Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Wirral Miscellany

My first objective for today was to visit the Blue Anchor in Hoylake which dates from the early sixties, where I had been asked to report on how much original remained inside.  Sadly, I found it closed and boarded up, so no luck here:
A short bus ride delivered me to the Railway in Meols:
Built in 1938, this imposing building is currently partly obscured by scaffolding.

Inside, the modern standard Hungry Horse decor makes a pleasant "family dining" place.  Some booths have their own telly.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon the place was busy, I think everyone except me was here for the food.  The menu of pub standards was, apparently, new today and I must say it looks good value.

The choice of real ales was the usual Greene King selection, plus Landlord.  Do they own Timothy Taylor's as well now?  A quick check on the web and, phew, the answer is no.

This pub is something of a thorn in the side of the pub surveyor, because it's the only one in Meols, but today it slotted in nicely between one call in Hoylake and my next destination...

Back to Birkenhead by train, and in to the Park View (Photo taken last month)
As usual, I turned the wrong way inside the door and entered the deserted lounge in this two roomed boozer.  Everyone else was in the bar.

My notes from 2003 said plain and spotless, and that sums it up rather well.  I sat in splendid isolation on a comfortable bench seat in the lounge, and drank my Guinness.  The only sound was the chatter of regulars and the barmaid from the other side of the pub.

The name of this pub is a little odd, it would need a large tower on the roof to actually get a view of Birkenhead Park from here, I think.

Next, the never before visited Vittoria Vaults, also known as the Piggy:
This looked like it might be closed but I tried the doorhandle and entered a compact warm comfortable boozer with half a dozen or so locals inside.  I ordered my usual Guinness from the barmaid or landlady, and a bloke sat at the bar who was later revealed to be barman or landlord made her pour the first pint down the drain so I got a fresh one.  The line was cleaned this morning, he explained.  I was happy to report that my pint was fine.

The decor here, fake roof beams with tankards on hooks etc etc combines to make a very pleasant cheerful interior.  I'm not entirely sure why but I felt this was a wonderful pub, maybe it was the friendly interaction between the staff and the regulars, who were chatting and playing darts.

Live entertainment is important here, judging by the notices on the wall, with something scheduled every Sunday.

I headed to the Seadog next, another one I've never ticked.  It appeared to be operational but it wasn't open:
This looks like it dates from the sixties or maybe even the seventies?

Next, on to the Queens:
Passing on a bus in the past I had noted this as closed and possibly converted to a residential hotel, but more recently I'd seen what looked like a pub entrance and, sure enough, the door was open and inside I found a large open room with a handful of regulars.

The barmaid interrupted her card game to serve me and there was some delay while someone was dispatched to the cellar to change the keg before my Guinness could be poured.

Racing was on the telly but no-one seemed to be paying attention to it.  The card game continued, I didn't recognise the game:  It wasn't one I've ever played, perhaps it was Rummy.

I walked past the splendid ceramics of the long-closed Meadows:
...and on to the Crown:
A long time ago this was a favourite pub of mine, with a rather fine historic interior and some good quality ale.  Sadly, they abandoned the real ale some years ago, so while the Victorian decor remains I had to resort to Guinness again.  There are still eleven hand pumps on the bar, but none in use.  Furthermore, there was a distinct odour of "mouldy mop" in here, so my one word summary has be "shame!".

Tipping Point followed by The Chase kept me and the rest of the pub entertained until it was time to head for home.

Coming soon:  Up the Junction again.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

I Owe Kirkdale A Pint

Two trains took me to Kirkdale.
Outside the station the Melrose Abbey is closed, so I moved on to the Elm Tree:
This rather pleasant 70s boozer has retained most of its original decor, and probably the original layout as well.  Matchboarding below the dado is dark stained, as is the panelled bar front.

Only a few customers in with me, mostly watching the racing - It's Cheltenham Festival.

The other room was empty of people, it's labelled "Fan Zone" so is probably busy on match days.  Another one-team pub, all football signage was for the nearby Everton.

It's unusual to see all three of the "bog standard" keg bitters on offer - Tetley, John Smith's and Worthington.

For some reason, one of the locals got me a pint, unasked, so I had to have two in here!  He bought everyone in the pub at the time (His mate, one elderly woman, and me) a drink, but didn't explain why, I'm guessing he'd had a win on the horses.  I thanked him again as I left, he just said "see yer".
In the past I've come across friendly people who engage you in conversation and then want to buy you a drink, hoping you'll continue talking to them and then buy them one back; but this was a new one on me, he made no effort to chat to me before or after the drink, and didn't seem offended when I swigged it and went.

Just up the road is the Leigh Arms.  My database recorded this as closed and tinned up, so I was pleased to discover it open and looking good:
I failed to spot the handpump on the bar, so had another Guinness.

Once again I met friendly locals:  Ordering at the bar I realised I might be in the eyeline of one of the blokes watching the racing, so I took a step back while my drink was poured.  He immediately said "You're OK, I can always watch the other one."

Inside, the interior has been knocked through into one open room surrounding the servery.  With two regulars plus me the pub was surely not taking enough to pay the barmaid's salary?  Hopefully it'll be busier later.

Next, the Royal Oak:
My abiding memory of this place is a visit many years ago on the day of the local derby, and the crunch crunch of broken glass as I gingerly walked from the door to the counter.
At more normal times it's a pleasant popular friendly boozer in one large room knocked round the four-sided servery.  Unlike today's previous calls, this one had quite a lot of people in, mostly watching the racing, although it wasn't packed.

The handpump was marked out of use by a half over the handle, so it was Guinness once again for me.

Moving to my technical interests, I noted the large screen TV in here was four big edge-to-edge tellys joined to form a giant display.  This technology has been available for some time but it's the first time I've seen it in a pub, where most giant screens are projection in my experience.  The picture was very good despite the ugly black cross.

On to the Barlow Arms:
This is a splendid street corner boozer and the interior features a great antique bar back.  The "other" room seemed to be deserted but in the bar side were a handful of cheerful regulars.  Cheltenham was on the TV but I don't think many were watching.

I relaxed on a comfortable bench seat and enjoyed a final Guinness.

Next to the Barlow Arms is the Westminster which is still standing despite having been closed for a few years:

Tuesday, 6 March 2018


A train under the river whizzed me to today's destination.  Just outside Moreton station was the Moreton Arms, which has been closed for some time:
As you can see it was surrounded by roadworks, and there was a distinct smell of gas, so I quickly headed to the town centre and started in the Farmers Arms:
This is a pleasant Greene King operation under the "Time Well Spent" brand.  I entered the plain side and found it deserted and without real ale, but through the door was a large opened out room busy with drinkers and diners, and with four hand pumps.  The place doesn't seem to have changed much in the nineteen years since my last visit, and reports from the intervening years of a lack of real ale are no longer valid.

I sat down to enjoy my excellent pint of Scrumdown.  I later overheard some comments about vinegar so I guess one of the real ales wasn't as good.

Next, on to the Grange:
This impressive 1930s (I think) roadhouse has been knocked through inside creating one enormous open interior.  If that sounds like a criticism, it isn't - it is very pleasant and comfortable.

There were a couple of handpumps on the bar, one had a turned-round clip, so maybe they do have real ale sometimes, but it was a Guinness for me today.

I noticed the food menu is not the usual colourful pub-chain production, but a one-off for this pub, and it looks good and good value.

Sadly the place was pretty much deserted at two on a Tuesday afternoon, I hope they get more people at other times.

Back to the town centre again, to the Vineyard:
Not really a pub, this one's more of a bistro, but there's a bar counter and a few bench seats which would be unsuitable for dining, so in my book it counts!

One other customer was making a booking for Mothers' Day, after she had left it was just me and the barman.

I drank my Guinness and looked round, this former bank (I think) has been knocked through into one comfortable room.  The "bare brick" wallpaper is a bit overpowering, perhaps.

On to a pub never before visited, only discovered on this morning's "armchair pub crawl" thanks to whatpub.com.  It's unusual nowadays for me to find an old pub I've not previously heard of.
The Sandbrook is a well preserved classic 60s estate boozer, there has been a little remodelling inside with what was probably the off sales joined on to the bar as a darts area.  The lounge was out of use so I couldn't check it out.
The bar seemed to have pretty much all original doors, ceiling beams, dark wood counter front etc.  From the architectural point of view this was the highlight of the day, it's pretty rare to find a pub like this apparently still in original condition.

A small handful of locals (and one friendly dog) were chatting at the bar, the only other noise was BBC news on the telly in the background.  Soon there were only two regulars left.

Contrasting with my notes from Saturday, I noticed the 50/50 football split here was Everton/Tranmere.

To finish, back to the town centre again, and the Coach and Horses:
My architectural expertise (Yeah, right!) lets me down here and I'm not sure how old this building is.  Is it brewers' tudor from the 1920s/30s or is it a truly ancient building?  I suspect the former.

Anyway, inside it's knocked through into one large comfortable room, which was quite busy with chatty groups when I arrived.  No real ale so another Guinness was in order.

No food in here, everyone was in for the beer.  There was racing on the TVs but I couldn't see anyone watching.

P.S.  I haven't heard any Pink Floyd all day, my stalker must be taking a day off.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Cold Swan

The light sprinkling of snow was melting away as I headed out in a bitterly cold wind for a second visit to Old Swan.  I started in Wetherspoon's Navigator which I skipped last time because it was "only" thirteen years since my last visit:
This nicely decorated branch of the chain in a former supermarket always seems very busy, and at 11:30 on a Saturday morning it was full of people eating breakfast, and/or drinking beer or coffee.  I sat at one of the few free tables and enjoyed a great pint of Titanic Iceberg.

What is the point of having BBC News on the telly with no subtitles?  Actually, with a succession of cold-looking reporters standing in the snow it was obvious what the story was.

On to the Derby Lodge:
Everton were on the telly and the whole pub was decorated with blue flags and the like; it's unusual to see a pub nowadays that doesn't have equal support for red and blue.  (Maybe they take all the blue down and put up red for the later Liverpool match, but I don't think so.)

The place was busy with footy fans but I managed to find a seat to swig my Guinness and watch a bit of the match - Everton scored.

Oddly there were two other rooms in the pub which were much quieter.  There was no-one at all in the back room and the lounge side had just one customer, also watching the match.

Another odd thing I noted was that one of the Everton banners fixed to the ceiling belonged to another pub, the Black Horse.

Next, the Corner Tavern.  As you can see, it was too cold to wait for a gap in the traffic before taking the picture:
The footy was on in here as well but no-one was watching it, and the handful of regulars were all sat at the bar chatting, so it was much easier to sit in comfort in a quiet corner and write this while enjoying my drink.

One of the regulars fired up the jukebox and to my surprise we got Pink Floyd.  Is it just coincidence, or are all old codgers in pubs PF fans?  That's the third time this year.  Maybe I've got a stalker who's trying to impress me!

I headed up Green Lane past the Wellington (see below) to take a picture of the Melbourne which is tinned up on Streetview, but lo and behold it was back in operation:
In the very pleasant interior, which has been knocked through since I was here twenty years ago, were a handful of regulars.  One shouted the barmaid to come out and serve me.

Once again Everton were on the TV but no-one was watching, and soon after I sat down they were losing.

Finally I doubled back to the Wellington:
What a nice pub this is, quite a few regulars chatting in the two sided interior, and for the first time today I took off my coat because it was lovely and warm.  (Possibly because I was sitting next to a fan heater.)

In the bar side, where I settled to drink another Guinness, the walls were covered with 50/50 LFC and Everton banners, shirts, etc.  I particularly noted the "Vous ne marcherez jamais seuls" scarf.

On the telly was some marathon followed by cycling, which no-one was watching.

Five minutes after I sat down the chatty group on the next table got up and moved to the other room.  Was it something I said or did?  I was relieved to see they wanted a game of pool, the table was in the other side.

Coming soon:  I think under the water to Moreton might be a good trip.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


Once again, snow failed to deter me from my mission as I took a bus ride to Picton.  Actually, as you can see in the photos, it had all melted by the time I arrived.

I started in the Coffee House:
This rather fine well preserved pub almost looked closed with access blocked by the roadworks outside, but once I found my way in past the end of the barriers I discovered the splendid interior remains.  Careful refurbishment has retained the excellent ceiling plasterwork and an ornamental arch with an RC & sons crest.  (Robert Cain)

Just the friendly barmaid and me at 1pm on a Tuesday, the weather was keeping everyone else at home, she said.

I decided not to risk the first Doom Bar out of the pump, and stuck to my usual Guinness.  Eventually a regular arrived to double the number of customers.  I've always considered it a great honour when you go into a pub and they pour your usual without asking.

An ominous black cloud approached from the east as I moved on to the Clock, passing the former Lamb, now an office:
A rather quirky pleasant interior in the Clock, made to look a little untidy by a scattering of electric heaters about the place.  Three other customers chatted with the barmaid while I enjoyed my second Guinness and watched the suddenly heavy snow outside.  Luckily it didn't seem to be settling, and soon eased off.

The small dance floor I noted in '03 was occupied by a pool table today, but the glitter ball and other lights suggested they probably wheel it away sometimes.

I walked past umpteen pubs to find my next destination:  The Barley Mow (open), the Cock and Bottle (open), the Town Hall (closed and To Let), the Prince Alfred (open), Cuffs (open), the Thatched House (open), Chillies (shutters down) and the Rose (open).  At last, I headed up a side street to the Edinburgh:
It looked like it might be closed, but the sign on the door agreed with the internet that it should be open, so I cautiously tried the door handle and in I went.

This beautiful Victorian end terrace is a tiny two room pub.   I was the only customer and the landlord pulled through the Liverpool Organic Cascade before serving me a perfect pint.

It must be great to have a comfortable boozer like this as your local!

It would have been even nicer if the real fire was lit, so far in today's researches I hadn't taken off my coat, and I wasn't going to do that here either.

The background music, Classic FM, was an uncommon and pleasant change from the usual pop one listens to in pubs.

Outside it got a lot darker suddenly, and snow started again but it soon stopped.  Eventually, as I neared the end of my pint another customer came in, swigged a lager and left.

Back to the main drag, and to the Rose Vaults:
A pleasant plain split level one room boozer, this, with more customers than any of the other places visited so far.  The decor is what I call "traditional", that is some dark woodwork, some leaded glass panels, and modern repro cut glass lampshades, very much in the style of an Oak Lodges pub.

More importantly it was comfortably warm.  As I was served a regular lit up a cigarette before the barmaid ordered him out to smoke it, giving the place a faint nostalgic smoky smell.

The music here was back to normal after the Edinburgh, and yet still wide ranging in taste: The Eagles, Genesis, The Wonder Stuff, and The Carpenters!  Sadly, these were followed by a terrible cover version of one of the ultimate tear-jerkers - Seasons In The Sun.

Next, on to Cuffs (because it's in the old police station, I presume.)  Some of the signage outside says Pound Pub:
Much busier than the preceding ticks, with lively chatter from twenty or thirty customers drowning out the quiet muzak, but my goodness, it's cold in here.  Nonetheless, the leather sofas scattered around the large open room were very comfortable.

The "wandering salesman" was selling coffee, a new one to add to my long list of what I've been offered in pubs (CDs, foreign holidays, bed linen, batteries, aftershave etc etc.)

Time to head for home, there's plenty more pubs in Picton to justify another visit.

Coming next:  Maybe Old Swan part two, or how about Moreton?

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Book

I am pleased to announce that the tenth edition of the Merseyside Pub Guide book is now on sale.

There are 1,843 pubs listed in this edition, with details of over twelve hundred I have visited.

The price this year has been held at £8.00 plus postage and packing.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Stockbridge Village

Cantril Farm was a sixties overspill housing estate which soon gained a reputation as the roughest estate in the area, popularly known as Cannibal Farm.  In the mid 1980s the estate was regenerated and lots of work was done to improve matters.  It was renamed Stockbridge Village.

Not a good start to my researches as I found the Barley Mow was tinned up:
Next the Village Inn, formerly the Tithe Barn:
This classic 60s estate pub has retained its original layout inside and what looks like original matchboarding and wooden counter front in the bar.  Nowadays it's certainly not tatty, which is the word I used back in 1998.  The lounge side was closed and inaccessible, so I drank my Guinness in the bar.

A few locals were chatting and playing pool and mostly ignoring the live footy.  Unusually there was greyhound racing on the other screen.

On to the Ploughman, another sixties boozer:
The handful of locals here were very boisterous, but friendly, especially after I provided football updates from my tablet.  The jukebox was so deafening that I hurried my pint to get out of the noise.  The lounge side was closed.

Next, the Black Angus:
Once again a sixties estate boozer, this one looked a bit unwelcoming from the outside to the extent that I wasn't sure it was open until I got inside.  Both sides were operational here and I started in the bar side and then walked round to the more comfortable and equally empty lounge side.  I think there were only about two customers in the place, outnumbered by staff.

The landlady spotted an unfamiliar customer (I don't suppose they get many outsiders in Canny Farm) and came over to introduce herself, so I explained about the guide and showed her the book.  She encouraged me to stay for the Liverpool game when they would be offering free scouse.

I'm no expert but the layout and some of the woodwork look original here, just as they would have been when it was built in the late sixties.  I must say the lounge side was exceptionally tidy and well cared for.
Finally, out of Canny Farm towards my final destination.  First I passed the site of the Princess, just a flattened area and the remains of the sign:
On to the Deysbrook:
I entered the bar to find it quite busy with cheerful locals, almost every seat at the counter was occupied along with most of the tables.  Surprisingly, no football on a Saturday afternoon, all the TVs were showing racing, and some were watching.  I later discovered the footy was on in the lounge side.

There was a steady stream in and out of the door carrying betting slips to and from the bookies in the car park, each one letting an icy blast into the otherwise warm room.

Outside I could see a pleasant beer yard, but it was way too chilly for anyone to use it today, except for one hardy smoker.

Yet another sixties boozer, I think, but there's not so much original inside, perhaps the layout is original.

Halfway down my Guinness, I counted approximately thirty people in the room, of which exactly one was female.  The backgound noise was a solid hubbub of conversations that you just don't come across so often nowadays.

As I got further down my pint an old bloke was setting up speakers and other kit, so I'm guessing it'll be a lot noisier in here later.

An interesting view of the twenty-first century was provided by three young lads who took the table next to me.  They each had a half of lager, back when I was that age I wouldn't be seen dead with a half!  And I still tend to that attitude which is why I can only tick off four or five pubs per trip.