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.

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