Thursday 26 April 2018

Brighton Breezy

Tuesday's planned research outing was postponed due to incessant rain, so it was not until Thursday that I took a train under the river to a windy New Brighton, where there are a couple of pubs I've never visited, and quite a few overdue for a revisit.  Little did I know...

My first target, the never visited Corner was closed with the windows boarded up, not a good start:
I headed on.  The Railway has closed:
Next, the Stag appeared operational but wasn't open:
My other never visited objective, the Bow-Legged Beagle, had the shutters down.  Four failures, we're building to a disaster now, am I condemned to die of thirst?

At last, an open pub:
Inside the Perch Rock the small front room was quite full of customers, but there was still space for me to have a table to sit at.

I relaxed and cheered up with an excellent pint of Landlord and I penned the above tale of woe.  The background music was at just the right level, and was occasionally drowned out by the chatter of the regulars.  The decor is pleasant in here, and well looked after.  Not for the first time, I forgot to have a look at the back rooms which I haven't examined since 1999.

I strolled down to photograph the former Redcaps which has been closed for some years:
... and then doubled back to the Ship Hotel which I was relieved to see was open:
I entered a pleasant enough plain front bar with one or two customers, the rest of the place was empty.  The barman poured me a Guinness while on the phone organising a repair to one of the fonts.

I settled down to enjoy my drink, and observed the place was basically dead at half past two on a Thursday.  No wonder all those other ones weren't open!  There were more TV channels on display than there were customers to watch them!

They've got those retro light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, I'm not sure why but I always think they look daft, with their spiral or zig-zag filaments.  Goodness knows how much it costs if a bulb blows - Mind you, they are very under-run here so should have a long life.  (Actually, a quick Google showed they're not as expensive as I imagined.)

By the time I had finished my pint I was the only customer, so I left the friendly barman on his own.

What to do next, I wondered?  The Harbour is open, the Clarence isn't even supposed to open until 4pm so goodness knows if I'll get in there.  Other than those, it's a choice between a long walk or pubs I ticked last year.

I headed towards the Harbour but wait!  Something's changed.  The shutters are up on the Bow-legged Beagle and - Yes!! - It's open:
I entered to find a tiny room, very nicely decorated with lots of rough timber.  From the four handpumps I selected an Elderflower Wheat from local brewery Brimstage.  Only one other customer was in when I arrived.

I soon got talking to the barman/owner, clearly a real ale fan who takes his products seriously.  (And it shows, my ale was gorgeous.)  He gave me some info about other pubs in the area and elsewhere and we chatted about breweries and beers until a couple of friendly regulars came in.

As it was now after four I moved on to the Clarence, not visited since 2006:
It was open but deserted, and after a couple of pulls into the bucket I got a spot on pint of something pale.  The pleasant decor, fake beams and all, is basically unchanged since I was last here - Although obviously well maintained.

Judging by the signage the Sunday roasts I noted back in '06 are still an important part of the operation.  I checked out the menu and I must say it looks good value with lots of mains for £8.

So, after a flaky start I ended the day with a score of one excellent new pub and three pints of quality real ale, not bad at all.

I'll be back before long, to do the cluster of pubs just outside New Brighton: The Magazine, the Pilot Boat, the Sandridge and the Telegraph.  If any of them are open.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Sunny Cambridge

A mini-survey in the city of my birth saw me on a bus in the glorious sunshine, starting my research in the Good Beer Guide listed Haymakers:
This is a member of the small chain of places owned by the nearby Milton Brewery, and like the others it's a great pub!  I found the full range of their beers on offer as well as some guests, and I had a fine pint of Pegasus.

The interior decor is plain pastel coloured walls plus some bare brick, with wooden floor and furniture.  At 1230 on a Wednesday it was pretty quiet, with just a handful of customers, mostly eating I think.

Yesterday I had a bit of a shock in London when I was charged FIVE POUNDS for a pint of decent real ale*. Particularly painful after paying £1.79 in my local 'spoons on Monday.  I'm trying to remember, I think five quid might be an all time record, certainly for a pub in the UK.

Anyway, the prices in here were more reasonable, equivalent to the more expensive end of the Liverpool price range.

I was appalled to see, on the sign above the bar, a section headed WHISKEY listing mostly Scotch whisky.  Oh dear.  (To be fair there were three Irish Whiskeys in the list.)

On to the Green Dragon:
A rather fine riverside pub, this, with Greene King's Time Well Spent branding.  If I was in charge I'd rename it the Greene Dragon.

The interior is pleasantly antiquey with some very old looking beams and an enormous brick fireplace.  Most of the customers, however, were choosing to sit on the other side of the road in the beer garden by the river to eat their dinner.

Two GK brews were on offer along with a couple of guests, and I selected Elgood's Cambridge Bitter, a classic bitter in perfect nick.

My next port of call was the GBG listed Maypole, which I haven't visited since 2010:
Unusually, I entered by the correct door and was faced with no less than eight handpumps.  I eventually chose White Horse Bitter which was very good.  There was also a wide range of craft beers.

Following my grumbles about prices above, I must point out that one of the real ales, at 6.7%, was £6 here.  My 3.7% pint was a marginally less eye-watering £4.20.

Most of the few customers were outside on the terrace, but I stayed in the bar to enjoy my pint in splendid isolation.

There's a bit of classic pub architecture in here, the curved matchboarded counter front and canopy above are redolant of the 1940s or 50s.  There's a fascinating timeline of the pub's history from 1851 to the present day on the wall but the crucial entry, a rebuild after 1936 and before 1957, only has a question mark for the date.

* Name and shame?  OK, it was the Betjemen Arms in St. Pancras station.

Tuesday 10 April 2018


On a cold and very grey day I headed for Anfield.  My first target was the Glenbuck (formerly the Stanley):
It looks like it might still be operational, but it wasn't open on a Tuesday afternoon.

On to the King Harry:
Curses!  Another one that looks like it's operating as a pub, but it's not open.  Was this going to be theme of the day?

On to the Salisbury, now called the Twelfth Man, and - Yippee - It's open:
My notes from 2004 described it as nicely done out and it still is.  A traditional two room layout, there was one customer sitting at the counter in the side I chose.  The cheerful landlady struggled to get some Guinness out of the pump, but after pouring some away and some careful topping up I got a good pint.

After I'd typed the above another customer came in and chose to sit at the table next to mine, causing me to stop writing this and put my tablet away, in case he objected to anything I was writing.  In fact, after a brief exchange he politely kept himself to himself, so no problem.

Next, the Albert.  My streetview research had led me to believe this was closed, and it was:
I expect LFC will snap the plot up and add it to their ever-increasing footprint.  I've since been advised it is still open on match days.

On to the Park:
Knocked through into one pleasant split-level room this boozer is very close to the ground, with the Paisley Gateway visible across the road through the large front windows.

There were enough customers in here to create a pleasant background of chatter, along with the clack of pool balls and the sound from a TV music channel at a sensible volume.

The pool players were having great fun, spending more time laughing and arguing over the rules which none of them knew than actually playing.

Next, I headed for the Sandon:
It was shut at the time of my visit, another with limited opening hours.  However, they have expanded to take over the whole block, and at the other end of the complex I found Dodds open:
Inside I found a rather good interior with unusual modern styling, bare brick walls and arches painted light grey and a plainish black/grey/white colour scheme I rather liked.  I recently visited another pub with this "colour" scheme but I can't remember which one!

Quite a few drinkers and pool players were keeping the place ticking over nicely.  There was racing on the tellies but I couldn't see anyone watching it.

The pool players in here were taking it more seriously than in the Park.

Finally, that extremely rare bonus, a pub I've never heard of:  The Church:
Wow!  Inside is a rather splendid converted church looking beautiful.  Seating is on pews, as well as normal chairs, in the high ceilinged open room with a counter in one corner.

Totally unexpected, someone's obviously put a lot of money into saving this building and converting it, but surely it can't make any money here in Anfield?  I hope I'm wrong about that, as the room is a wonderful space and all it needs is more customers.  It so deserves to survive.

The food menu looks great value, but they can't be making enough to pay the chef's wages when it's as quiet as this.

As I drank my Guinness I wondered how long this place has been here as a pub.  A scan of Streetview says about a year.

Next, to provide a little entertainment, two women came in, picked on the quiet corner where I was sitting and decided, for no apparent reason, to re-arrange things by moving the pews about, causing total chaos.  Luckily, after four pints I was relaxed and happy so I just laughed, helped shove a pew, and got out of the way.

Saturday 7 April 2018

The Derby In The Derby

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) will already be familiar with the Woolton Pub Crawl, which nowadays isn't a pub crawl but a friends' reunion.  My plan today was to tick off some of the Woolton pubs we don't do any more on this annual event.  And perhaps to find some we should.

The bus, when it eventually turned up, carried me to Woolton and I started my research in the Derby Arms:
This pleasant comfortable pub was busy and everyone was watching the derby match on various tellys.  This included the bar staff, I had to rather rudely rattle a glass on the bar to get some attention, after which I was served a fine pint of Weetwood Cheshire Cat.  I retreated to a corner where I could see the football without blocking anyone's view.

Some great-looking food came out from the kitchen to tempt me, but I resisted and soon finished my pint.

Why does the sign have a picture of a racehorse?  Shouldn't it be the coat of arms of the Earls of Derby?

Next call was the Grapes (Picture from 2012):
This is usually skipped on the Woolton Pub Crawl because it has no real ale and was deemed a bit tatty inside.  The latter is no longer true (If it ever was.) and the antique interior is rather good with some old-looking woodwork and a fine fireplace.

With no footy in here it was much quieter, although still ticking over nicely, so I settled on a comfortable bench seat and enjoyed a Guinness while typing my notes for the Derby and here.

The result was 0-0 by the way.  I must say to my inexpert eye the bit I watched had 0-0 written all over it.  (If anyone from the telly is reading, I'm available as a pundit and I'll do it for half what the crisp spokesman gets.)

On to the Loft:
Despite a number of name changes over the years, this place hasn't altered much, although it has slowly moved upwards in quality, I think, and become more food-oriented.

I seem to remember back when it was Chardonay's it wanted to be a bistro but no-one wanted to eat, but now it was ticking over nicely, with most customers eating at 3 on a Saturday afternoon.  Not all customers though, a number of drinkers - including me - were welcome as well.

The "barn" construction makes for a noisy echoey atmosphere, I imagine it's deafening at busy times.

To finish, the Coffee House:
Good grief, why is my least favourite pub in Woolton the busiest?  The place was packed, with every seat taken and lots standing as well.  The barmaid was efficiently serving two people at once.

To be fair, the place is much tidier and better decorated than it used to be, making for a pleasant appearance.

I eventually found a shelf where I could rest my pint and type this.  At twenty to four it already had a Saturday night atmosphere and noise level.  Nothing wrong with that, but it's not really my sort of place.  Maybe twenty-five years ago!

Suddenly I spotted a group of people had left, so I moved to a comfortable corner while the on-the-ball staff buzzed around clearing tables in between providing good service at the counter.

The level of custom brought back memories of Friday nights out in my younger years, perhaps I need to do more research at peak times because I haven't seen a pub packed like this for yonks, and I was experiencing nostalgic feelings as I swigged my Guinness.

Tuesday 3 April 2018


The Mersey Railway carried me under the river to Green Lane station.  Nearby stands the never before visited Old House At Home:
Outside, the "Lease This Pub" sign was a little worrying, but it was open, and inside I found a classic local pub, with three regulars watching Bargain Hunt on the TV.

It has been knocked through into one room but still retains a plain end and a posh end.  The decor is plain with just the right amount of pictures, mirrors etc.

There seems to a cluster of never-visited pubs at this end of Tranmere, one or two of which seem open on Streetview so as I was drinking my beer I was hoping for some more brand new ticks.

Time for a game of find-the-gents, none of the regulars moved while I was there, so no clues!  Eventually I asked at the bar and was directed to the appropriate unmarked door.

Next, I headed for Revolver which I understand is a weekend evenings only place, so I was not expecting it to be open and I wasn't disappointed.  Just to confuse the pub researcher, the outside signage has two other names as well, the original Royal Castle and also Mr Davidson's Bar:
On to the Lord Raglan, apparently open on Streetview and never before visited, but sadly I was months or even years too late.  Having said that, I suppose it's possible that all the refurbishment work on the building is leading to re-opening as a pub, but I doubt it:

Just up the road, the Mason's Arms has been closed since 2002:
I walked on, and at last I reached an open pub, the Lord Napier:
Here, I found another pleasant comfortable street corner boozer.  In the lounge side three regulars chatted with the barmaid while I enjoyed my Guinness.

I noted two handpumps on the bar, but both had blank clips.

Back in 2003 I used the bar side and described it as well cared for, this time I was in the lounge which is equally well looked after.

Where next?  I was faced with a difficult decision, do I go to pubs I've visited "recently" or do I take a long walk to one I've never been in, that might be closed?  The decision was nearly made for me as it had started to rain when I reached the Cock and Donkey, (Still open unlike the Seaforth one.) but by the time I'd taken a photo and crossed the road the rain had stopped, so as I'd ticked it in 2015 I walked on:
The Sportsmans Arms was last visited in 2012 so I skipped that one as well:
I marched on towards the Imperial:
Result!!  Never before visited, and it's open!

Inside I found a two sided pub knocked through around a three-sided counter.

The handpumps were purely decorative, I think, and Guinness was from a can, so I ordered a lager for a change, and sat in the very nice lounge area.  The decor includes a rather fine fireplace, and some good fairly modern leaded glass above the counter.

Quite a few regulars, including a couple of children (School holidays this week.) created a gentle hubbub of chatter and laughter.  Once again there was some kind of antiques program on the telly, but no-one was watching that fella with the leather face.

When it was time to go I studied my map.  A number of pubs I believed to be closed, a cluster of four ticked in 2012, and a single one not visited since 1998.  So of course it was that for which I aimed.  En route I passed the Alexandra, the Victoria and the Carlton, all closed as expected:

  Finally, I reached the Birch Tree:
Back in 1998, when it was called The Mersey Clipper, I described it as a large split-level barn.  Twenty years later not much has changed although it's obviously been redecorated and cared for.  It's now a member of Greene King's "Flaming Grill" chain.

A number of customers were spread thinly in the large room, families with children as well as drinkers.

I decided not to risk the cask ale, the only one on was a Greene King seasonal.

It's a nice feature to have a cluster of pictures of regulars (I presume) and staff on the wall, it makes it feel more friendly than many of these chain pubs.  The barmaid chatting with the regulars at the bar added to that feeling.  It was a bit of a shock when it occurred to me that she might not have been born last time I was in here!