A short train ride took me to Rainhill, where there are a number of pubs which I haven't visited for a long time. Passing the Commercial (A favourite of mine, but this was a survey trip!) I strolled down Warrington Road in the pleasant midday sunshine until I reached my first target, the Ship Inn.
My last drink here was way back in 1998, when it was a Henry's Table place, serving Higson's and Tetley's. Eighteen years later I found it has joined the Ember Inns chain, and they have applied their standard decor inside. Some people dislike Ember's identikit "modern contemporary" style but I find it pleasant enough. And of course, you can usually rely on them to provide some decent beer. As the first customer in the pub at a couple of minutes after twelve I had to risk the first beer out of the pump, but my pint of Landlord was spot on. As I believe is now fashionable, I was offered the choice of a dimple or an ordinary glass.
After a few minutes of having the pub to myself other customers began to arrive, dining families and what looked like guests for a nearby wedding.
In line with almost every real ale pub, the board listing the real ales was put on the wall with good intentions but was now somewhat inaccurate with the pump clips telling the true story. Still, a good choice of mainly national brands except for one from Liverpool Organic. And their own Ember Pale Ale which is brewed by Black Sheep. There's 20p off a pint for CAMRA members, and on Mondays all real ales are £2.49.
A short walk from the Ship took me round the corner to the Manor Farm, an antique building in pleasant green surroundings.
A range of about 3 real ales was on offer, and I chose Hobgoblin which was in good nick.
On a Saturday afternoon the place was very quiet, with just a few other customers, some having food, and the only thing to watch was the staff trying in vain to get one of the TVs going ready for the football later.
The CAMRA discount here is limited to after 8 pm on Mondays to Wednesdays.
My next walk was a longer one, all the way round Rainhill to the other side, passing a number of very posh residences on the way. Eventually I reached the Rocket, a bit more down market than the previous two places.
This is more like a traditional boozer, featuring a plain bar side with pool table and darts board and a comfortable lounge side. As usual I guessed the wrong door and found myself in the bar, but it was pleasant enough, if perhaps a little threadbare in places.
To my surprise I spotted a lone hand pump with a Doom Bar clip. One pump pubs can often be a source of poor beer but not in this case, and I enjoyed a good pint from Cornwall.
The pub was pretty quiet, with no-one watching the football on the telly (It wasn't one of the 'home' teams.). Eventually I was joined by the resident old codger who imparted a tale of smoke like fog on his journey to the pub. As I finished my pint two fire engines passed by, supporting his story, and when I left the pub smoke could be seen and smelled, although I couldn't actually see where the fire was.
I headed back towards the station but I had one more target in mind so I called in to the Victoria. My first visit to this large pub back in 1998 caused me to describe it as youth-oriented and grubby. Luckily things have massively improved since then, and in 2004 I recorded real ale and pleasant decor. This time I found that one of the rooms has been split off to become a restaurant area, which was closed on Saturday afternoon.
Food is also served in the large bar room, which was busy with drinkers and diners, but not too busy for me to be quickly served with a fine pint of Deuchars IPA and to find a table to sit at and reluctantly watch a bit of football. (I'm one of those people who, if there's a TV in my eyeline, cannot resist watching it - Very annoying for someone trying to have a conversation with me if the telly's over your shoulder!)
And so ended an enjoyable survey, on which I was pleasantly surprised to get four pints of good real ale in four pubs. I dragged my gaze from the TV and marched back to the station, and home.