Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Mapping Project

Other commitments continue to prevent regular research but I have not been completely idle, and the project to map all the pubs in the guide has been proceeding well.  A bug in Google maps has temporarily (I hope) halted progress, but at the time of writing I have the positions of 1,597 pubs recorded in my database.

You can see the results of this effort by clicking here or by clicking on the Pub Map link at the top of each page of the guide.  Alternatively, click on the Map link in the Location column when looking at a pub's details.

If you can provide a precise location for a pub missing from the map, or notice one I've got wrong, please let me know at the usual email address or in the comments of this blog.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Sunny Maghull

I started today's survey with a visit to the new station at Maghull North.  My first target was the former Red House, now the Fox:
Sadly, the classic 1950s interior I admired in 2012 has been refurbished out of existence.  Instead I found a pleasant well cared for bar side and a larger lounge.

I ordered a pint of Wainwright, but it was unavailable so I had to put up with lager.  The barman apologised and turned the clip round.  My Carling came in a peculiarly shaped glass I don't think I've seen before.

There were a few people sitting outside dining, and the only custom in the bar side was one lad playing pool.  I say custom but he didn't seem to have a drink.

Next, a long walk in the sunshine, passing (and photographing) a number of pubs I intend to visit later today and eventually leading me to the magnificent Scotch Piper:
This historic gem, dating back to 1320, continues to delight and is certainly worth the trek.  (You can get the bus if desired.)

There were three handpumps on the tiny counter, one of which offered a house beer, but I didn't look further than the Titanic Plum Porter which was, of course, gorgeous.

Quite a few customers were keeping the place going, some sitting outside in the sunshine.  A big improvement on my previous visit in 2010 when I was the only customer on a Saturday afternoon.

Where's the gents, I wondered?  Luckily someone else asked the barmaid - "It's outside" - so I didn't have to.  Outside toilets are another indication of a classic pub!

Having completed my long walk, it was time to retrace my steps, stopping off along the way, first at the Weld Blundell:
Pleasant contemporary decor in this place, pretty quiet but not empty at three on a Tuesday.  A couple of handpumps on the counter, and my local Red Star Lakota was spot on.

I initially characterised this as a dining-oriented place but actually the menus on my table were for gins and drinks, so while it certainly is a gastro-pub they aren't pushing it to the detriment of drinkers, and there's plenty of tellies for watching sport.  Overall, a rather skilful design, half way between local boozer and posh dining place.

Next, on to a pub I last visited back in 1998, on a bike ride along the Leeds and Liverpool canal, the Running Horses:
A rather good canal-side pub, this, obviously targetting the food market but welcoming drinkers.  Only one pump clip on the counter, and my Pedigree was good.

A handful of diners and drinkers were keeping the pub ticking over, but the main sound was a music channel on the TV, which seemed to be playing Christmas songs when I arrived.

Next, the Coach and Horses:
A Greene King place, this, but surprisingly without menus and other dining paraphernalia.

Two handpumps on the counter, but both had the clips turned round, so I had to make do with lager.

There were only a handful of customers in, and the place was pretty peaceful with gentle chatter amongst the regulars, and a quiet TV channel in the background.

On to the Hare and Hounds:
This Ember Inns pub is exactly the same as all the others in the chain:  Pleasant contemporary decor, and aimed at diners but welcoming drinkers.

My London Pride was in good nick, is it Japanese yet?

The main sound in here was background chatter, with the time approaching five there were quite a few customers in.

My next port of call was the Wetherspoons Frank Hornby, so I knew exactly what to expect:
Unlike all the other pubs visited today, this one was busy, filled with diners and drinkers although not so full that I couldn't get a table.

I resisted the temptations of Steak Club and headed to my final target, the Old Post Office:
Never before visited, it's always good to tick a new one.  A plain but rather well done shop conversion, with only three other customers, but I bet it's busy when there's a match on the telly.

No real ale, so I finished the day with a half of Carling.

Pub of the day: The Scotch Piper, naturally.
Miles walked: 6

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

A Few in Town

Pub surveying is currently severely disrupted due to family commitments, but I managed to escape for a quick trip to town, starting at the relatively new Port Bar on London Road:
Here I found bright cheerful quirky decor with walls of corrugated iron and shipping containers, and lots of bare chipboard.  They've also got a genuine-looking railway colour light signal.

When I arrived there were just two women sitting at a table, one was the barmaid.  Two unexpected handpumps on the counter, but both had clips reversed, so I had a Blue Moon for a change.

Two blokes came in, and took lots of pictures of the interior, before settling down for some beers.  Owners planning a redecoration?  I don't think it needs it, the place is immaculate.

I noticed a "25% off for NHS staff" sign, obviously hoping to attract people from the Royal up the road.  That's an impressive discount; how about 25% off for pub bloggers?  But then my review might be biased. 

Doubling back down London Road I called in to Paddy's Bar:
The first time I came here it was a classic scruffy smokey boozer called Dixie Dean's, busy with drunks.  Needless to say, it's not like that now.  Clean and tidy with the walls covered in Irish stuff, and with only two other customers.

The sound in here was racing from Fontainbleu, hasn't English racing restarted yet?

The two other drinkers left to find their hotel, so it was just me and the barman.

Next, a few doors down is the Lord Warden:
This used to be regular haunt of mine, a group of us failing to win the quiz for week after week (We suspected the landlord's mates always won!)  The real ale was usually good.

Today I found no real ale, just two naked handpumps, so it was a half of lager for me.

Only two or three regulars were scattered around the pleasant well cared for interior, the sound was just the music.

After a bit of shopping I headed for another never-visited location, Brownlows Inn:
Here I found a plain well done corridor bar, busy with regulars.  A bit of a theme today, two handpumps on the counter, but no real ale.  I'm not sure how long this has been a pub, it must be at least ten years, but I've never got around to visiting before.

The music mixed with cheerful chatter from the regulars, creating a comfortable friendly atmosphere.  I could see racing (From Wetherby, answering my previous question.) on the telly, but no-one seemed to be watching it.

The "salesman" in here was offering an anorak.  That's a new one!

There was a tray of sandwiches on the counter, but I wasn't sure if one had to wait for the cover to be lifted.  Eventually one of the regulars helped himself, clarifying the protocol.  I resisted, nonetheless.

Pub of the day: The Lord Warden, for its pleasant comfortable interior.
Miles walked: 1.8 miles, but most of that was for the shopping.
Maybe coming soon: To be honest, I don't know.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Smashing The Next Milestone

On the final (I hope) train strike Saturday I took two bus rides to Croxteth, starting at the Viking's Landing:
A milestone achieved, this takes the pubs visited count to 1,300.  A bog standard modern food-oriented place, located by the East Lancs Road.  It was quite busy on a Saturday afternoon, with most customers dining.

I pushed past the queue waiting to be seated - There wasn't a sign, why didn't they just grab a table?

Eight handpumps on the counter but only Wainwright available.  I had a rather short, but otherwise excellent, pint.  A sign on the bar said "Try our bottled cask ales", surely a contradiction?  I presume they mean bottles of Pedigree or whatever.  A good thing, that more pubs should do, but don't call it bottled cask, for goodness sake.

The hubub of chatter and occasional clatter of crockery were doing their best to drown the gentle background music, while I rather selfishly occupied a table for six.

Next, a walk taking a shortcut across waste ground.  This is a slightly scary part of Liverpool, there were groups of youths on cycles, others on motorbikes without helmets, and cars stopping in the middle of the road to chat to pedestrians.  But that could just be my paranoia; no-one took the slightest interest in me, even when I stopped to take pictures, and I soon reached the Lobster:
Well, the milestone didn't last long, as this is number 1,301.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I certainly didn't predict a large plain spotless lounge side with no-one in except me and the barman.  Both of us kept our coats on as it was pretty chilly.

I could see a couple of regulars playing darts in the other side, and later two more customers came in and headed through to join them.

With my architectural eye I noted that little original remains inside, except perhaps the basic layout.  I don't think the carved wood counter front is more than twenty years old.  In any case, the place is rather pleasant, and it's a shame there aren't more customers.

On to the Abbey Road:
Another new one - 1,302 and counting!

This larger than average shop conversion has one big open room.  On entry I was assailed by very loud music.  The customers were one family group with children at a table, plus half a dozen blokes standing at the counter.  Their chat, even the youngsters, was pretty much drowned out by the music.

Once again, despite the slightly tatty exterior everything inside was clean, tidy and well maintained.

Man United were winning on the telly, but no-one was watching.

To one side of the room was a roller-shuttered doorway, I wonder where that leads?  Function room perhaps?

There ware a few moments of peace, until one of the noisy family fired up the jukebox.  Oasis?  A Manc band in Liverpool??  Excellent!

Later, another group came in, two blokes and two children.  It's good to see that the traditional family Saturday afternoon in the pub isn't completely dead.  The little 'uns had colouring books while dad and grandad swigged ale.

Walking towards the next tick, I passed the location of the Brewer's Arms, now replaced by housing.  This pub is a contender for my award of the scruffiest ever visited, I think:  Back in 1998 I recall someone had thrown up on the floor.  Now, that could happen in any pub, what made this one stand out was that it looked like it had been on the floor since the previous day!

Next, the Sefton Arms:
Sadly, this rather fine 1950s or maybe 1930s pub would appear to be closed, let's hope I just arrived on the wrong day.  Their last Facebook post was a year ago which doesn't look promising.  Looking on the bright side, this was the first of today's targets that I've been in before, so at least I can claim to have visited.

On to the Western Approaches:
There was some kind of "do" on in one part of the large open lounge side, complete with decorated tables and chairs, balloons etc.  "Boy or girl" said the sign.  What's this, then, an "expecting" party?  I've never heard of that.  Maybe a "baby shower", but I thought those were women only?  They were finishing up and leaving, I resisted the temptation to "minesweep" the buffet leftovers!

The rest of the lounge was quite busy with umpteen regulars, this place is certainly doing a lot better than the Lobster.  Chatter was generally louder than the music.  I think the other side was closed, on leaving I discovered it is now a function room.

Another plain, spotless, well maintained boozer.  Surprisingly, the telly I could see was showing the cricket.  I suppose they can't (legally) get the Liverpool match.  I hope I'm on the way home before full time, or my bus back to town will take for ever!

One more pub in the vicinity, not in Croxteth according to the way I draw the borders, but worth ticking off, another one last visited in 1998, the Lingmell Inn:
Back in '98 this was the Royal Oak.  Since then it's been the Oaks and, I think, closed for a while.  Its current incarnation as the Lingmell Inn is a large open one room pub with very well done contemporary decor.  It was doing a good trade on a Saturday afternoon, families, diners, and drinkers occupying most of the tables.

The menu of pub standards looks good value, fish and chips is £8.

My notes from 1998 record this as a two sided pub, I think the other side is still there, but not in use at the time of my visit.  I also recorded real ale then, no sign of that now.

Too many noisy kids in here for my liking, I must say.

Only five pubs today, but with three never before visited and one twenty-one years ago, it's not a bad haul for a trainless Saturday.  Time to go home before the footie lets out.

Pub of the day: Abbey Road for its lively friendly cheerful atmosphere.
Miles walked: 2.7
Maybe coming soon:  St Helens

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Not Southport

I had intended a trip to Southport today but luckily my final pre-flight check was to see how the trains were running, which revealed there are no trains to Southport this week.  So I headed to Liverpool instead.

My first target was a long overdue revisit to Peter Kavanagh's:
Happily, this pub hasn't changed since my last visit, it still has the wonderful collection of bric-a-brac covering the walls and ceilings.  On previous occasions I hadn't really appreciated the historic woodwork and leaded glass that would make this place a gem even without the collection.

A number of cask ales were available, I chose something tasty from George Wright.

Only a few customers in, initially all I could hear was quiet conversations, until someone fired up the music - which was pleasantly quiet as well.

Next, the Blackburne Arms:
This is another reliable source of real ale, I forget which I selected but it was excellent.  The one I chose was "a bit lively" so Maggie brought it to my seat once it had settled. 

They obviously aim for dining, in fact I was asked if I was eating when I went to the bar, but there is a drinkers' area at one end of the room.

Custom at one on a Tuesday was a group of diners, a bloke reading the paper, and a pub blogger typing his notes; conversation and music forming the soundtrack.  I sat on a comfortable high-backed bench seat and enjoyed my pint.

I am one of those people who often wonders what would happen if I did something "naughty", but never tries it.  Here, the barmaid went to the ladies, and I contemplated nipping behind the counter and refilling my glass.  I reckon I would have got away with it, but my basic honesty prevented me trying.  And quite right too.

The forecast rain had arrived on time, so it was a quick dash to the Caledonia:
I have previously considered this place a little on the grubby side but I must say it was spotless and tidy today.

I chose a pint of a stout from Northamptonshire and it was excellent, as the beer always has been in here.

A dozen or so customers were filling the echoey room with chatter and mostly drowning out the music.  Unfortunately the place is dog friendly and once one of them started barking, they all did!

Now, on to the Beer Engine, I haven't been in here since 1997, when it was a night club called Plummers:
Rather good modern quirky decor in this enormous open room, which was totally deserted on a Tuesday afternoon.

I stupidly missed the handpumps at the end of the counter and had a schooner of some tasty craft ale, the name of which I forget.  Actually, at this level of custom, cask ale probably wouldn't have been a good idea.

When I said deserted, I wasn't exaggerating, just me and the barmaid in the place.  This made me wonder who would do the cooking if I ordered some food - the menu looked to be quite good value - is there a chef poised in the back?

I relaxed in a comfortable leather sofa and typed this, no-one else came in.  I hope they get more custom at other times, a youth-oriented place serving cask ale is to be commended.

On departure, my trip downstairs to the gents revealed another empty room, and an open kitchen with a chef, answering my earlier question.

I headed on to "Rapid Street", and to a researcher's quandary:  Should I visit the favourite Dispensary, or the overdue for a tick Roscoe Arms.  The two are opposite each other and with a supreme effort of willpower I went in the Roscoe Arms:
Once again I ordered before spotting the handpumps, so I had a half of Carling.  Bombardier and Wainwright were on.

Another deserted place, for most of my stay I was the only customer in the pub.  Pleasant plain decor, clean, tidy and comfortable.

At last, another customer arrived, doubling the trade, and she ordered a pint so actually it was trebling!

Pub of the day: Peter K, obv.
Miles walked: 2.2
Maybe coming soon: Southport, Croxteth

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Icy Aigburth

On the coldest day of the season (so far) I put the winter spikes on my shoes and headed off to Aigburth.  On leaving St Michaels station I headed for Lark Lane, first pausing to photograph the closed Belgrave:
I continued, walking the length of Lark Lane, home to dozens of food outlets, many of which seem to change their names each time I come.  The pavement was solid ice, I was glad of the spikes!  Mind you, it was a bit embarrassing, clip-clopping across the hard floor in some of the pubs.  Better than an ambulance to A&E, though!

Today's researches will really test my definition of which establishments go in the guide.  There are many bistros and cafes along here which may serve alcohol but don't really count.

No such concerns about my first destination, the Albert:
Three handpumps on the counter offered Hobgoblin, Bombardier and Doom Bar.  Not really a selection for the real ale buff, but I'm not complaining, the Bombardier was excellent.

The rather fine interior here remains - is it fake or not? - and I was pleased to find it comfortably warm despite the (literally) freezing weather.

Gentle background music, from the jukebox I think, mixed with conversation amongst the regulars and staff as I enjoyed my ale in solitude in the comfortable back room.

On down the road to the Lodge:
According to my records this used to be The Masonic before becoming a restaurant called Negresco, perhaps related to Negresco Deco in Woolton.  In 2010 it became The Lodge Ale House, now it's just The Lodge.

I can't remember what the decor was like when I visited The Masonic in 2003.  The layout now, large bar plus side areas corresponds with my notes then, the inside is quirky and rather good, with some bare brick walls, and everything pastel coloured, grey in the main room, pale green in a side area, and so on.

A few customers were keeping the place ticking over, gentle chatter mixing with the background music.

Only two clips on the four handpumps, I selected house beer The Lodge which was a pleasant bitter.  The other option was Jennings Cumberland.  I didn't see anyone else order cask while I was here.

It was a bit colder than the Albert, I kept my coat on.

Next, Maranto's:
Really a restaurant, this, but I wanted to tick it again because I've drunk in here before so I don't want to demote it to "not a pub".

I entered to find two tables of diners, and the rest of the place empty, with no sign of any staff.  I was about to abandon my visit and designate it a restaurant when the waitress appeared, and served me a pint of Love Lane, earning bonus points for serving it in a Love Lane glass.

I must say I like the decor, Tiffany lampshades, fretwork banisters and so on.  I'm sure it's all a modern confection but it works really well.

Next, the Parkfield Inn:
The opposite end of the spectrum here, a plain pleasant down market boozer perhaps a little out of place amongst the bistros and cafes of Lark Lane.

Formerly an Oak Lodges (See this blog passim.) pub, the decor in this "corridor bar" is traditional, and well cared for.

Various regulars, aged between five and eighty-five, kept the place lively, with a pop video channel providing background music.

Good grief, they're advertising Christmas savings clubs on the telly.  Already?

That's enough of Lark Lane, is there anywhere else around here I need to tick?  Yes, so a walk along Aigburth Road took me to the Fulwood Arms:
Transformed since my last visit, much lighter inside than the dark decor I found in 2008, and now featuring bookshelf and bare brick wallpaper creating an unexpectedly pleasant ambience.

A few regulars sat at the counter chatting with the barman, while I sat on a comfortable leather sofa and drank a half of Carling.

The sounds in here were regulars' chatter and Sky Sports' reports on the transfer deadline.  It seems this is more exciting than an actual football match, judging by the frenetic commentary.  I was amused to note the transfer window countdown clock in the corner of the screen shows hundredths of a second - Considering the latency of digital satellite television transmission this is completely meaningless, in fact the whole seconds are suspect.

Finally, up Victoria Road to the Victoria.  There's no way I would have made this part of the trip uninjured without my spikes, especially on the pub's skating rink:
Last time I passed this way this pub was shut although clearly still operational, so we have to look back to 1998 when I had a drink in what was then called the Aigburth Arms.  To be honest, I don't think much has changed since then and it looks about the same - Obviously, fresh wallpaper, a new carpet and new paint will have happened in the intervening years.  Changed or not, the decor is rather pleasant, although perhaps better suited to a crowded Friday night than a quiet Thursday afternoon.

Just a few customers in the large empty-feeling room.

Twenty-one years on the real ale has gone, so I had a half of lager.

Red Dwarf aficionados will know that the Aigburth Arms has an important role in the series:  Lister was found, as a baby, in a box under the pool table.

Interestingly (or not) this is pub number one in my database.

Time to go home, I think.

Pub of the day: The Albert:  Decent ale, decent heating, pleasant decor.
Miles walked: 2
Maybe coming soon: Southport or Croxteth?

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Book

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

There are 1,849 pubs listed in this edition, with details of almost thirteen hundred I have visited.

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