Saturday, 31 March 2018

Slim Pickings in Speke

I took a bus ride to Speke, and started at the former Fox, now a social club called Dunnies:
Arriving at the front door I discovered one had to buzz for entry.  I decided that meant it wasn't a pub, and turned away, but as I crossed the car park a member of staff called after me and invited me in.

I had to sign in as a visitor so this is definitely a members club, but I was made welcome so I had a pint of Guinness and sat in the comfortable lounge area where there were plenty of members who were watching Liverpool on the TV or just chatting.

There was a children's party in the function room but pleasingly the loud music there was hardly audible in the lounge.

I can't recall much about the Fox, which I visited on a Sunday back in 1999 when everyone seemed to be eating Sunday dinner, so I'm not sure how much this has changed inside.  Nowadays it has very well done plain decor, typical of a social club.

I moved on the see the current status of the other pubs on this large estate.  The Dove and Olive Branch and the Pegasus were closed and demolished some years ago.  A brief search of the internet failed to find a picture of the Dove, which I seem to remember was a rather fine building.  Here's my shot of the imposing Pegasus in 2003:
Noah's Ark Social Club is now a baptist church!  Here it is in 2003:
and in 2018:
The Mill House, still displaying its name, is now a nursery:
And finally, on to the Orient:
This also appeared to be closed, although perhaps I should have pulled on the slightly scary red metal door?





Slim Pickens (1919 - 1983) was a film actor who appeared in many cowboy films but perhaps his most famous role was as Major T.J. "King" Kong riding a nuclear missile to certain death in Dr. Strangelove.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

I Came Too Late

A damp grey day saw me on the train to Seaforth where I took a long walk past the Claremont:
... and the Sandown - long demolished - to eventually reach the Cock & Seaman:
Curses!  I came too late.

There is (or used to be?) a number of these "Cock and" pubs in a chain called At Will, with varying levels of innuendo in their names.  Cock and Pullet, Cock and Donkey etc.

I marched onwards, soon leaving Seaforth for the more genteel surroundings of Waterloo.  The Royal is a residential hotel, but just across the road is the Victoria.  At last, an open pub:
I entered, failed to spot the "This week's cask ale" signs, and ordered a Guinness.  The large L-shaped room was deserted, I was the only customer, so perhaps skipping the Doom Bar was a good idea.

The interior is nicely done, with long bench seats along the walls.  Some rather fine ceramics survive, but only in the corridors, and the mosaic floor to the entrance is in good nick.

The signs on the wall advertise daily events, today's is philosophy.  This place deserves to do well, they obviously put a lot of effort into drawing people in, and I hope it's much busier later.

Towards the end of my pint, five other customers came in.

On to Flanagan's:
Outside it looks like a large barn or shed, inside is a very nicely done large open room with Irish decor not overdone but just tasteful.

Here, my Guinness, served by the cheerful friendly barmaid, was complete with the shamrock in the head, I haven't had one of these for a while.

The group of regulars at the bar chatted and I watched with jealousy as they tucked in to free food.  Pleasingly, I was offered some as well.  Corned beef hash, no less, and tasty it was too.  Bonus!

Another regular came in and his friends told him there was no food left.  I wondered if I was going to get blamed for eating his (He was substantially bigger than me) but luckily they were just winding him up, and he soon had a bowl as well.

My notes from 2000 included "not well looked after", this is certainly no longer the case and the place is very tidy nowadays.  Amongst the decorations is a scull suspended from the ceiling.  That's a two seater rowing boat, not a head, by the way.

Next the Marine, now a sports bar called Champs:
When I was in the Marine in '03 this was a rather tatty multi-room pub, it has been knocked through and well done out to go with its renaming.

I was the only customer at three on a Tuesday afternoon.  There were two handpumps on the bar, one with a turned round Doom Bar clip, the other unlabelled, so it was Guinness again for me.  No shamrock and no free food here!

No-one came in while I was there, I don't think the takings will cover the barman's wages; not to mention the cost of heating - it was comfortably warm in here.  I later discovered there was a chef as well as the barman, even more wages to pay.

Finally, I checked out the famous Volunteer:
I was half expecting this to be closed as I seem to recall it used to have evening-only hours, but I was pleased to discover it was open.

I entered the lounge side where ale is ordered from the blackboard (One can only see the back of the pumps) and then delivered to ones seat.  This is one of the very few table service pubs left in Merseyside, perhaps even in the country?  Should I have tipped?

My pint of Lottie Dod from Peerless was good, and I sat in the lounge in splendid isolation, the only customer, while the barmaid sorted glasses and organised things in the servery.  Four real ales were on offer, three local ones plus Greene King IPA.

What a gem this place is, deserving its Grade II listing.

The barmaid/waitress disappeared from my view, and what's that thunk-thunk-thunk noise, always in threes?  I eventually guessed she was practicing darts in the bar, but I never investigated to confirm my theory.

The total lack of other customers here is really concerning, we need places like this to make a profit or they'll disappear.

Coming soon: Speke and Tranmere.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Up The Junction Again

On a grey Saturday afternoon I headed to St Helens Junction station, and I started my researches in the Junction Inn:

I entered the bar side, where a darts match was in progress, so I carried my Guinness through to the peaceful lounge.  The plain decor is well done in both rooms and the whole place has a comfortable friendly atmosphere.  The barmaid chatted with some friends at the counter while I relaxed on a long bench seat.

Lights, large speakers and a DJ desk suggest it'll be a lot more lively later.

As I enjoyed my drink I noticed the darts players were very quiet, I could hear no noise from the other room.  On departure I found they'd all gone.

Next I headed to the strangely named SIDAC Club, but the car park was full of cement trucks and builders so I suspect I might be too late.

On to the Wheatsheaf:
This wonderful pub, opened in 1938, is Grade II listed as a well preserved example of "Brewers' Tudor" .

Inside, a lot of the original layout has been preserved, and there's no way from the "lounge" area to the "bar" area except via the car park.  A long narrow servery runs through, and some rooms are served only via hatches.  Sadly at two on a Saturday afternoon it was very quiet.  The floors are rather wonky in some parts, due to mining subsidence.

Next, the Millhouse:
Inside this old building the decor has been substantially modernised since my last visit when I wrote "traditional decor", creating a pleasant modern-styled two sided pub.  Like the last place, it was fairly empty.  The chef seemed to be sitting at the bar, suggesting there isn't much food trade at this time of day.

The soundscape here was quiet chit-chat, gentle background music, and the clack of pool balls from the bar side, as I drank a pint of Theakston's Lightfoot which seemed a little past its best, I think.

Finally, a little further down the road is the Bull & Dog:
Here I selected a pint of Doom Bar from the choice of three handpumps.  Not the most exciting of real ales, perhaps, but it was in good nick and I enjoyed it.

The inside of this enormous pub is knocked through but retains different areas.  The custom seemed to be mainly drinkers but with a few people eating.  The food smelled good, I must say!

I was interested to note a sign "MINIMUM CARD SPEND £10"; clearly the cashless economy hasn't reached here yet.  If Wetherspoon's can manage it, why can't they?

My stay was enlivened by a sudden crisis where a leak upstairs was coming through the ceiling, requiring buckets and mops to keep that end of the room operational.  The staff handled the flap with aplomb, although customers at the bar may have experienced a short delay getting served.

Coming soon: Innuendo in Seaforth.

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 cards 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

Moreton

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.