Saturday, 27 November 2021

27/11/21 - A literary walk from Yarpole, Herefordshire

Distance - 6.5m

Walk Inspiration - 100 Walks in Hereford and Worcester - Walk 50

Geocaches - 0

The fifth installment of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London book series - Foxglove Summer - is set in the fictional Herefordshire hamlet of Rushpole.  It didn't take too much detective walk to find out Rushpole is based on the very real location of Yarpole.  References to Croft Ambrey, Mortimer's Cross and Pokeshouse Wood gave the game away.

Yarpole, Herefordshire
Yarpole - Inspiration for a book and a walk

Roadside parking at the Church - unusual for containing the village store and having a separate Bell tower.

Belltower of Yarpole Church
Timbers dating to 1192.  Shop closed on my return

The walk takes me across the fields to the smaller hamlet of Bircher - where multi trailed common land is accessed.  As long as I am going up, I am heading in the correct direction.  

Although you have to question the sanity of walking in forestry commission land in the dying hours of Storm Arwen.  The Douglas Firs are just as impressive when they are horizontal.

Views from Bircher Common
The Gentle slopes of Bircher Common
Strorm Arwen
I must admit to listening for timber creaks.  Plenty of clambering over trees

Views from Croft Ambrey Hill fort
Views from Croft Ambrey Hill Fort

Croft Ambrey hillfort conquered, it's downhill into Fishpool Valley.  A pleasant series of man made pools containing brown trout, crayfish and and freshwater shrimps.  A pumphouse has been restored to include information boards and a viewing platform.

Fish Pools Valley
Top Pool - Fishpool Valley

Fish Pools Valley
Pumphouse Machinery

All of this endeavour was to provide food and water to Croft Castle.  Sadly, the steep sided valley renders this out of view - and a check on google suggests what a splendid view it would have been.

A walk for another day.

Cock Gate provides access to Green Lane.  I had completed my homework and I knew the Bell had recently closed down.  Facebook rubbing salt in the wound.  A last post on their page suggesting a Halloween 2022 drink off of the remaining stock.

The Bell at Yarpole
A Dead Pub Walk
A phoenix from the flames?
But all is not lost

Closest alternative refreshment - Orelton's Maidenhead.

Monday, 22 November 2021

22/11/21 - Exeter Pub Crawl

Pubs - 6

Good Beer Guide Ticks - #624-626

Another day, another guide book.  Exeter is detailed in this 1999 tome, although the beer scene has moved on considerably.  I honestly can't even remember the Firkin chain, where the Fizgig and Firkin is no more.

A lot can happen in 21 years

With it being a Monday lunch in late Autumn, I'm sure that many of the 2022 Good Beer Guide entries will also be closed or opening at a time when we're not passing.

The best thing for me to do is to load the pubs from both books into Google Maps and see what we stumble upon when completing the Psycho-Geography that is Adventure Lab Caching.  The final stage drops us off at the pretty quayside.

Exeter Quayside and the Topsham Brewery
That's the Topsham Brewery on the RHS - opens at 2pm.  Its midday.

A case of what we could have won, 2 hours too early for the Topsham Brewery.  Never mind, we'll have a walk along the Exe to the Mill on the Exe - a functional St Austell Pub, where the staff wear jaunty sailor uniforms and they have Hicks on cask.   A reminder from our trip to Cornwall this time last year, at the height of the ill-fated Tier System of lockdown.

Mill on the Exe, Exeter
Functional.  Nice Patio are over the Exe.
Mill on the Exe, Exeter
All the gang are here.  And a little Gem.

From there, Mrs M leaves me to go shopping.  Dangerous stuff.  I have a lot of inspiration and its pay-day tomorrow.  

Unfortunately, the unfortunately named Fat Pig becomes my 2nd GBG fail after the Topsham Brewery.  I checked Google Maps this morning and it said open at midday.  A check whilst outside at 1pm shows the listing has been updated and it's now closed Mondays and Tuesday.  

I swear they just wait for me to turn up at a new city and change the rules.

Fat Pig, Exeter
Looked my sort of place

With Mrs M not in tow, I could have broken my solemn vow to her that I won't spend money at JDW.  To be fair, the coaching house on the opposite side of the road looked a more interesting prospect.

Georges Meeting House
Georges Meeting House
White Hart, Exeter
Or the White Hart - A Marstons (a long way from home)
White Hart, Exeter
Now I am too early for an Ale Club

White Hart, Exeter
Marstons Sunbeam in lovely condition

I finally get a non dubious GBG Tick at the Ship Inn.  Its positioned down an alley near the cathedral that makes for an impossible photograph.  The alley is too narrow.  There are too many shoppers.

It's one of those low beamed, ancient pubs that I instantly feel at home in.  And so did Francis Drake, according to the history.  The Otter Ale was absolutely perfect and enjoyed that much, that the only photo taken was my untappd checkin.

TheShip Inn, Exter
Waiting for Mrs M and her post shopping baggage handlers

Looking at the way the afternoon is going and of course, planning our evening meal around our location, we have time for just one more.  I'm out of pubs close by in the GBG and the pub crawl book.  The Great Western/Imperial double tick will have to wait for another day.

On the fly research shows that the Turks Head has just re-opened and is scoring high on the Google Review checkins.  Just around the corner from the Ship - we have nothing to lose.

It proves to be an inspired choice.  Easily pub of the day and I'll put money on it being in the 2023 Bible.
Turks Head, Exeter
Next to the Guild Hall

Its a delightful place - maintaining both an old school charm and new craft bar feel - if such a thing is possible.  Sited over a couple of floors, there's even a brewing rig setup at the far end.

I learn how to say Red Ale in Welsh.  Tiny Rebel Cwtch rhymes with Butch.  I enjoyed it that much on cask that I very quickly went back to the bar for a repeat.

Then I found they had Deya Steady Rolling Man on keg.  

Turks Head, Exeter
Learn about Beer Styles at the Turks Head

Enough to set us up for the ill-timed student-special train back to Exmouth for our tea.

I was sanguine about Exmouth's premier fish restaurant, Rockfish, being closed on Mondays.

Eating, as well as drinking, not the easiest at the start of the week.

And I knew the Globe is over the road.

Sunday, 21 November 2021

21/11/21 - Topsham Good Beer Guide Ticking

Good Beer Guide Ticks - #621 to #623

I'd never heard of Topsham before doing the research into our final 2021 mini-break.

It's a town worthy of inclusion in the Camra book - 50 More Great Pub Crawls.  It also has 3 entries in the 2022 GBG.

Today's Guide

A GWR return from Exmouth for some early Sunday evening pub ticking - when only the most optimistic of pub crawlers venture out to do battle with poor time keepers and poor updaters of office hours.

The Bridge, Bridge Hill, Dartmoor Jail Ale

Its a fair old walk from the station, down a dark country lane.  Google maps says it opens at 5:30pm.  Our arrival is timed to near perfection - at 5:37pm.

Its all in darkness.  The front door is rattled.  The side door is rattled.  Eventually, signs of life are found down the bottom of the sprawling buidling.  This may have been the Malthouse, where I find a lady opening the door.

"Are you open?" I ask, not wanting to set Mrs M off moaning about how I ought to check facebook pages before making her walk any distance.  "Not quite, but we soon will be" is the reply.

I am in conversation with a descendant (great grandaugter?) of the family who have run this place for six generations, since 1897.

Whilst she - and her associate - valiantly work out how the contactless machine works, I take a couple of photos before deciding which comfy sofa I want to commandeer.  

The Bridge, Topsham

We plump for a settee nearest the bar.  Which has no taps on.  To decide, a beer menu is available on a roaming chalk board that is displayed to all future punters.  I play safe with a Jail Ale - which is dispensed by gravity in the cellar.  

Being so close to the bar - we get into a lovely conversation with the two ladies.  They are interested in where we have been, our AirBnB woes and share some details of the history of the pub and how they have been affected by covid.  Alas, the main part of the pub is off limits for exploring.  The write ups promise plenty to be discovered.

We have peaked early but there is more work to do in town.  

Rudely, we didn't even ask about the Queen's Visit.  The only time she has been in a pub.  

Unlike her mother.

The Bridge, Topsham
Lights were on when we exited.

The Globe Hotel, Fore Street, St Austell Proper Job

Next in the Pub Crawl book was the Lighter Inn - a Hall and Woodhouse Inn.  We are within Google Advertised Hours, but as I approach the front door - I see the retreating shadow of the staff member who has closed it down for the evening.

The Lighter Inn, Topsham
Badger Beer another Day

The Globe Hotel is not too far along the road.  

The Globe, Topsham
Gastro Pub Ahoy!

This is a posh Gastro Pub/Hotel owned by the St Austell brewery that has two things that save it.

1) A lovely beer garden, tee-pee covered, with heating.  A pint can be enjoyed without disturbing the interior diners.  

2) A top quality Proper Job.  The type of pint that you can see how much liquid you have consumed per gulp, via the tide marks in the lacings.

The Globe, Topsham
Pint of the Week

Exeter Inn, High Street, Proper Job

Further along the high street and the Salutation, Passage House Inn and Lord Nelson are all firmly closed up - some expectantly, others less so.

This leaves the final GBG Tick at the earthy Exeter Inn.  A community local.  I know this, as everyone was watching the darts on massive TVs, with a separate sound system.

Exeter Inn, Topsham
A bit too close to the Exeter Inn

More Proper Job, which didn't quite hit the heights of the Globe Inn.  I shall check my on line banking.  It was probably 30% cheaper.

A short walk back to station and a night cap at the Grapevine.  Devon Saisons all round.

21/11/21 - The Kings Arms at Otterton

Distance - 5.5 Miles

Walk Inspiration - 40 Coast and Country Walks in Devon, Walk 1

Geocaches - 5

A perfect walk - river, coast, Sunday Pub Lunch.

The guide book suggests starting at Ladram Bay Parking area, where paid parking is available.

As we have a table booked at the Kings Arms, Otterton, we will take advantage of their facilities to have more money available for post walk refreshment.

From the pub, its 2.5 miles South along the banks of the River Otter.  If the locals and geocache listing are to be believed, it the home of beavers - although its best to visit at dusk to see them.

River Otter
River Otter, where the Beavers Live

There's a tantalising view of where the Otter meets the sea through some pine trees.  This eventually opens out to a clear view - showing Budleigh Salterton and where we walked yesterday.

Where the Otter meets the Sea
 Snatching a view between the trees 

Where the Otter meets the Sea
Yesterday's Walk

The coast line is comprised of tan coloured cliffs.  Brandy head named after the hooch smuggled in.  An RAF observation point providing a history lesson and a place to sit under shelter if you have brought sarnies with you.

Brandy Head
The Tan Cliffs of Devon

We haven't - we are continuing our never ending quest to find the perfect Sunday Lunch.   The Kings Arms in Otterton scored high, with beef reared at their own farm and cauliflower cheese/parsnips the bonus vegetables.

Kings Arms, Otterton
Lunch time

The Otter Bitter was in perfect condition too.

Find me a better way to spend a Sunday morning!

Saturday, 20 November 2021

20/11/21 - The Good Beer Guide Pubs of Exmouth

Pubs - 3

Good Beer Guide Ticks - #618-620

Exmouth.  I like it.  Mrs M is not so keen.  I see vibrancy, many restaurants/bars and all human life.  She smells that cloying scent of a striped north American mammal at every street corner.

Three Good Beer Guide Ticks are available and each, in their own way, are superb.

The Grapevine, Victoria Road, Rum Tom Tom and Ayinger Winterbock

Grapevine Brewhouse, Exmouth
Smart Victorian Street Corner Pub

Just the other side of the central door is a velvet rope.  Where we wait to see if we are allowed in.  A cursory inspection determines that we may be pushing our luck, as every table is taken.  But fear not, for they have a covered courtyard with bench seating and importantly for people in an Air BnB with no hot water or heating, a log burner.

Table mounted menus on clipboard show the offerings from this brewpub - home of Crossed Anchor Beers.

Grapevine Brewhouse, Exmouth
Note to future self - there's several pages

Without knowing what molasses actually are, I went for the Rum Tum Tum Stout - brewed with the molasses of rum production.  A 6.4% stout that had a fizz on the tongue and took a while to get through.

I then paged through the rest of the menu and saw they had Ayinger Winterbock - a beer that's only produced during the last two months of the year and if I had room in my shed, would have been my latest beer import when a kindly email came through from

Grapevine Brewhouse, Exmouth
As tempted as I have ever come to glass theft

A good pubby atmosphere - waitresses bringing drinks to the wrong table, students discussing how much money they are making on cryptocurrency, dogs scrapping.  It was on its way to getting a 10/10 for me.

Until I used the facilities.  Point deductions for a) upcycling kegs as urinals and b) having draft pump handles instead of taps.

The First and Last, Church Street, Warm Yer Cockles Xmas Ale

They are spoilt in Exmouth  - not one brew-pub, but two.... this the home of Checkstone Brewery.

First and Last. Exmouth
Follow the Arrows

On approach, Mrs M spied a night club and said "that's not it, is it".  To be fair, the nightclub may have been quieter.

For tonight, it is Barbara's 60th and one thing Barbara likes is 50s music.  Very, very loud.   

Dancing was not reserved for only the party guests.  The lady in the walking boots had surely stumbled on this scene of carnage by chance.  But by christ, didn't she like Dion and the Belmonts.

If I could have heard myself think, I could have worked out how to get at the buffet.

First and Last. Exmouth
Its all going on down there - jiving.... pork pies....

Beer wise, I am a sucker for a Xmas Ale - even in Calendar Week 46.  And the Checkstone Warm Yer Cockles - coming in at a powerful 7.5% - was a wonderful pint.  Even if Untappd says its discontinued.

First and Last. Exmouth

With a table booked for 8pm, we were forced to leave before things got really messy.  There are going to be some thick heads in Exmouth on Sunday.

The Bicton Inn, Bicton Street, Dartmoor Jail Ale

A much more sedate experience in this community local, just off the main street.  And get this - the lady in the hiking boots giving it large in front of the egg sandwiches at the F&L is in here.... joining in with Knit and Natter.  What a night she is having.

Bicton Arms, Exmouth

A decent pint of Jail Ale, accompanied to the soothing sounds of knitting needles.


Bicton Arms, Exmouth
Mappiman, having conquered Exmouth GBG Pubs

20/11/21 - Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton - A One Pub Town

Distance - 5.5 Miles

Geocaches - 3 and an ALC

Walk Inspiration - Best Pub Walks in South Devon, Walk 8

Last of the annual leave for a long weekend in Exmouth.  We are the first renters in an Air BnB.  So far;

  • Toilet seat has fallen off
  • No heating
  • Thimble sized mugs
  • But that's Ok - the kettle is broken
  • No bag in the bin
  • No cleaning products
  • Flush button on toilet broken off
I woke this morning, showered and countered my blessings.   "At least we have hot water" I said to Mrs M.

Post walk.  We have no hot water.

To break this tale of woe, we had a ramble from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton.  Along the estuary (a seal in the sea), past Devon Cliffs Caravan Park (used to be Sandy Bay, when I was a lad) and the intriguingly named High Land of Orcombe.

A decent walk.  Here are the photos.
Exmouth Sea Wall
Exmouth Sea Wall
Geoneedle at Orcombe Point
Sandy Bay
Sandy Bay
Coming into Budleigh Salterton
Dropping down into Budleigh Salterton - looking for pubs

No Good Beer Guide Pubs in Budleigh Salterton.  Web sites indicate that there are three pubs at our disposal.  We are on the bus, I am going to do the lot.
Salterton Arms, Budleigh Salterton
Number 1

I can spot a closed pub from a mile off but Mrs M has noticed the light is on in the window to the right.  The door is bolted.  There are signs of life but the chairs are on the tables.  An old lady in a mask tells us that there are new owners and the grand re-opening is a week on Monday.  I say "Never Mind, there's still 2 to do".

The angel of doom informs us the King William has been closed for years.

This leaves the Feathers.....  a family friendly, sports bar to the left, dining room to the left, holiday boozer.  Three ales on and the Otter Ale was reasonable.  I should have gone Tribute - the pump had a little santa hat on.
The Feathers, Budleigh Salterton
Phone the monopolies commission.  

The Menu didn't look too inspiring, so we headed down to the beach cafe for the previously seen advertised crab sandwiches.

They were out of crab.

A first Sea Dog - Fish Finger Sandwich in a hot dog bap - was not quite enough to fill us up.

We headed back to the Pudding Shop in town.   

It was closed.

Always end on a high.   

The bus was on time.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

13/11/21 - Centenary Way Stage 5 - Nuneaton

Distance - 10 Miles

Geocaches - 4

Pubs - 5 (Post Walk Beer Guide Ticking - #609 to #611)

Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3, Stage 4

It was either a day for going for a walk or moving ticks from green to blue.

Crossticking Day
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Progress needs to be made on the Centenary Way - a long distance path that keeps on giving..... exactly nothing.  5 stages in and its proving pretty dull.  Stage 6 is in Bermuda - so maybe things will improve.

As Nuneaton is on the train line, I decided to make a day of it and reward myself with some new good beer guide ticks once I get the ramble out the way.

Nothing to report - I have to work my way through the town centre, across the new build estate not marked on my OS Map and into the Countryside at Harefield Lane.   With the exception of a hidden colliery tram line, there really is nothing to say.

Centenary Way - Warwickshire
Former Colliery Line, Nuneaton

So what can a place ranked 8th Crappest Town in the UK offer in way of refreshment?

The Horseshoes, Heath End Road, Everards Tiger

As it was a one bus, three train journey here, I've decided to get my money's worth.  The last 5 GBG were perused and the Horseshoe has appeared in past years.

The first pub encountered on the way back into town - its a functional pub, offering Everards beers.  Nothing wrong with my Tiger.

The Horseshoes, Nuneaton
The Horseshoes for Proper Beer and Food

The Rose Inn, Coton Road, Sweet FA

Here it is - the first attempt from the 2022 edition of the bible and it instantly goes to the Dubious Tick Panel.  A pint was not consumed.

First off - how does a Marstons house, with only one cask - Banks Amber - get in the book that is there to promote Good Beer?  No Pedigree.  No Banks Mild.  Just the beer formerly known as Bitter?

The Rose, Nuneaton
The First Tick of GBG 2022?

Well you could write a letter to Beard Towers, Lower Fishpool Street, St Albans.  Or you could read the detail of the listing.   

"This is the pub CAMRA chose as the venue for its first AGM"

Its "cash for questions".  Or £3m for a peerage.  Sleaze has seeped into the book of ticks.

I hid my disappointment at what was on offer and stood like a lemon - next to a man in a white bear trappers hat enjoying his lager - at an unmanned bar.  For 5 minutes.  It was uncomfortable for me.  It was uncomfortable for the bear trapper.

For the first time in my life, I said to myself, "Sod this, I'm off to Wetherspoons".

The Felix Holt, Stratford Street, Oakham Inferno

Felix Holt, Nuneaton
Shop Conversion

Ah.... JDW on a Saturday Afternoon - the equivalent of being trapped in a real life Hogarth Painting.

Its all there....

  • Filthy Tables
  • Prams parked next to mobility scooters
  • Pensioners on their hands and knees after the loose change dropped by someone else
  • Parties doing shots at 1pm
  • An airport length single file queue at a long bar
I was ahead of the game and ordered an excellent pint and steak and chips from the app.  Remarkable service but I commented to Mrs M over facebook messenger that I only had 9 chips and the steak and chips did exactly what it said on the tin.  No salad, garnish or god forbid, onion rings to go with the meat and potatoes.

Bizarrely, the next time I checked facebook - it made a suggestion of a group I might be interested in.

Wetherspoons Paltry Chip Club
This is a Phenomenon 

Flicking through the group made the train journey home much quicker.  I am, of course, a Top Fan.

Lord Hop, Queens Road, Ossett Brewery White Rat

Well, a visit to a new town wouldn't be complete without a Micro, would it?

Lord Hop, Nuneaton
Its a Micro

All tables downstairs are occupied but unusually, this has an upstairs.  Where all tables were occupied.  I managed to get a single seat at the top of the stairs and precariously balanced my pint on the hand rail, whilst looking at photos of people counting (and measuring) their chips on my phone.

I quite liked this place and the beer was good.   Needs a rethink on its dog entry policy though.  Not that there is room for our four legged friends.

The Black Swan in Hand, Bridge Street, Wainwright

Things are getting that desperate that I am prepared to enter a flat roofed pub.

Black Swan in Hand, Nuneaton
It was on the way to the station

A former GBG entry and indeed, the first thing I noticed was a CAMRA Newcomer of The Year certificate proudly displayed on top of the bar.

The second thing I noticed was that my pint was £2.24.

A bargain - but it was in a terrible, stinky state.  It felt churlish to complain at something so cheap but its not often I have to leave a pint.

But leave it I did and leaving Nuneaton followed shortly after.