Tuesday 27 February 2018


Once again, snow failed to deter me from my mission as I took a bus ride to Picton.  Actually, as you can see in the photos, it had all melted by the time I arrived.

I started in the Coffee House:
This rather fine well preserved pub almost looked closed with access blocked by the roadworks outside, but once I found my way in past the end of the barriers I discovered the splendid interior remains.  Careful refurbishment has retained the excellent ceiling plasterwork and an ornamental arch with an RC & sons crest.  (Robert Cain)

Just the friendly barmaid and me at 1pm on a Tuesday, the weather was keeping everyone else at home, she said.

I decided not to risk the first Doom Bar out of the pump, and stuck to my usual Guinness.  Eventually a regular arrived to double the number of customers.  I've always considered it a great honour when you go into a pub and they pour your usual without asking.

An ominous black cloud approached from the east as I moved on to the Clock, passing the former Lamb, now an office:
A rather quirky pleasant interior in the Clock, made to look a little untidy by a scattering of electric heaters about the place.  Three other customers chatted with the barmaid while I enjoyed my second Guinness and watched the suddenly heavy snow outside.  Luckily it didn't seem to be settling, and soon eased off.

The small dance floor I noted in '03 was occupied by a pool table today, but the glitter ball and other lights suggested they probably wheel it away sometimes.

I walked past umpteen pubs to find my next destination:  The Barley Mow (open), the Cock and Bottle (open), the Town Hall (closed and To Let), the Prince Alfred (open), Cuffs (open), the Thatched House (open), Chillies (shutters down) and the Rose (open).  At last, I headed up a side street to the Edinburgh:
It looked like it might be closed, but the sign on the door agreed with the internet that it should be open, so I cautiously tried the door handle and in I went.

This beautiful Victorian end terrace is a tiny two room pub.   I was the only customer and the landlord pulled through the Liverpool Organic Cascade before serving me a perfect pint.

It must be great to have a comfortable boozer like this as your local!

It would have been even nicer if the real fire was lit, so far in today's researches I hadn't taken off my coat, and I wasn't going to do that here either.

The background music, Classic FM, was an uncommon and pleasant change from the usual pop one listens to in pubs.

Outside it got a lot darker suddenly, and snow started again but it soon stopped.  Eventually, as I neared the end of my pint another customer came in, swigged a lager and left.

Back to the main drag, and to the Rose Vaults:
A pleasant plain split level one room boozer, this, with more customers than any of the other places visited so far.  The decor is what I call "traditional", that is some dark woodwork, some leaded glass panels, and modern repro cut glass lampshades, very much in the style of an Oak Lodges pub.

More importantly it was comfortably warm.  As I was served a regular lit up a cigarette before the barmaid ordered him out to smoke it, giving the place a faint nostalgic smoky smell.

The music here was back to normal after the Edinburgh, and yet still wide ranging in taste: The Eagles, Genesis, The Wonder Stuff, and The Carpenters!  Sadly, these were followed by a terrible cover version of one of the ultimate tear-jerkers - Seasons In The Sun.

Next, on to Cuffs (because it's in the old police station, I presume.)  Some of the signage outside says Pound Pub:
Much busier than the preceding ticks, with lively chatter from twenty or thirty customers drowning out the quiet muzak, but my goodness, it's cold in here.  Nonetheless, the leather sofas scattered around the large open room were very comfortable.

The "wandering salesman" was selling coffee, a new one to add to my long list of what I've been offered in pubs (CDs, foreign holidays, bed linen, batteries, aftershave etc etc.)

Time to head for home, there's plenty more pubs in Picton to justify another visit.

Coming next:  Maybe Old Swan part two, or how about Moreton?

Sunday 25 February 2018

The Book

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

There are 1,843 pubs listed in this edition, with details of over twelve hundred I have visited.

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

Saturday 24 February 2018

Stockbridge Village

Cantril Farm was a sixties overspill housing estate which soon gained a reputation as the roughest estate in the area, popularly known as Cannibal Farm.  In the mid 1980s the estate was regenerated and lots of work was done to improve matters.  It was renamed Stockbridge Village.

Not a good start to my researches as I found the Barley Mow was tinned up:
Next the Village Inn, formerly the Tithe Barn:
This classic 60s estate pub has retained its original layout inside and what looks like original matchboarding and wooden counter front in the bar.  Nowadays it's certainly not tatty, which is the word I used back in 1998.  The lounge side was closed and inaccessible, so I drank my Guinness in the bar.

A few locals were chatting and playing pool and mostly ignoring the live footy.  Unusually there was greyhound racing on the other screen.

On to the Ploughman, another sixties boozer:
The handful of locals here were very boisterous, but friendly, especially after I provided football updates from my tablet.  The jukebox was so deafening that I hurried my pint to get out of the noise.  The lounge side was closed.

Next, the Black Angus:
Once again a sixties estate boozer, this one looked a bit unwelcoming from the outside to the extent that I wasn't sure it was open until I got inside.  Both sides were operational here and I started in the bar side and then walked round to the more comfortable and equally empty lounge side.  I think there were only about two customers in the place, outnumbered by staff.

The landlady spotted an unfamiliar customer (I don't suppose they get many outsiders in Canny Farm) and came over to introduce herself, so I explained about the guide and showed her the book.  She encouraged me to stay for the Liverpool game when they would be offering free scouse.

I'm no expert but the layout and some of the woodwork look original here, just as they would have been when it was built in the late sixties.  I must say the lounge side was exceptionally tidy and well cared for.
Finally, out of Canny Farm towards my final destination.  First I passed the site of the Princess, just a flattened area and the remains of the sign:
On to the Deysbrook:
I entered the bar to find it quite busy with cheerful locals, almost every seat at the counter was occupied along with most of the tables.  Surprisingly, no football on a Saturday afternoon, all the TVs were showing racing, and some were watching.  I later discovered the footy was on in the lounge side.

There was a steady stream in and out of the door carrying betting slips to and from the bookies in the car park, each one letting an icy blast into the otherwise warm room.

Outside I could see a pleasant beer yard, but it was way too chilly for anyone to use it today, except for one hardy smoker.

Yet another sixties boozer, I think, but there's not so much original inside, perhaps the layout is original.

Halfway down my Guinness, I counted approximately thirty people in the room, of which exactly one was female.  The backgound noise was a solid hubbub of conversations that you just don't come across so often nowadays.

As I got further down my pint an old bloke was setting up speakers and other kit, so I'm guessing it'll be a lot noisier in here later.

An interesting view of the twenty-first century was provided by three young lads who took the table next to me.  They each had a half of lager, back when I was that age I wouldn't be seen dead with a half!  And I still tend to that attitude which is why I can only tick off four or five pubs per trip.

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Claughton and Birkenhead

A bright sunny day saw me on a bus under the river and on to a never before visited part of Birkenhead - Claughton - where my Streetview researches showed I might get three pubs.  I started with the Heather Brow:
Hidden away on a back street, this place is a little gem.  Inside there are three rooms:  The bar has no seating apart from stools at the counter.  On the other side, the lounge is served from a hatch in the bar back.  Thirdly, the comfortable back room has no service except by walking to the bar.  None of the traditional decor looks very historic, but it's certainly well done and well looked after.

A few regulars, all sitting at the counter, were chatting, but I retreated to the back room to enjoy my Guinness in peace, in this splendid example of a traditional local boozer.

Next, to Houlihan's Variety Club:
Not a very promising name, would this even be a pub?  The answer was yes, the downstairs is a large pleasant boozer, occupied by just a few regulars on a Tuesday afternoon.  Study of the "programme" on the table revealed that the variety club is upstairs, and has all sorts of regular and one-off events ranging from angling club meetings to weekend cabaret, while the downstairs is a normal pub, also known as the Bees Knees.

The barman called me "young man", but my warm glow was quickly punctured by a local who told me he calls everyone that!

The regulars and the barman were chatting and mostly ignoring the racing on the TVs, while I enjoyed my second G of the day.  There used to be hundreds of pubs decorated like this, stripy wallpaper above the dado and dark red painted anaglypta below; and apart from the lack of smoke I could be back in the 1990s.

Just across the road is the Claughton Hotel:
The interior of this large pub has been knocked through to create one enormous room wrapped around the servery.  Some small hints of history remain, such as ceiling plasterwork and an impressive leaded glass bay window hidden behind the screen for the TV projector.  The whole place had a comfortable, friendly ambience.

The background noise here was a mix of music (The Eagles), regulars chatting with the barmaid, and the clack of pool balls.

A poster advertised (or warned, depending on your taste) that every Friday they have a DJ and karaoke, I bet it's noisy then.

This pub is a member of the Craft Union chain, one I've not spotted before.  Oddly, their website, advertised all over the walls, is about working for or with them, and doesn't seem to actually have any information about the pubs in the chain.

I caught a bus back down the hill to Birkenhead Park to try and find some more never-visited pubs.

The bus passed the site of the Open Arms, formerly the Avenue and now just rubble.  I jumped off near Birkenhead Park station and walked past the Park View, still open, and the long-closed Grand Trunk:

My next target was Christie's:
Surely a place like this, in a tired industrial area, is long closed, but no.   Inside I found a plain tidy open one-room boozer, with a handful of customers, mostly playing pool.

I sat on a comfortable bench seat and drank another Guinness, listening to the jukebox.  Posters advertised a performance by local band Rigsby's Cat, but I think that was last Sunday so I've missed them, unfortunately.  With a name like that they must be fun.  (It was called Vienna, by the way.)

Almost next door to Christie's is the Myrtle:
Goodness knows how two pubs survive in this industrial wasteland, but here's another pleasant enough down market plain boozer with half a dozen or so customers keeping it going at five on a Tuesday.

Originally multi-roomed, it's been knocked through creating one open L-shaped room.

My Guinness seemed a little tired, but after five who can tell?  While drinking it I tried to work out where the gents was, always a good game in an unfamiliar pub:  If you watch closely, eventually a local will disappear through an unmarked door and come back a minute later, and indeed one did exactly that but actually this door just lead round behind the servery to the other end of the pub, and not directly to the gents, so I was none the wiser.

The jukebox played Pink Floyd, including my favourite track, Wish You Were Here.  One of the locals shouted across "Where are you from, mate", but he lost interest when I said Huyton.  I could have said Cambridge which would have foxed him even more.

Meanwhile the music moved on to Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I - V).  It's not often I dawdle in a boozer purely because of the music but I had to stay until the end.

I spotted they've got a Guinness Surger on the bar, but mine came from a standard tap.

The music switched to something more ordinary, and it was time for me to head for home.  Who'd have thought it?  Five new ticks out of five.  I bet it's a long time before I manage that again.

Coming up:  The 2018 edition of The Book is at the printers so it should be on sale in a week or so's time.

Saturday 17 February 2018


The temptation of a new pub nearby was too much, so I headed off on a sunny Saturday morning to Prescot.  The bus took me on a Cook's tour; we passed the Quarry Inn - demolished, the Horseshoe - now a shop, the Penny Black - demolished, the Watchmaker - closed, the Carrs Hotel - still operating, and finally the Red Lion, sadly boarded up.

My first destination was Wetherspoon's Watch Maker, where I started with a minor disagreement with one of the regulars outside who objected to being in my photo.  It wasn't a very good one anyway, with the sun immediately behind the pub and in deference to his wishes I don't include it here.

Inside, the pleasant modern place was busy as always, and I enjoyed a pint of something good by Big Bog from Speke.

Next, the reason for my trip - The Bard:
Opened last Wednesday, this is a classic micropub, a small shop conversion, one comfortable room with plain pastel-coloured walls and pale wood floor.  I was pleased to see there wasn't the excess of Shakespeare stuff on the walls I'd feared, just a couple of quotes.  (For me, if we're considering the greats of English literature, it's Dickens every time!)

The small counter has six handpumps, four were in use and my pint of Melwood Stanley Gold was perfect.  I was surprised how quiet the place was on its first Saturday, I had expected the denizens of Prescot to at least come and have a look, even if they prefer being belligerent outside the 'spoons.

Initially I noted that two staff and three customers is no way to make a successful business long term, but pleasingly quite a few more came in as I enjoyed my pint and by the time I'd finished there was a throng at the bar and no free tables.

If I had to make a criticism, the place looks a bit plain from the outside, with an "Is it open?" feeling, and I wonder if a neon "Open" sign, while definitely spoiling the pleasing frontage, might encourage more passing trade.  Mind you, if it's this busy regularly there's no need.

On to the Hope and Anchor:
A little down market this one, and yet pleasant and well cared for, the knocked through interior is partly stone-floored.

In here there were just a few regulars chatting and keeping the place ticking over nicely, and more customers came in as I swigged my Guinness.  

Finally, the Old Mill:
This pub has a chequered history; before my time the Victoria was reportedly the roughest pub in Prescot, and Nelly Kelly's was horrible, but when it became the Old Mill it was much better.  Initially it had real ale but on my previous visit in 2004 that had gone.  I was therefore pleased and a little surprised to see three handpumps this time, and the Hydes brew I chose was spot on.

A steady stream of customers kept the place busy, but no-one joined me in the quiet corner as I enjoyed my pint and watched footie on a TV channel where the adverts were in some peculiar non-western script.  I hope I don't get the pub in trouble for reporting this!

The site is surrounded by hoardings for the construction of the new Shakespeare North Playhouse.  Am I alone in seeing the irony of constructing this in Knowsley, the only education authority in the country where there are no places for A-level students.  Surely we could make better use of the money?

Coming soon:  As already intimated, a place with three pubs I've never been to;  it's been accorded the honour of a whole chapter in the guide.  But I don't expect any decent ale (Although you never know...)

Thursday 15 February 2018

West Derby Again

On a chilly but sunny Thursday afternon I caught the bus to West Derby Village for my second visit in four months.  I started across the road from where I finished last time, in the Hunting Lodge, which used to be called the West Derby Hotel:
Behind the half-timbered frontage I found a pleasant comfortable lounge side of two rooms which look to have been well refurbished in the not too distant past.  I'm told this place is Grade II listed, presumably for the exterior as I couldn't see anything historic inside.

Just a few customers were keeping the place ticking over.  There were various racing channels on the tellys, but no-one seemed to be watching.

There was some kind of stage area in the corner, ready for the live entertainment they were advertising for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

On to the Royal Standard:
The knocked through interior has been very well done out in the twenty years since I was last here, with stone floor, old-looking wooden bar front, and fake beams.  Four or five handpumps were mostly "brewing" according to the labels, but of the two that weren't I chose an excellent pint from Weetwood.

The place was fairly quiet, as you might expect after two on a Thursday, but there were enough customers, mainly eating, to keep the friendly efficient staff occupied.  Asking for my order while still dealing with the previous customer is a basic barstaff skill that often seems to be lacking nowadays, but it isn't here.

The food looks good, it's another Greene King chain pub.

Next, just over the road to the Crown Inn:
Wrong door alert, as I found myself in the bar side with just one customer, while I could hear gentle chatter from the lounge side.  The decor features wood panelling, dating from the 1935 rebuild, but the bar side had a slightly run down chaotic air to it, with loads of drum kit and other band stuff scattered around the place.  Nonetheless, I sat on a comfortable bench seat on the back wall and swigged my Guinness as I wondered what the other side was like.  It turned out to be similarly decorated but a little tidier and busier.

On to the Bulldog, a late sixties construction, I think:
Inside, one enormous open room is very pleasantly done out.

There were two handpumps on the bar, but neither were available, disappointingly.

As I drank my Guinness I studied the humorous slogans on the walls:  In my opinion writing "spot the mistake?" at the bottom is no substitute for getting it right in the first place, especially when there are a number of grammatical errors in other slogans around the place.

I must say it was nice to hear track after track of Pink Floyd playing, I don't know if someone had programmed the jukebox or if it was just good taste on the part of the computer.  Eventually it reverted to bog standard stuff.

There were enough customers to keep the place ticking over, and a gentle chit-chat mixed with the music, while I worried about why parts of my domestic control system (See another of my web sites if you're interested.) had gone off line shortly after I left home, and then recovered.  (On my return I concluded there had been a brief interruption of the mains, long enough to reboot some of the systems.)

Coming next:  There's a new micro-pub in Prescot, or how about somewhere in Merseyside I've never been to, with three pubs.

Saturday 10 February 2018

Central Manchester

Finding myself at a loose end in the middle of Manchester on a Saturday (See another of my web sites to see where I had been.) I decided it was time for some pub visits.

I started at the magnificent Peveril Of The Peak:
A beautiful architectural gem, ceramics outside, more ceramics plus carved wood and leaded glasswork inside.  The lounge service is from a small counter in the corridor.

It was very quiet at 13:00 on a Saturday, just a couple of other customers as I enjoyed a pint of Titanic Plum Porter.  Quite a lot of pulling through, and a visit to the cellar, was required before I got my (superb) pint - I wonder why this place has lost its GBG entry?

Next, on to the Britons Protection:
The historic interior retains a layout with the lounge rooms served from a hatch in the back of the servery.  Some nice ceramics and 1920s style leaded glass in the doors also survive.  And footwarming pipes along the bar front.  I had a rather fine pint of Briton's Protection - I wonder who brews it.  Much busier than the Peveril, there were plenty of customers coming and going, both regulars and tourists.

A large mixed group came in, cleverly they'd organised an advance party, a girl with a notebook, with their complicated drinks order.  Fortunately they decided the bar, where I was sitting, was too full and headed round to the lounges.

A few minutes later a large gang of blokes came in, one dressed as a pigeon for some reason.  They too decided there was more space in the lounge side, and their order, at the hatch, was much simpler:  "Twenty-two pints of Jennings"!  By the time these had been pulled and topped up there was quite a throng at the counter waiting, but the lone barmaid coped admirably and soon had everyone served.

On to the Rising Sun:
It was a bit calmer in here but still doing a good trade at 2pm on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon.  International rugger was on the telly but not many were watching.  Compared to the preceding two pubs this is no historic gem, but it is pleasant, warm and comfortable with a decent range of real ales from which I again chose the house beer.

Final call was the City Arms:
A small hidden gem this one, a pleasant, very busy, two-room boozer sandwiched between Wetherspoon's and another pub.  My Plum Porter was once again lovely, and even came in a Titanic glass this time.  Every table was occupied, but I managed to squeeze in on one end of a bench, the lads occupying the rest of this corner said it was my round next!  To complete the "set", I sat my pint on a Titanic beermat.

Not much architecture here, except for some fine ceramics at the entrance to the gents.

A small notice advertised that Plum Porter was on all the time, enough on its own to mark this as a great pub!  What more could one want?

My corner seat meant I had a good view behind the bar, and I could observe umpteen pints of cask ale being pulled as the pub got busier and busier.  Now I'm no expert, but even I know that if the beer in the glass goes down when the handle is pushed back, then the seals are worn/defective and the beer engine needs some maintenance.  The pumps in here certainly do.

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Old Swan

Just a short bus ride today, and I was soon in Old Swan, trying to ignore the gently falling snow.  I began my researches with two failures:

The Regency was labelled as a piano bar last time I tried to tick it.  When I and a group of friends arrived one evening in mid-December 1998 the bouncers wanted a "tip" in their bucket before they would let us in, so we went elsewhere.  Today, I found the site surrounded by hoardings and building work under way, so it remains "Not visited." in my guide.  It's not clear whether the work was refurbishment of the bar, or conversion to some other use.

Next target was Taffs Tavern:
This was a plain flat house in a converted shop when I visited in 1998, it has expanded round the corner since then but today the shutters were down and a To Let sign was on display, so I was out of luck.

Number three on my target list was the Albany, and it was open, thank goodness:
A remarkable pub apparently converted from two terraced houses on a side street, nicely decorated and well cared for inside, with some dark wood panelling.  Last time I was here, in 2004, they had hand pulled Cains, but today the handpumps were not in use.

A number of cheerful locals occupied the counter and the smoking area outside, their chit-chat mixing with the racing commentary from the telly above my head as I drank my Guinness.

On to the Millfield Inn, another former Oak Lodges outlet (See last week), with the same decor and split-level (three this time.) layout in a converted shop.  About half a dozen regulars, all men, were engaged in animated chatter at the bar.  One of them must have requested the music be turned up as it suddenly got louder.  I was sitting immediately below a speaker.

Numerous tellys were showing "Doctors", pretty pointlessly with inaudible sound and no subtitles.

The snow had given up as I moved on to the Old Omnibus, which is now called Brambles:
Inside, it doesn't look any different to its second period as the Old Omnibus, after Dickie Lewis's was burned out in 2003.  What were originally a number of rooms have been knocked through to create one open area.

About ten locals, mostly chatting at the bar, plus one pub ticker, comprised the Tuesday afternoon trade.

The telly was showing the rather moving 60th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster live from Old Trafford, where it was snowing heavily, but I was the only person watching, I think.

Next, back for the fourth time today to the road junction which I think of as the centre of Old Swan.  There used to be three pubs here but the Cygnet:
and the Red House:
are long closed.  The Old Swan itself remains:
The large partially knocked through interior is pleasantly done out.  When the barmaid eventually noticed I existed and abandoned her chat, I got another Guinness.

Unlike today's previous calls this place was buzzing with customers and the gentle muzak was completely drowned by animated conversations.  I must say I was surprised to see a pub so busy at four o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon.

By the way, when it says "Please mind your head" over the way into one of the side areas, they're not kidding.  Ouch!!

Finally, just along the road is the Masons Arms:
Presumably this was originally a multi-room pub, but it has been knocked through to create one large open room.  However, the area at one side of the bar has a sign "DINING AREA ONLY", keeping a degree of separation.

Quite a few people, old blokes, families, little kids, were in, although it wasn't as busy as the Old Swan.  I got chatting to a local and it turned out we shared some common history; for many years I worked near here, and he had spent three years working at the same firm.

A member of the "Time well spent" Greene King chain, and quite a few of the customers were eating.

Next week perhaps Prescot if the new micro-pub has opened, or if not maybe West Derby Village.