities, St Albans.

In that time, a new version of the bible has been released.  2018 says farewell to the Farriers Arms and a hello to two newbies that will be visited over my latest two day visit.

Still, there is slightly less work to do than in 1884.

Harder in 1884
Pub City
Monday night sees me in the back streets of Holywell Hill.  The pub count is exceptionally high, with three ticks all lined up next to each other and several other pubs within a stone's throw.

The While Lion, Sopwell Lane, Oakham JHB
White Hart, St Albans
White Lion and their Barrel Storage
I'm in a bit a rush tonight.  I have an hour to get fed and find a pub (GBG or otherwise) that has the Albion vs Leicester game on.  I find it tricky to sleep in strange hotel beds, but Tony Pulis is a non pharmaceutical answer to that problem.

The White Lion provides one solution, recommended for its good food and exceptional service.  A steak and kidney pie should set me up nicely.

Beer wise, I found the Oakham range in several pubs.  Must be an easy drive from Peterborough to St Albans.  The JHB was a perfect pint.

White Hart, St Albans
Oakham JHB
In case you want a food review too - the pie was wonderful, even if all the steak was on one side and all the kidneys on the other.

My barman provided some advice as to where the football might be on.  This sent me on chase that would please a wild goose.  First, the Goat (Book Club on Mondays, no Football), sent me to the Garibaldi (only BT Sports) who sent me to the Beehive.

No real issue.  I'd walked a grand total of 150 yards.

The Beehive provided me with my own TV but won't be troubling the Good Beer Guide any time soon.

White Hart Tap, Keyfield Terrace, Timothy Taylor Landlord

White Hart Tap, St Albans
Post Monday Night Football
The landlord (person, not pint) is emerging from the cellar with a foul looking concoction for the only other punter in tonight.  I have to ask what an opaque, gloopy looking brew is just to confirm that Mango Cider is not for me.

Instead, I go traditional for the other Landlord.  £4.40 a pint.

And I am not even in London.

The Garibaldi, Albert Street, Fuller's ESB

Garibaldi, St Albans
Final Tick for Monday Night
This is a Fullers house, where the outside posters proudly proclaim their "Fullers Cellarmanship of the Year Award".

I have to agree - I'm quite a fan of London Pride and ESB but this is the best example I have found.  An exceptional pint.  I've read the WhatPub scoring criteria and would give it a 5.
5. Perfect. Probably the best you are ever likely to find. A seasoned drinker will award this score very rarely.

Garibaldi, St Albans
Five Star
A hook is required to get punters out on a Monday.  The Garibaldi lures people in with free cheese.

Not sure the chalk board needs to describe Fosters though.  Maybe this was ironic.

Garibaldi, St Albans
Ever wondered on the virtues of Fosters?
A 24 hour hiatus, where work got in the away of exploration.

The Mermaid, Hatfield Road, Wantsum Imperium

No problems with sleep.  In fact, I no longer like football and couldn't be bothered to get out early enough for what would be a far more exciting proposition of Spurs in the Bernabeu.

The Mermaid is a new Good Beer Guide Entry (and indeed CAMRA Local pub of the Year), heading east towards Hatfield.  Just be very careful you don't walk too far.

It is also the blokiest pub I've ever been in.  You either need to be chucking arrows or getting real excited about Harry Kane's near misses.

Six real ales on, three on the front bar and three around the side, where a miss negotiation of the sloping wooden floor, nearly puts me in the lap of the nearest football fan.

And I hadn't even taken a sip of my Wantsum.

Mermaid, St Albans
Love the Glassware

The Robin Hood, Victoria Street, Black Sheep Rye Mild

Another new entry and with this last tick, St Albans can join Lichfield and be declared fully ticked off.

Robin Hood, St Albans
Meter running wild
Not sure whether the outside bulb had gone or it was meant to be flashing on and off to lure the punters in.  No disguising the internal lighting affect though.... the Robin Hood wins the prize for brightest lit pub of all time.  I could reduce their outgoings by 20% by fitting dimmer switches and create an environment where the drunken students could slam jagermeister with a higher degree of anonymity.

And they were missing out on some fine beer.  Normally, I would not have passed up on Harvey's Sussex Best but I was intrigued by a previously unseen member of the Black Sheep family.

Robin Hood, St Albans
Rye Mild - A lovely colour
A top quality pint and a fitting end to St Albans for this year.

They just need to make a bit of space in the library for 2019.

Robin Hood, St Albans
The thesaurus must surely go

Saturday, 7 October 2017

07/10/17 - Lichfield Good Beer Guide Ticks

Stage 6 of the Heart of England Way delivers me into Lichfield.  10.4 Miles of walking deserves serious refreshment.

I know the 2018 Bible has four places of interest but what treasures will they hold within?

Turns out to be a bit of a day of firsts.

The Duke of York, Greenhill, Bass Pale Ale

Before we get onto the Ale, lets talk about the pub.  The oldest in Lichfield, with an interior little changed since its naming in 1644 after the man who would eventually become King James II.

Living history is of the reasons I love my pub visits.

Duke of York, Lichfield
Duke of York - Lichfield
Duke of York, Lichfield
Claim to Fame
Duke of York, Lichfield
Been like this since 1644

The other, of course, is the beer.  This is a Joules Brewery House.  I'm not familiar with their range but on reaching the bar I spot a Red Triangle that would have a well known Cambridgeshire based Beer Blogger wishing he hadn't gone traipsing around unopened Birmingham boozers.

You were so close, Martin.

Red Triangle of Glee
Losing my Bass Virginity
I've been in a lot of pubs.  I've sat under their branded mirrors, seen the signs but never once actually found a place selling it.

It didn't disappoint and taken in front of a huge log burner in such ancient surroundings, I cannot help but wonder if I have peaked too early.

The Whippet Inn, Tamworth Street. Miner's Best Bitter

From 1664 to 2014 and another first for my blog... A micro pub.  I know there's lots of them in the Good Beer Guide, but somehow, they have passed me by.
The Whippet, Lichfield
Bunting out for Mappiman's 1st Micro
The Whippet, Lichfield
Summed Up Nicely
Its tiny.  Its brightly lit. The only nod to decoration is a coat hook, a clock and a Good Beer Guide 2018 Poster.  There's near silence, broken only by the occasional beery comment like "Look at the Lacing on that!" and "Tiny Rebel is the best brewery in the British Isles!"

As you'd expect, the beer was exceptional.  Micro Pub and Microbrewery, with an excellent LocALE Miner's Best Bitter enjoyed.

On departure, I'm met with a cheery farewell.  They all know where I am going.

Next door.

Beerbohm, Tamworth Street, Thornbridge Jaipur

You go all your life without blogging about a Micropub and then you do 2 two in 10 minutes.  These two places must be the answer to a future CAMRA Quiz question "Where are the two nearest Good Beer Guide Entries?".

Beerbohm, Lichfield
This could be described more as a Beer Cafe.

And its wonderful - a possible blue print for the future of public boozing?  The people of Lichfield agree - its packed solid and encouragingly, by a high proportion of discerning twenty-somethings.

I probably should have thrown myself to fate and asked the most genial and knowledgeable landlady (are they called that in Beer Cafes?) to recommend one of the many Belgian brews on offer.

However, after considering the lesser spotted Hook Norton Mild on the handpull, I noticed another much discussed but never sampled brew.

Lichfield, you provided my first pint of Thornbirdge Jaipur.

Jaipur at Beerbohm, Lichfield
This is what a Beer Cafe Looks Like
I loved this place so much, I am considering exporting the concept to Worcestershire.

I would have stayed, but there is one more to tick.

The Horse and Jocky, Sandford Street, Timothy Taylor Landlord

I always knew this day would come.  The day I had to pick between an Otter and a Landlord.

Both are old favourites.  Both are on offer at this excellent boozer that take their trade seriously.

Landlord at the Horse and Jockey, Lichfield
Another great pub
Landlord at the Horse and Jockey, Lichfield
Landlord Won

And what a find the Horse and Jockey is.  Five real ales on the front and an old boy, suitably proud of his local, tells me there two more around the side.

We get into quite a chat about the thriving Lichfield Scene.  He likes the Whippet Inn but is in for a long session today and finds their beers too strong.

If I hadn't been catching the 3:15pm train, I would have joined him.   The landlord was in exceptional condition - possibly the best I have ever had.

And I've been to Yorkshire.

I hit the train with 2 minutes to spare and have a journey back to reflect on how lucky the boozers of Lichfield are.   The Bible has helped me sniff out their finest establishments and each one was a joy.

Can't wait for the 2019 Guide to come out so I can go back.