Sunday, 25 February 2018

25/02/18 - Heart of England Way - Stage 11 - Shustoke

Distance - 7.15 Miles
Geocaches - 7
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9, Stage 10

I own lined winter trousers.  I own a Fjallraven coat designed for the worst weather that Sweden can throw at it.  I own extreme arctic mittens.  The children have been known to comment that all this is a bit much for walking the dog to fetch the paper.

However, for some reason when heading out on one of the coldest days of the year to complete the next monthly leg of the Heart of England Way, I have decided to wear the thinnest pair of walking trousers I own and a soft shell hoody.

Can't complain though, after a month of mud it nice to have frozen ground and clear blue skies.

Sunshine in Warwickshire
Early morning sunshine
We start at Shustoke, a village on the outskirts of Coleshill.  It has a resevoir, sailing club and a handy pub, The Plough.

Early walking is out into the countryside, through run down farmyards and open expanses of fields.  Some big views over Birmingham in the far distance but little to report, apart from fine walking on good paths.

Views to Birmingham
Birmingham in the far distance
Church Farm
Church End Farm, near Shustoke

Its a walk of Loops - a large loop to the south and then around the Reservoir, kept hidden by high banks.  The geocaches start in a little loop around to Whitacre running alongside several rail lines.  In a case of Health and Safety in action, the paths marked on my OS Map are rerouted for safe crossing of the lines - extending the planned 6.5 mile route by half a mile.

We record 3 DNF today, but are in good company.   The last geocacher has logged that they are not were they were a week ago.   Seems Shustoke has a phantom cache thief.

Shustoke Resevoir
A rare glimpse of Shustoke Reservoir through the trees
We arrive back at the pub at 11:45am on a Sunday morning.   In a rarity for this blog, we have a dry walk.  Mrs M wasn't prepared to hang around for 15 minutes for it to open and to be fair, no-one wants the first poured pint of the day. 

I miss out on a Cask Marque check in but do get to see the huge aviary in the car park. 

The Plough, Shustoke
Cask Marque Sign proudly displayed on the Plough at Shustoke's Door

Sunday, 11 February 2018

11/02/18 - Queen Elizabeth at Elmley Castle

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration - Walk 19 from Jarrold Shakespeare Country Walks

There's only one issue when parking up next to a Good Beer Guide Pub, famous for its food, at 10am on a Sunday morning.   The smell of roast dinners hits you.

We complete this 7 mile wander in the shadows of Bredon Hill in a state of mild starvation.   The mud and unexpected hail storm make it hard to shake of the images of a place where the 4.5 Tripadvisor reviews simply state that people are talking about "Roast Beef".

This is a walk of Churches.   Four, medieval ones, as we make our way from Elmley Castle, to Briklehampton and on to the Combertons - Little and Great.

As expected, the only caches are Church Micros.  But a couple are big enough to swap over travel bugs.

Here's the photostory.

Elmley Castle
The Sundial and Elmley Castle Church - Cache took some time!

Bredon Hill
We walk in the Shadow of Bredon Hill throughout.  Deceptive blue skies made way to hail.

Bricklehampton Church
Spring is coming to Bricklehampton Church

Great Comberton Church
Little Comberton - Imagine how big the one at Great Comberton is.

Great Comberton
Black and White Worcestershire Village of Little Comberton
Bredon Hill
Last view of Bredon Hill, as we make our way back
7 miles walked and much needed refreshment required.

The Queen provided.

Queen Elizabeth, Elmley Castle, Butcombe Rare Breed

I started my walking career in the early 2000s and came to Elmley Castle.  The pub was closed down and there was a hand written notice from a thirsty local claiming enough was enough and six months was too long to live in a dry village.

The residents agreed and rather than stock up with Frosty Jack from Iceland, they did something about it.

The Elmley Pub Company was created by the community and the pub was brought back from the dead, Lazarus style.

Queen Elizabeth, Elmley Castle
Refreshement Ahead

Queen Elizabeth, Elmley Castle
Celebrating a Royal Visit - Queen Elizabeth 20/08/1575
The residents are doing a superb job.   Greeted on entry and their Internet booking system worked a treat.  Confusion only caused by my announcement that I have a table booked for one.  They ask my name and say they had me down for two.  Computers are better equipped to make the distinction between number in the party and time the party are to dine.

Justifiably in the 2018 Good Beer Guide, I made my way to the bar to see a well thought out collection of four real ales.  A couple from Wye Valley, Purity Mad Goose and an infrequently seen Butcombe Adam Henson's Rare Breed.  The tasting notes suggest its never happier than when paired with a Full English Brunch.  Today, it will make do with being paired with Roast Beef.

Mrs M proclaimed it to be the finest Sunday Lunch in the land.  She also insisted on checking the puddings were up to scratch.

The walk must of taken it out of us.  We spent the afternoon prone.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

06/02/18 - Linlithgow's Good Beer Guide Pubs

Pubs - 4 in total, 3 in the GBG
Distance - 2 Miles
Walk Inspiration - CAMRA Pub Walks in Edinburgh - Walk 20
Previous Edinburgh Pub Walks -  Rose StreetRoyal Mile around the CastleAround the CastleTollcross, Fountainbridge and HaymarketAround WaverleyNew Town, Royal Mile

The links above show that plenty of work has been completed in ticking off the GBG pubs of Edinburgh.  Time for a change - a 20 minute train ride out of Waverley delivers me to Linlithgow.

I've completed my research.  I know that its been a village since the C12th.  I know that when the Black Death hit Edinburgh, the Royal Palace moved here in 1349.  I know it to be the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.

I didn't know it hosted the only pub in the land called the Black Bitch.

The Black Bitch, 14 West Port Street, 1 x Guinness

A walk from the station, along a wonderfully illuminated tow path, dotted with tiny fairy lights to show where its safe to put your feet.

Black Bitch
The BB of Linlithgow.  There is only one BB in the land.

The Black Bitch is not a Good Beer Guide Entry but I couldn't resist the tweet that would be automatically sent from Untapped on check in.   Unsurprisingly, it was pre-censored.

No real ales, so a default pint of the black.  The two downstairs rooms are separated by a central bar.  I chose to share the lounge with a couple of old dears, demonstrating the cutting Scottish wit usually found in an episode of Still Game. 

Eavesdropping only interrupted when the male contents of the other front room squeezed through the bar to head upstairs.  Some sort of meeting to discuss the stranger in town?

Nope, just dominoes.

The type of community pub that I could have been entertained for longer in.  I should have bought the BB Pin Badge for £2.50 as a memento.

Guinness at the Black Bitch
The Linlithgow Tap, 111 High Street, Fyne Ales Jarl

The former boozer known as "The Footballers and Cricketers" gets its mouthful of a name reduced to Tap.

Central Island bar guarded by a couple of octogenarians that must have been reaching the end of their shift.   They eyed me with suspicion as I looked at the hand pulls on offer.  I should have really looked at the chalk board.

Linlithgow Life
Guardian 1, also guarding the Chalk Board - Guardian 2 hiding behind the Jarl
A chance to try a Jarl, which I had seen around but found impossible to ask for without adopting a yokel accent.

Despite the friendliness of the bar staff, the Guardians of the Bar were creating a strange, noiseless ambiance.  I was forced to turn the shutter click on my camera to silent to avoid rousing them from their slumber.

Time to move on.

The Four Marys, 67 High Street, Strathaven Duchess Anne

The official guide has only two pubs on the walk, so I have doubled the entertainment for the evening.  It was this place I was most looking forward to - tracing its history back to 1500.  Another uniquely named pub, taking inspiration from Mary Queen of Scots four ladies in waiting.   All called Mary.

Four Marys
Five Marys (if you include the Queen)
A nice chainy pub offering decent food, which I took advantage of the way only a man on expenses can.  I had a starter.  It was an egg.  You can guess what type of egg.

Fed and watered to the tune of three, I went for an explore to see if I could get to the castle by the loch.  Of course, it was all locked up at the main gate but I was able to find a side gate that led me into the pitch black walled gardens.  Too dark for a photo of anything apart from the Church, but at least I can say that I went there.   With the difficulties of finding the side gate to make my exit in the dark, its a wonder I am still not there now.

St Micheal's Church
Cultural Interlude
Surprisingly Short
A surprisingly short wall that takes us all the way to Her Maj, QEII

Platform 3, 1a High Street, Deuchars IPA

Saving the best to last, this is stone's throw from the station and handily has the departure noticeboard broadcast on a TV so you know when to leave five minutes too soon to hang around on a freezing platform.

Platform 3
Platform 3 - A rarely found excellent "Railway Pub"

This was packed solid.  The type of place you have to work hard to get to the bar and decide not to scan the Cask Marque barcode proudly displayed above it.

The Deuchars was in fine form and I managed to find a table next to the gents.   Always a good place to make friends.

And the place was packed full of them.  Blokey laughter a plenty, before some faces leave for a train and more enter to join the fun.  Only during the rare quiet interludes could you hear what sounded like rain but transpired to be a model train running on a high track around the room.

Duchars at Platform 3
Turning into my favourite Scottish Tipple
A top pub and easy to see why it was by far the busiest place on a Tuesday.  I left at 10:12 to catch to the 10:20 but first to have a dither.

The rest of the pub joined me, with expertise honed through experience, at the exact moment the train pulled up.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

03/02/18 - The Ebrington Arms - Puddings and Geocaching

Distance - 6.3 Miles
Geocaches - 23

There's a good reason why we are Goretexing up on a miserable Saturday Morning in the part of the North Cotswolds where Gloucestershire meets Warwickshire.

We need to walk off this.

What did you have for tea?

It's a peculiarly British pasttime of taking your loved one to a fine country hotel and stuffing 7 puddings down her, while a master of ceremonies urges you on with the cry of "..... served with lashings of custard".

We'd never heard of pudding hangovers before.  We know all about them now.

The only thing to do is put on waterproofs and head out into the mire.

There's a trio of fine villages to base our walk from, Mickleton and Ilmington were duly considered but Ebrington has the Good Beer Guide Pub and has not been previously discovered.  Plentiful geocaches mean that we have something to distract from the weather.
On another day, views
Views on another day
We're actually attempting two cache trails here but don't let on to Mrs M.  She's great at finding them but does question her sanity when there are too many.  The first cache trail is from my most found Cache Owner, HKMHILL and the 2nd by The Sundowner.  If you're new to Geocaching and fancy a go, you could do a lot worse than starting here.   A good mixture of hides, sizes and a particularly delightful field puzzle, that proves that even after 7,500 finds, you can come across something new.

Thanks COs.  Great caching.

Log too wet to sign
Photo required of Log too wet to sign
King of the Cache Containers
Mrs M, bored now, refuses to acknowledge the king of cache containers

Walking wise, we have good yet muddy paths with the figure of 8 route dominated by Foxcote House - a spectacular 1740's manor house bought and renovated by the man who runs Victoria Secrets and used solely to satisfy his desire for pheasant shooting.

Foxcote House
Sell a lot of ladies pants and you get to own this
Back to Ebrington and an award winning pub.  The Times festoons fine praise indeed.  CAMRA had it as a 2015 and 2016 Pub of the Year finalist.

Ebrington Arms
High Praise
Ebrington Arms
17th Century Cotswold Pub

Of course, its totally gorgeous.  The staff are a delight who welcome you on arrival and after you've made use of the facilities.  The food, even to Geocachers who had vowed a fasting day, smelled wonderful.  And there was even something new to try beer wise.

Who's ever heard of Yubby?

Pint of Yubby
Yubbies all round
Its brewed, just for this pub, at the North Cotswold's Brewery.  If there had been a signal or if they'd trusted an outsider with the WiFi Password, there would have been a rare UnTappd check in to delight my American followers.

A fine pint of English Bitter.  They sold presentation packs for a price that isn't going to trouble Tesco Multi Purchase offers.

One now resides in my outdoor fridge.