Saturday 18 February 2012

Down Market in Kirkby

The rain had stopped by 11:30 this morning so I headed out for a bus to Kirkby. (We've got no trains at Huyton this weekend, for electrification works.) The bus ride earned me an unexpected bonus when I spotted a brand new pub, the Copper Pot, on the East Lancs Road at the top of Knowsley Village. Pub number 1,756 in the guide, one to visit next time I'm in the area.

Arriving at Kirkby I started in the Wetherspoon's Gold Balance where I enjoyed a pint of Cotleigh's Barn Owl - very nice - in the usual Wetherspoon's surroundings. The toilets here are well overdue for refurbishment.

The weather was now bright sunshine as I headed down market and away from the centre into the vast council estates that make up this town, aiming for unexplored territory - The three pubs on Whitefield Drive. First came the Johnny Todd. I crunched through the broken glass on the pavement and entered a plain well cared for open interior with grubby wood panelling on the bar front. No sign of anyone behind the bar, until one of the locals shouted on my behalf. No chance of any real ale, of course, so I had a pint of Carling. The place was pretty empty, with just a few regulars sat at the bar chatting. Something you don't see very often nowadays, the pub has an off-licence attached.

By the way, Johnny Todd is an old sea shanty, an arrangement of which was used as the theme tune for Z-Cars, some of which was filmed in Kirkby. It is also the signature tune of Everton Football Club.

The next pub on this road is the Fantail. Another standard council estate pub looking a little tatty inside and out. It retains the traditional two room bar and lounge layout and as always I arrived in the empty half. The only indoor connection between the two is via the gents, so I nipped through and ordered another Carling. The "busy" side of the pub had about half a dozen customers in, watching two different racing channels on the TVs and popping out to put a bet on every now and then. The heating was apparently out of action, so I kept my coat on. Leaving by the other door, I discovered another thing you don't see very often now - the pub has a bookie's built in.

The final pub of the day was the Mariners, a third example of the council estate boozer, but this one's a bit nicer - definitely the best of the three, with a spotless well maintained comfortable interior which has been knocked through into one room. I had a pint of Guinness for a change, and the pub filled up with footie fans while I settled down to watch the build up to the Everton match on the large screen, courtesy of Al Jazeera! I headed for home once Everton were two nil up.

Three pubs never visited before, taking the total to 1,120, plus one new one discovered, is an excellent score for a day out, and it's nice to see that the down market end of the business alive and well.

Saturday 11 February 2012


I braved the chilly weather this afternoon and headed out for a survey of a few pubs in Prescot, starting with the Grapes up on St Helens Road. This old-looking building with a pleasant interior with some dark wood panelling doesn't seem to have changed at all since I last visited, some fourteen years ago. I nearly missed the two hand pumps which were hidden round the corner, but found them just in time and had a good pint of Bombardier. The place was completely deserted when I arrived, but there was a gradual trickle of customers arriving as I drank my beer. Most seemed to have come for the food - "Fayre and Square" is a new one on me, but the menu looks the same as all the other pub food chains.

Next, a short walk to the Wellington, another pub which doesn't seem to have changed since I was last there, in 1998. Once again I found two hand pumps, and I had a spot on pint of Sharp's Doom Bar. Everyone was watching the "sport" on the telly, which seemed to involve some spoiled brats throwing tantrums because one of them had refused to shake another's hand. I think there was probably some football involved as well, but the half time analysis was all about the non-handshake so perhaps I'm mistaken.

In to Prescot centre next, for a visit to the new Wetherspoon's Watch Maker. Here I enjoyed a good pint of something I've now forgotten in comfortable modern surroundings. That's a first visit for me, number 1,117.

The Deanes House is an enormous house converted into a multi-room pub. I was pleased to discover they've gained real ale - at least to some degree - the Brains IPA was unavailable so I had Brains Dark which was excellent. The place had suddenly emptied because of the end of the match, and I sat down to watch more replays, comments and interviews about shaking hands on the big screen.

Friday 10 February 2012

The Book Updated

An updated edition of the Merseyside Pub Guide book went on sale today.

Its 225 pages are packed with information about no less than 1,756 pubs.

You can buy a copy direct from the printers for just seven quid plus postage and packing - A bargain indeed!