Thursday 13 June 2024

Rain in Crosby

As I left home I noticed a few spots of rain.  By the time I got to Lime Street it was raining steadily, all the swiftys were donning cagoules.  Welcome to Liverpool! 

A second train carried me to Crosby where I was hoping for some overdue and some new ticks.  I started at Inside No. 4:

This is mainly a cafe/restaurant, but they have a comfortable bar area as well so drinkers are welcome.  It was surprisingly busy on a wet Thursday, although I was the only one in the bar. 

Very nicely decorated throughout, what else is there to say? 

After bringing me a pint (It's table service here) of Camden Pale in their "bucket" wide glass the barmaid/waitress was busy making cocktails and coffees for diners.

Something I've not noticed before, a contactless gizmo by the exit just for tipping.  Tap your phone and give them a fiver.  Or you can set another amount.

Next, I headed off in the gentle rain.  I was diverted on my way to a planned brand new tick by another brand new tick, I'd never before heard of Hampsons:

I must have been yards from here last time I was in Crosby but I didn't spot it.  I seem to remember it was raining that time as well. 

Anyway, this is a shop conversion with excellent decor, how can I describe the style?  Bare brick walls, large chandeliers, it really looks good.

Sadly I was the only customer at half two on a Thursday, which is a shame.

I've not seen a "Card payments £10 minimum" sign for a while, I think they need to move into the 21st century!  Under the circumstances I paid cash.

As I neared the end of my lager another customer came in, he wanted a small breakfast and a coffee.  Obviously a regular, so we can conclude that the breakfasts, at least, are good here.

Two more arrived, so the bar is now ticking over rather than dead.  Good. 

Am I permitted a grumble?  The answer is, of course, yes, since this is MY BLOG.  So, I hate attractive looking wooden tables which don't have a flat top, so you put down your goblet of Krombacher and it wobbles.

So, on to the new tick for which I was aiming, the Queen's Nook:

Another shop conversion, perhaps not as stylish as Hampsons but certainly pleasant, comfortable and attractive.  Actually, on reflection that's not fair; it is just as stylish as the last one.

There were three customers here when I arrived, so again not much custom.

I scanned the menu, it looks rather good, fish and chips was fourteen quid, and a number of items were not "pub standards".  I wonder who cooks it?  Does the barmaid disappear into the kitchen.  Some of the menu items looked like they would require a proper chef, is he/she sitting in the back waiting for my order?  Or maybe I am underestimating what commercial frozen food can produce.  I was tempted to order something sophisticated just to see what happens!  Suddenly my mind wandered to a bar in Dubai with a menu of Chinese food where ones meal came from a nearby takeaway.  I seem to recall it was rather good.

As I drank my Neck Oil more and more people came in, so it was doing alright by the time I left.  Still not busy, though.  All the other customers seemed to be regulars and to know each other.

Next, just a short walk down the road in the continuing rain is Pioneer:

This also counts as a shop conversion but it is a very large corner location.  Once again very well done out, green ceramics, lots of plastic flowers, pale wood flooring, altogether very pleasant.

No sign of anyone eating at four o'clock, in fact only three other customers and the couple I could see had a bottle of water and a can of Fanta. 

I had a pint of Madri here, in a Madri goblet of course.  Is it always this malty?  Very good! 

I set my course back towards the station, with the opportunity for another new tick and possibly some cask, at the Coop:

At last, real ale.  Once I'd spotted Jaipur I didn't need to look further.  The landlord had some trouble pouring it due to excessive froth so he took the money and I sat down.  Only a few moments later he brought me a lovely pint.  In an oversized glass, to boot.  [When I was young I was told off for using the phrase "an' all", and told that "to boot" was more correct.  I was slightly surprised to learn, on consulting Google, that that is true.]

Another shop conversion, of course, nicely done with attractive plain-ish decor.  Plenty of customers were keeping the place going, there was room for a many more, though. 

As I enjoyed the pint of the day more and more people came in.  Still not packed, but certainly doing well at five on a Thursday. 

How about that!  Three new places, bringing my total to 1,492; I can see that fifteen hundred getting closer!

Time to go home.

Pub of the day: Crosby Coop
Beer of the day: Thornbridge Jaipur 
Miles walked: 2.25
Maybe coming soon: Cantril Farm, Bebington

Friday 7 June 2024

All New in Meols Cop

Today I had a rather special plan; to scoop in no less than four pubs never before visited.

So, three trains carried me to Meols Cop station in the outskirts of Southport, from where it was just a short stroll to the Thatch & Thistle:

Another member of the exclusive group of thatched Merseyside pubs, I can only think of three others. Inside is a bog standard food led operation, pleasantly done out but nothing special except, perhaps, for the old stone floor.

The bar staff were having trouble with the ordering system, requiring five minutes and two tills to sort out a simple food order. Eventually one could serve me with an excellent pint of Theakstons.

The pub was doing a gentle steady trade at two on a Friday, almost everyone I could see was eating, the menu of pub standards included Fish and Chips for £11.20.

On to the Richmond:

This pub belonging to Holt's concentrates on dining but serves a fine pint of Two Hoots.  The friendly barmaid asked what I was doing this afternoon and before I knew what was happening I was showing her the Merseyside Pub Guide book, and soon it was being passed around bar staff and regulars, to the admiration of all.  Where are you going next was the most common question, and once I'd told them, some asked, "What about the Old Duke?".  That one was missing from my database so could I make it five new ticks?  I wondered if it was in Merseyside, we're not far from the border here, but the maps say it is. 

Anyway, back to the pub.  I think it was only built fairly recently, maybe since 2000, but it does seem to have some old features inside including some old timber in the ceiling so I could be wrong about that.

Custom was fairly thin at three o'clock, I gazed across vast expanses of empty tables as I enjoyed my ale. 

So, let's try the Old Duke next:

An enormous twenty-first century roadhouse built by Marstons in 2017 or 2018, with their standard plastic very good decor inside.

Worryingly quiet at three on a Friday with just a few diners scattered around the enormous space.  Bombardier and Wainwright were on tap, my Wainwright was spot on.  

Talking of beers on tap, I have been playing with the Untappd app for the last few days, logging all the pubs I have been drinking in.  As I wrote this I had eight pubs and eight beers on the scoreboard.  But what is the point?  I don't see what I am achieving, especially as almost all the pubs I visit are "not verified", whatever that means.  Looking back, perhaps I should have been doing this when I was in America, twenty brewery taps would certainly look good on any stats.  I'll keep going for the time being but I don't really understand what I am producing with all my check-ins.  Perhaps I'm too old to grasp the concept of this social media lark.

Thank goodness my fans in the Richmond told me about the Old Duke, if I had done the other four and not this it would have been a real pain to come back for this one.  Actually, it wouldn't have been a pain because I wouldn't have bothered.  (See Beer Den which will have to wait until that end of Southport comes round for another visit.)

What I didn't realise as I sat in the Old Duke enjoying my Wainwright was that this pub marked a milestone in the Merseyside Pub Guide, as it was entry number 2,000.

So far, so brilliant:  Three never visited pubs, three quality cask ales.  I predict I won't get any more cask, but I'm still hoping for two more new ticks.  Let's see...

Hickory's:

My new friends in the Richmond told me what this was called when it was a pub, but I've forgotten.  (A quick Streetview scan once I got home shows it was The Pageant.)  Anyway, an enormous food oriented knocked through place.  I was captured by a waiter at the entrance but when I said I just wanted a drink he pointed me towards the bar counter and what was clearly the non food end of the room. 

No handpumps so I scanned the taps until I spotted Hickory's Pale Ale - I always like to choose the house brew.  Despite the name it wasn't very pale, a hefty sweet beer, very good.  It was also hazy, I'm not sure if that was intended but it didn't spoil the taste: I would say it was a wonderful keg beer!

Once again, a large space with no one in, how do these places survive?  It's after four on a Friday and I suspect there might be more staff than customers.  As I typed that a family came in, so now there's more customers than staff.  I must say the delicious wafting odours of barbecue were very tempting here - luckily my table didn't have a menu on it, or I could have ended up eating.

I must stay I was impressed by this restaurant/pub, excellent decor, quality service, tempting food.  If there was a branch near me I would be a regular customer I think. 

I recall some time ago going to the Hickory's in West Kirby, also a conversion of a pub, it used to be the Moby Dick.  I checked my own blog and found I had Hickory's Pale Ale there as well, back in 2018.

One more target on the list, Forty Seven:

This is a really beautiful shop conversion.  No real ale so I asked for 47, he offered two different beers from which I selected the Pilsner style one which was really good. 

It could be the effect of the four previous pints, but I couldn't get untappd to work here, because it didn't have the beer I was drinking on the list.  How do you add a new brew? I couldn't work it out. 

About half way down my pint two other customers left, leaving just me, one other drinker and the barman.  Soon, two more regulars with a dog came in, so the place was ticking over. 

In summary, not the four brand new ticks I hoped for, but five!  My score is now 1,489, that fifteen hundred milestone is getting closer!  Time for a bus and two trains to take me home.

Pub of the day: Richmond (But they were all good.)
Beer of the day: Two Hoots
Miles walked: 2.7
Maybe coming soon: Canny Farm, Bebington

Saturday 1 June 2024

Allerton Road

Today I headed to Allerton Road, where I might be able to get a new tick or two.  I started at the Blackburne Arms Allerton:

I ordered a pint of Tetley.  "Mug OK?" asked the barman.  He reported he'd had a group of people in last night who had objected to the dimples.  I told him I slightly preferred a straight glass but it wasn't important, the beer still tastes the same. 

A pleasant shop conversion, nothing like the main branch in town.  Modern styling including a steel staircase and the usual exposed air conditioning ducts.

I haven't had a pint of Tetley Bitter for years, it was very good.  Where is it brewed now? 

They are aiming more at the diners here, with cutlery on every table, but I was welcome to order a pint at the bar and sit at one of the tables in a comfy chair (Some tables have bench seats, but not this one.)  There is also space upstairs which I didn't look at.

At one on a Saturday trade was slow, with only about three other customers, I suppose it's still early.  More came in as I enjoyed my ale.

Just a couple of doors down is the Allerton, but the shutters were down.


Is it still operational, I wonder?  Google says it opens at twelve on a Saturday, clearly it didn't today.  So that's my second new tick of the day failed.

So, over the road where I skipped the John Brodie because I was there last November.  Next door is the Allerton Oak:

I've not been in here since 2000, so I think we can say it's overdue.  Back then it was called New York and had an American theme, pleasantly done.  The only things I can remember is that it was peaceful after being deafened in what was then Yates' next door, and there was a long rotating shaft along the ceiling with multiple blades providing an unusual and effective fan for the whole room.

Moving back to 2024, there were only two other customers in the nicely decorated room, and there's also a mezzanine with lots of tables, but a velvet rope prevented access to the stairs.

I was surprised to discover a pint of Carling costs 50p more at the weekend.  Is this common, I wonder?  Ninety nine times out of a hundred I wouldn't know, I only discovered it here because the barmaid told me the price and then corrected herself with "no, wait, it's Saturday".

This is a down market pub but in line with the 2020s norms, it is clean, tidy and well looked after, with not a hint of the scruffiness one might have found in this sort of place twenty years ago.  Well done, keep it up.

I looked around, could I be the youngest person in the pub?  (Not if you count the barmaid who is significantly younger than I.)

Next, the Square.  This one is either closed or I walked straight past it.  My scribbled pre-flight notes already said "Not a pub? May be closed" so I won't be panicking about this failure.

On to the Penny Lane:

Previously known as the Penny Lane Wine Bar, I was last here in 2018, when I seem to recall it was a little tired.  I also noted that no one was drinking wine.  In 2024 the outside and the multi room interior are very well done and maintained.

The Beatle memorabilia on the wall seems to include some handwritten lyrics to Penny Lane, complete with crossings out.  Surely a fake or reproduction, I would have thought if genuine it would be worth six figures at least.

I had a pint of Penny Lane lager here, I wonder who brews it.   The tap badge is silent on that subject, and doesn't give a strength either.  More flavoursome than my usual Carling, and a somewhat paler colour.  I noticed they also sell a Glen Affric brew called Bevvie Across The Mersey, I don't often see beers from this Birkenhead brewery when I'm out and about.

Now, along the world famous Penny Lane to the Dovedale Towers:

The wonderful interior here, all "fake" I think, but great fun, is looking a little tired in places and the seat I sat on was certainly in need of re-covering.

The two handpumps were not in use, so I had a pint of one of my favourite "common keg beers" Beavertown's Neck Oil.  I noticed they also had two other less often seen beers from the same brewery.

A steady trickle of customers approached the counter, but not enough to keep the four bar staff busy.

I perused the menu; breakfast looks good (Served until three, maybe I should have one!) and after that the pub standards include fish and chips, £15.50.  I'm always a little suspicious of a place that serves fish and chips with "pea puree", this is just affectation in a failed attempt to seem POSH, I'm sure everyone knows what mushy peas are.

One more?  Back on Allerton Road, or is it Smithdown Road by now, is Arthur Guinness:

Formerly Jalons, Grog House, and Dirty Nellies, this place doesn't seem to have changed to any great extent under its latest name although I've not been here since 2018, two names ago. 

A pleasant multi-area boozer with a subtle Irish theme, a lot busier than all my previous ticks with a couple of large pub crawl groups (The one with a number of young ladies departed as I arrived, I'm sorry to report) and plenty of other customers.

Given the name, I could only have Guinness here, of course.

The background music moved on to an instrumental version of Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.  I'm ashamed to admit I'm only familiar with this rock classic thanks to the Simpsons!  I really must add it to my "record" (or CD, download, etc) collection. 

Time for home I think...

Pub of the day: Allerton Oak
Beer of the day: Tetley Bitter 
Miles walked: 1.6
Maybe coming soon: Cantril Farm, Bebington

Saturday 25 May 2024

Closed and Closing in Bootle

I started today's excursion with a train to Bootle where my first target was the Merton:

As I'd already noted in my database, this one is well and truly closed.  I have ticked it a number of times over the years, before, during and after its time as a Wetherspoon.  It's a shame to see this rather fine building disused.  Give me a few million quid and I'll reopen it as a real ale outlet! 

I walked on, skipping the Jawbone because I've done it once this year already.  Soon I reached the Albion.  Would this rather out of the way pub be open?

It certainly is.  Something of a classic this one, with a dark wood and mirrors interior, beautifully maintained.  If I'm nitpicking, there was some gaffer tape involved in the comfortable bench seat along the wall, so perhaps a reupholster is called for.

Nearly a dozen regulars were keeping the place going, one or two watching the racing on the tellies and maybe nipping out to the bookie. 

Next, I retraced my steps towards central Bootle for a look at the Mayflower which I was also expecting to find closed:


And it was.  Another regrettable loss, this was a classic down market boozer where one drank lager or stood out as a stranger. 

On past the long closed Wharf, last visited in 2004.

And on to Lock and Quay:

Without checking my notes I seem to recall that in 2019 I felt both the interior and the ale were past their best.  Perhaps a false memory, and certainly not true today, the inside is comfortable and well looked after, and my pint of Republic Of Liverpool (A Bootle brewery) Pale Ale was excellent. 

Only a handful of customers at half two on a Saturday, they all seemed to know each other and the barman, always a sign of a good local pub, I think. 

Live music is clearly important here, there's a stage at one side of the room.

The bloke on a mobility scooter dropped something and half the customers started searching the floor.  They didn't find it. 

Next, on to the main reason I'm here in Bootle, the Top Rope Brewery:

This place is only open one Saturday a month so a few weeks ago I had it pencilled in for today.  Then this week I learned they are to close down at the end of June, so it became more crucial. 

Just like I'm back in Texas, an array of tables and chairs in the corner of a warehouse, but the ones I visited there are open for four or more days a week, not once a month. 

I was 'captured' by a friendly woman who guided me to a seat and then fetched me 2/3 of Oatimus Prime which turned out to be a rather gorgeous fruity hazy pale, once again reminding me of my American holiday.

They have got one handpump but sadly not in use.

Now I'm in American mode, I ought to have a stronger one before I go so maybe Bossk Time Imperial Stout, 10.5%.  Wow!!!  I'm always fond of strong stouts and I've sampled lots of them.  This one is an all time great, nutty and coffee flavoured, sweet (maple), smooth and heavy, just wonderful.  

Where next?  The nearest "required" tick is a long walk and I can't be bothered, so perhaps I'll visit what was the Wetherspoons Wild Rose when I was there in December 2022, to see what it's like post-spoons.  Well, that was the plan as I left the brewery, but on the way I spotted Aurora:

This used to be Iona House, after which it had changed to a restaurant many years ago.  Much more recently, in 2021 I think, it became a bar once again.  So not strictly a new tick for me, but long overdue as I was last here in '04.

Inside I found four customers watching the FA cup in a rather wonderfully decorated room.  The excellent apparently hand painted murals include some liver birds. 

Perhaps more of a late evening place, I think, but comfortable and welcoming at four on a Saturday.

The reds were leading two nil and I wondered if there would be anyone in here if it wasn't for the footie?  

Time for home, I think...  The previously sunny weather was getting darker, am I going to get wet?  The sun came out again before I left, so maybe not...

Pub of the day: Lock and Quay
Beer of the day: Bossk Time Imperial Stout
Miles walked: 3.9
Maybe coming soon: Bebington, Maghull, Canny Farm

Saturday 18 May 2024

Melling, Waddicar and Fazakerley

As I wandered around Kirkdale last week it occurred to me that I was wasting the fine weather, and it was time to do some more out of the way pubs.  So today I began with a train ride to Maghull.  I turned away from the excellent Great Moghul by the station and walked out into the countryside. 

I soon reached the Bootle Arms:

It is twenty years since I was last here and although I can't remember details that far back I suspect not much has changed.  This is a classic country pub inside and out.  

I waited impatiently at the bar, eventually noticing the Ring Bell sign.  I rang it just as the barman arrived.  Three handpumps but only one cask ale so I had Hobgoblin Gold which was very good. But what on earth is that glass about?


Actually, it's quite comfortable to hold, I could learn to like it.

Rather quiet at one on a Saturday with only a handful of other people in, but there was a gradual trickle of custom coming through the door, all locals judging by the conversations with the bar staff. 

I looked at the menu of pub standards, fish and chips is £13.29 which I guess is about mid-range for prices nowadays.

Only a mile and a half of walking down pleasant country roads and I soon reached the Horse and Jockey:

A contender for the worst picture of a pub award!

I headed to the plain pleasant bar room in this two sided operation, and enjoyed a pint of Neck Oil as there was no cask.

Gently ticking over with a number of customers scattered around both sides.  I could see no sign of a food offer, because it is only in the other side, so I can't comment on the selection nor price.

Another mile, mostly through open fields, brought me to Aintree and the Blue Anchor:

There were Greene King IPA handpumps on the counter but they had no cask ale so I had Guinness.

A Hungry Horse outlet where fish and chips is only £8.29, a whole fiver less than the Bootle Arms.  Despite that, this very large pub was mostly empty; it was now half past two and one would expect to see more people than this on a pleasant sunny Saturday.  Ah, due to staff problems the kitchen is closed, no wonder I couldn't see any food.

The decor in the enormous open space was rather well done chain pub standard style.  Well cared for, clean and tidy.

All they need is a hundred more customers and this place would be doing well.  My mind went back to the Farmers in Morton last year which was a very busy dining pub, admittedly a bit later on a Saturday.

Next, a walk beside the racecourse ...

and on to Longmoor Lane, Fazakerley.  My first target was the Avenue Lounge:

A particularly desirable tick for me because last time I was here, back in February, I walked past without even noticing it existed.  Fortunately someone told me in the blog comments - Thanks James!

A rather well done shop conversion, plain yet pleasant and very comfortable.  Yesterday I ticked a newish shop conversion in Huyton, called Dos Urbano, and the one negative I noted was that all the chairs were wooden without padding.  People who know me might comment that I have my own padding built in, but nonetheless I think I want something a little soft to sit on.  No complaints on that score here.

Sadly, there were no other customers as I enjoyed my Carling.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I can't save the bar trade on my own, you all need to come out and get drinking!  What are you waiting for?  Use it or lose it!

Finally, just a short distance down the road, is the Foresters Inn, last visited in 2018:

Ah, so this is where all the Avenue's customers have gone!  Hardly packed, but certainly doing a good trade at four o'clock.  

Plain, pleasant, traditionally styled decor in the down market boozer style; apart from the lack of split levels this could be a classic Oak Lodge.  The customers, some very drunk, were definitely in the down market bracket; nothing wrong with that, they were enjoying their Saturday afternoon, as was I.  I looked around, it's not often I'm the youngest one in the pub, but this might be such an occasion.

What a fine survey:  Plenty of healthy exercise, one new tick, one twenty years old, all five "required", all that was needed to make an all time great research trip would be more cask.

Pub of the day: Bootle Arms
Beer of the day: Hobgoblin Gold
Miles walked: 5.1
Maybe coming soon: Bootle

Saturday 11 May 2024

Last Home Match Of The Season

Everton's last home game of the season, so it's time to head for Kirkdale where I might find some match day only pubs.

I looked into the doorway of the Melrose Abbey as I passed and there's the same friend as I spotted last time, back in January.  So again I had to join him for another chat.  There were eventually five of us, they were all off to the match, of course, so the topics for discussion included VAR, points deductions and so on.  As you would expect, the pub was very full and very busy.

I left the gang and wandered up to County Road where I started in the Chepstow Castle:

It was crowded when I got there but the time I'd got my Carling in a plastic glass everyone was leaving for the ground and I easily found a table to sit at.

My notes for here refer to an island bar but there's no such thing now.  Did I miss the change when I was here in 2018 or has it happened since my last visit, I wonder. 

The crowd rapidly dispersed and the bar staff busied themselves collecting empties and tidying up ready for the post match rush.  Suddenly there were only about a dozen customers, what a transformation!  Eventually the music was turned down to match the levels of customers, thank goodness. 

Now the place was empty I could look round:  Plain traditional decor in one large well looked after room.

At 14:50 there were just three other customers that I could see, perhaps one or two hidden by the columns. 

Next, the closest to the ground of today's targets is the Spellow:

Ouch, match day pricing here, my Carling cost £5, still, on the plus side it came in a proper glass. 

The bar staff were a bit slower here than in the Chepstow, and all the tables inside and out were still full of empty glasses which were slowly disappearing into the dishwasher. 

I sat inside to better observe goings on.  The place has been completely redecorated since I was last here, in 2018.  A rather unusual, and to my taste very good, style with doors and everything below the dado painted black.  Above, Everton memorabilia, brewery stuff and, hanging from the ceiling, five canoes!  Above the canoes the ceiling is covered in random movie posters.  Altogether a rather attractive effect, it's really great to see that someone has put some effort into design for a backstreet boozer.  Well done, whoever you are.

Quite an impressive list of imported bottles on the wall, from Erdinger Dunkel to Singha via Kriek Boon.

I don't want to be the purveyor of negative vibes but I fear this place will be winding down towards permanent closure about a year from now, despite the excellent decor and beer list.  I hope I'm wrong.  Thinking about it, one or maybe even two of the pubs around the ground will probably survive long term serving the locals, it could easily be this one.

The landlord/barman was attempting to get the match commentary on the speakers, but the BBC wouldn't let him, and eventually he gave up and restored music. 

Now, back to County Road and a new one spotted as I passed on a bus a few months ago, JT's Bar.  There was a loud cheer from the ground as I walked up, could Everton have scored?  Yes they did.  

Well I never!  I certainly couldn't have predicted the opening of a new bar on County Road but here we are.  A pleasant plain but nicely done shop conversion, fairly narrow until it widens out at the back where there is a pool table.  Too many scatter cushions on the comfortable bench seat for my taste but other than that very nicely done, a cheerful friendly locals' boozer.

Only four taps on the counter, offering Poretti, Erdinger, San Miguel, and JT's lager.  I selected the house beer which was good.  And cheaper than the others! 

It's always good to get a new pub, that brings my total to 1,479.  The 1,500 milestone is getting closer! 

A delivery arrived, lots of bottles of lemonade and a keg of beer, and three empty kegs were returned.  Saturday afternoon is an odd time for this, I would have thought, and it's lucky it didn't come before kickoff or after full time.  Maybe the bar fetches it from a wholesaler in which case they would know when was a good time. 

The match reached half time, still 1-0.  I should be able to complete my research before full time and beat the crowds on the train home.

Just one more today, a few yards from JT's is the Harlech Castle:

This one is unchanged compared with my 2018 visit, a very nicely done two sided pub around an island servery.  I couldn't see the wooden beams I've noted in the past, perhaps they've been painted over or maybe they are only in the other side.

Cash only said the signs, I've been paying cash all day so no problem. 

Quite busy just after half time, I'm assuming it will be jam packed come five o'clock but I'll be long gone! 

Plenty of non-football customers in here, keeping the staff busy serving in between loading glasses into the dishwashers.  I tried to resist following the Premier League action on the telly or my tablet, but it was hard! 

Five pints, four required ticks, one a new one.  Time for home I think.

Pub of the day: JT's Bar
Beer of the day: JT's Lager
Miles walked: 1.7
Maybe coming soon: Bebington, Greasby

Saturday 4 May 2024

Claughton

A bus carried me under the Mersey for a second consecutive Saturday, this time to the little area of Claughton.  I commenced my research in Houlihan's:

 

A comfortable friendly cheerful boozer with plenty of happy customers at half one on a Saturday.  The barman called me "young man", always a bonus nowadays.  That rings a bell;  did he say the same thing six years ago? 

I have a vague recollection that it was quite dark in here last time I came, either my memory is wrong or they've changed things because it was pleasantly light despite the heavy grey overcast outside. 

Footie was on the telly, from Ipswich.  I was amused to see that the camera positions were rather unsatisfactory and when the crowd raised their hands to salute a goal they obscured half the picture.  If I were one of those fans and I knew about this I would be making rude signs, or a bunny rabbit silhouette.  

As I had entered Houlihan's I could hear very loud rock music emanating from the Claughton Hotel across the road.  Was I going to be deafened?

The noise in the street was terrible (From a sound level point of view, that is; there was clearly some talent in this band.) but it was from upstairs and was almost inaudible in the comfortable pub interior. 

I took another Carling round to the empty rear area where there was plenty of space.  For the second time today the pub seems nicer inside than my recollection from 2018, has it been nicely refurbished since then or perhaps I was just having a grumpy day last time.  Actually, perhaps both are true; apart from some nasty mould in one corner the decoration here is immaculate.  They really need to fix that leak, though, there's even some fungus growing under a picture frame.

The windows here have some old leaded stained glass perhaps from a 1930s refurbishment, some have been re-glazed over the years and I think all the front windows are plain glass.

Next, the pub I felt was most likely to be a fail on today's excursion.  Tucked away up a quiet side street is the Heather Brow:

Happily my fears were unwarranted and it was open.  On my previous and first visit I described this as a hidden gem, and there's no reason to change that assessment.  A beautiful classic. 

Plenty of customers were sitting at the counter, I took my third Carling and headed to the empty back room. The decor here is plain, traditional and very well maintained. 

I can't enthuse enough about this wonderful boozer, all it needs is real ale to make it perfect.

Ipswich were celebrating promotion on the screens, having won the match I was watching in Houlihan's.  Poor old Birmingham went down another level despite winning.  Why is this all happening when it's not even three o'clock?

Piped music, perhaps a little loud in the empty back room, mixed with conversation from the much more popular front rooms. 

Eventually a couple of regulars joined me to make the room seem less empty.  They spent a lot of time fiddling with the jukebox, after which some rather good Talking Heads was followed by more quality 80s stuff, I'm sure I heard her suggest "Stupid Cupid" but I must have misheard, or perhaps she was joking.

Having completed Claughton I caught a bus back towards Birkenhead, jumping off at the Queens:

I've never been sure how much of this giant building is still a pub.  I entered by the front door into a large open one room boozer with a long counter behind which no less than four barmaids were busy pouring drinks.  The room was reasonably busy but not packed enough to justify the staff.  The decor in here, plain well done traditional with a dark wood counter front and bar back - all repro I think - looks very good. 

I took my Carling to the raised area at one end of the room where I sat alone, overlooking the rest of the space.

My inaccurate recollections again, probably, I had this in my mind as a bit of a dump, certainly not true today.

I could hear music and speech from behind a door and people kept coming in and out that way, so I concluded there was some kind of a function in there.  So all of the building is probably still in use.  Should I sneak through to have a look?  I didn't.

A couple of unobtrusive tellies were showing racing with one of two of the regulars watching closely.  I was interested to note two vacuum tube TVs on the porch roofs, you don't see many of those nowadays.  The one facing me was not working, I imagine both are long dead but too much effort to remove.  (I remember when I got rid of my last tube telly I had to get a friend round to help me lift it and take it to the dump.  Thanks, John.)

It would be foolish to leave this end of Birkenhead with one overdue visit so I walked down to the Crown for a fifth tick:

When I first came here back in the 1990s it was something of a real ale destination but not long after they gave up cask.  Moving on nearly thirty years, the wonderful interior remains along with ten well polished handpumps on the counter, but no real ale now so a fifth Carling for me. 

I retreated to the rather good side room, which has a pool table surrounded by very well done bench seating and dark walls enlivened with brewery mirrors.  It really is beautiful in this pub, if only they could bring back the cask...

A gang of five or six women were occupying the pool table, they were enjoying their afternoon without being excessively noisy nor disturbing the rest of the clientele.  I think many other groups of women could, and should, learn from this!  Fortunately they ignored the old bloke in the corner typing on his tablet.

Five Carlings, five overdue ticks, time for home.

Pub of the day: Heather Brow
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 1.2
Maybe coming soon: Kirkdale, Bebington