Friday 30 November 2018

Fazakerley and Walton

This week's "Tuesday survey" was somewhat delayed due to the horrible weather but at last I arrived at Fazakerley station on a chilly but sunny Friday.

After noting that the (Closed for some years.) Grey Chaser has been demolished and replaced by a Lidl, I started in the Foresters Inn:
Not much has changed since my last visit eight years ago, this is a plain tidy one room bar in the Oak Lodges style (But without the split level.)  Probably a conversion from two shops.

Only four regulars, old blokes, were in - Three sitting at the counter and on on his own on the other side of the room.  I really shouldn't call them old, the youngest was about my age.

Possibly to become a theme of this blog over the next month is a report about Christmas decorations:  Here they were pleasant and understated.

On to the Farmers Arms:
I think this must be a post-war construction?  Inside there's not much original in a rather well done large open room with pleasant Crimbo decorations.  But it's bloody freezing - Why have they propped the front door open?

Five old blokes were the regular custom, and I added one more to the count.

Over the road the Prince George looked closed:
But in fact the side door was open and I entered the bar side to find two old blokes sitting at the counter.

The bar is plain but very well cared for and, hallelujah, it's impressively warm!  That seems very rare nowadays.

On visiting the gents I discovered there were a couple more customers in the lounge side.

It's only a short walk to Walton, where I started in the Black Bull:
My notes from '04 describe it as a little run down inside.  Not true now, it's plain, tidy and well looked after.  No Christmas dekos here!  A really large pub, and with more customers than the last three put together it still felt empty!  And very cold.

For the first time today there was a steady hubub of cheerful chatter, with the music taking a background role.

Next, I skipped the Wetherspoon's Raven because I did it earlier this year:

Just across the busy road from there is a shop conversion I've never visited, the Vale Bar:
Well I never!  The decor is over the top and great fun in this shop conversion.  I'm not sure how much of it was for Christmas, but as I sat amid flashing "disco" lighting I have to say I loved it.  Every square inch of wall space was filled with something:  Umpteen clocks, witty signs ("Wine - The Classy Persons way to get Hammered"), and so on.

I also noted an amusing bar stool with bike pedals for a footrest - complete with a matching sprocket wheel and chain.  Clearly, someone with a sense of humour has decorated the place, and they've done a great job.

Plenty of regulars were keeping the barmaid busy, there were more people in here than in the Bull.

On leaving the Vale I dodged around a bit to make sure I'd got pictures of all my remaining targets in daylight - All the pictures further down were taken at this time - before I headed for the Warbreck:
In this large interwar building with a touch of brewers' Tudor is a very large and comfortable two-sided traditional pub.  The interior looks like it was substantially remodelled in the sixties, with no changes (apart, that is, from careful maintenance) since then.

One handpump was visible but I think it's purely decorative - No clip, anyway.

The bar side was full of women with curlers in their hair, many of whom had suitcases with them - Some kind of girls' weekend away, I guess.  Or maybe Walton is the destination!  They were making an appalling racket, anyway, so I quickly headed for the quieter lounge side!

Now that I'd got all my required photies, I could slow down and relax in this warm comfortable boozer.  Suddenly I noticed it had got quieter - The hen party had departed.  The main sound now was gentle chatter mixed with a music video channel on the telly.

Next, back to the mysterious never visited Orrell Park Bar.  Is it a pub or just a function suite?
The answer is that it is mainly an enormous well done out function room, but there is also a smaller (not small) bar open to the public.  As I arrived the barman/landlord was receiving a delivery, I entered and climbed the stairs to find myself in the tidy plain (No Christmas decorations yet) bar on my own. 

Soon the barman joined me and poured me a lager before returning to sorting out the newly arrived bottles.

Two or three other customers came in while I drank, mostly to buy tickets or make arrangements for later events rather than buy a drink, and soon I was alone once again.  The drink sales can't possibly pay for the heating in here, it's comfortably warm.

Next, the impressive former bank that is now Joey Orr's:
Inside is a very well done and wonderfully warm pub knocked through to create one room around the island counter.  My comments from 2004 and before said shabby but, as usual, that's no longer the case.  The quality Christmas decorations were skilfully under-done.

The main sound in here was steady chatter with music in the background.  The TVs were showing The Sweeney, but it was hard to follow with no sound.  Actually, it was on in the Orrell Park as well, an odd coincidence until you realise that the previous programme was racing.

Finally, I headed to the fine building that is the Windsor:
A large construction dating from the 1950s (or maybe earlier), with three or four rooms busy at half four in a Friday, I struggled to find a free table.  Well decorated in "traditional" pub style.

I have fond memories of a visit here on a wet Sunday afternoon back in 2000 when I had a perfect pint of cask Tetley's, one of my favourite ales, sharing the pub with just one or two other customers and three staff.  I think only the front room was in use then.  Nothing like that today, there must be fifty people in here.  At least.

The dekkies were pleasantly restrained.

Time to head for home.  That's a record for recent times:  Nine pubs in one survey!  I did do ten halves in ten pubs on a Thursday evening once but that was a long time ago, and my all time best was nineteen pubs in twelve hours on a Woolton Pub Crawl.

The record came at a cost, of sorts, though:  Generally I was the only person with a half pint glass, in fact I never saw a half apart from mine anywhere today.  I guess you have to put up with this if you want to tick off lots of places!

Obviously surveying on a Friday I expect the places to be more busy than on my usual Tuesday, but I must say the pubs of Fazakerley and Walton were mostly busier and livelier than I had expected.

Pub of the day: The Vale Bar wins because of its fun decor and cheerful atmosphere.
Miles walked: 2.25
Maybe coming soon: St Helens, Tranmere

Tuesday 20 November 2018


I decided the cold, windy and wet weather and the early sunset meant my planned Bromborough trip, which would involve a good few long walks, was unwise; in fact I think such excursions might need to be postponed until the spring.  It took me about two hours in the morning to sort out a map of (hopefully) all the pubs in Birkenhead, after which it was time to head out.

My first target was the rather intriguing Vandal which according to Google Maps is located in a residential area near Birkenhead Central station.  I wandered down the indicated street and saw nothing, so I suspect someone is having fun at Google's (and my) expense.

I soon reached a real destination, the Windsor Castle:
Behind the rather good ceramic exterior is one pleasant L-shaped space, with a dozen or more regulars standing at the counter or sitting around the room.  A hubub of chatter filled the comfortable room.

I walked a short distance to the Warwick, clearly operational but not open on a Tuesday afternoon, especially disappointing as I've never visited before:

So, on to the Charing Cross:
Now here we find a classic.  A splendid two sided traditional boozer, busy with chattering locals.  Underneath the cheerful conversations I could hear sixties music and the clack of pool balls.  Free sandwiches and sausage rolls were on the bar, but I was just a touch too late, and only a few scraps remained, so I resisted.

I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that the John Smith's hand pumps were purely decorative, and stuck to lager.  I didn't see any pulled while I was there.

Just a few yards up the road is the former Yates's Wine Lodge, now called Desi's:
One very large room, double height in the middle over the counter but with a mezzanine floor above half the area.  There were about twenty people in, but there was room for at least ten times that number, plus more upstairs.

Again, the soundtrack was a hubub of chit-chat from the many regulars, with music in the background.

Some redecoration was in progress, perhaps eliminating any last traces of Yates's styling.

On into the enormous labyrinthine pedestrianised shopping area of Birkenhead, and the rather wonderful Garrick Snug:
Just one room with most seats occupied, I managed to perch on the end of a bench seat, no table to stand my drink on so I had to hold it in one hand and balance the tablet on my knee to type this.

Quite a few old features remain here, leaded glass in the windows and dark wood panelling on the walls.

In common with all the ticks so far today, the main sound was cheerful chatter, with music in the background (Until the landlady started to sing along!)

The music video channel moved on to If She Knew What She Wants by the Bangles.  Here's a music trivia question for you:  Who was the first DJ on a UK radio station to regularly play the Bangles?  The answer is that it was I, back in my pirate radio days!

Next, the George and Dragon:
Another popular pleasant two sided boozer, partly knocked through but it has still got some separate areas, and I adjourned to a quiet back part with my half of Canada's "finest".

Again, the soundtrack was cheerful chatter over music.  Strangely, they seemed to be playing a lot of Tracey Chapman, including tracks unfamiliar to me, so not just her debut eponymous album.

The decor in here is traditional, and the fireplace, the bar back and carved wood counter front appear to be pretty old, possibly original.

My final target for today was the Waterloo:
All the pubs visited so far have been well cared for, this one was exceptionally so.  The carved wood bar front with leaded glass above are all "fake", I think, but no less attractive for that.

The spotless two-sided interior was populated by a handful of regulars, chatting and playing pool.

It was rather chilly in here, and it occurred to me that I hadn't taken my coat off yet on today's excursion.  None of the pubs were warm, this one the coldest of all.  I think the warmest was, surprisingly, the largest, Desi's.

Pub of the day: The Garrick Snug for its slightly historic interior and pleasant atmosphere.
Miles walked: 2.5
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley

Saturday 17 November 2018

Not Saint Helens

Don't you just hate it when a plan falls apart, especially when it's entirely due to ones own stupidity.

Another train strike Saturday so I walked up to the bus station intending a trip to St Helens where there are still a couple of days worth of pubs calling for my attention.  I entered the ticket office to buy my day pass, and promptly bought the wrong one.  Luckily I realised my mistake before boarding the bus, but what to do now?  Any normal person would have written off the four quid and bought the right ticket but I'm far too mean for that, so I returned home to re-plan.  Where could I go, by bus, with the ticket I'd got?  A quick shuffle through my pub maps and I hit on the Woolton and Hunts Cross one, which had a few targets, accessible by bus from outside my house.

So, half an hour later I found myself at the Hillfoot:
A standard food-led place in the "Sizzling" chain, ticking over nicely but not packed at one, the friendly barman said it usually gets busy about two or three on a Saturday.  Two or three handpumps, with clips turned round.

There was some kind of baby shower (Whatever that is) going on in part of the pub, of the rest of the customers I guess about half were dining.

These food-led places have a tendency to be a bit soul-less, if that's the right term, but this one seemed more friendly/comfortable/pleasant than most.  The barmaid paused to chat to the regular at the next table, the barman was cheerful and chatty with all, it just seemed more like a "proper pub" than most.

Next, Allerton Hall Farm,which was called the Pub In The Park last time I came:
On the counter here were three handpumps, two with clips turned round, the other offering Greene King IPA, but I didn't risk it.  Back in 2002 I had a naff pint in here, and I always hold a grudge!!  None was pulled while I drank my lager, so probably a wise decision.

The interior of this food-led operation in an historic building is a bit of a hotch-potch including Ionic columns, ceiling plasterwork and wooden panelling.  I'm not sure if any of it is genuine but I like it anyway.

The carvery was doing a good trade and the majority of my fellow customers were eating.  Despite the "please wait to be seated" sign at the door (which I had ignored) non-diners are welcome, and there were a number of tables without cutlery and condiments ready for us.  Mind you, with the wafting smell of roast meat, I was nearly tempted myself.  I guess that's what it's for.

Next, I strolled in to Woolton itself where, despite the annual pub crawl and a mopping up trip this April, there was still one place I hadn't visited since 2013, the Quarry:
Hidden up a driveway, this doesn't look very attractive from the outside, but once you get in it's a very pleasant social club style place, with a bar ticking over with a handful of regulars, and a larger function room with all the tables laid for a posh do later.

I must day the interior of the bar is rather attractive, despite being all modern.  There's some painted wood panelling, some fake ancient stone walling, and some plastic brickwork, combining to create a comfortable homely atmosphere.

Silent racing was on the telly, the only sound was quiet conversation.

On leaving, I noted the rumoured closure of the Loft was incorrect or had been temporary, and it was open as usual.

Decision time:  Should I (a) re-do pubs last visited in 2017, (b) re-do a favourite pub last visited four months ago, or (c) go home?

Sod it, I can't be bothered, lets go home.  If I'd gone to St Helens as intended I could have ticked six or seven today, instead of only three.

Pub of the day: To be honest, none of the visits on this mini-survey stood out.
Miles walked: 2.5
Maybe coming soon: Bromborough.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Countryside and Urban

Two trains took me to Kirkby station, from where I headed off in bright sunshine, almost immediately getting lost in the back streets.  After a bit of doubling back I recovered my bearings and reached Melling and the Horse & Jockey:
I entered by the bar door to find a comfortable room with bench seats round the walls and tables and chairs in the middle.  Cream painted matchboarding below the dado and fake ceiling beams give the room a comfortable plain feel.

No-one in apart from the barmaid, and with no sign of any handpumps I had a half of lager.

Peering through the door it looked like the larger restaurant room was also empty.

Next, a long walk in the sunshine along country roads, to the Pear Tree:
A Greene King chain dining place, this, with rather good restrained decor in the opened out interior.  I guess the colour of the woodwork is probably known as taupe or mushroom, but I'll call it grey.

Just two other customers were visible, finishing their luncheon, while the barman tidied up behind the counter.

The two handpumps were out of use, so it was lager again for me.

Another deserted pub, I guess we're in the mid-November doldrums before the Christmas rush begins.  Actually, I went to what was described as a Christmas beer get-together with some friends on Saturday in Glasgow, so technically it's begun for me!

Another long walk, initially in the countryside and then in more urban surroundings got me to the never visited before Windmill:
Oh dear, at first glance it looks closed, but no, the door at the far end was open and I entered a large open very tidy room occupied by just the barman and one other drinker.  I purchased my lager and sat down.

I could hear the occasional clack of pool balls, so I concluded there were at least two more customers in the other side.

I looked round with my architectural eye:  How much is original in here?  I'm guessing the matchboarding and the plain carved wood counter front, but I suspect the layout of the room has been altered and some walls knocked down.  Still pretty much a classic 60s estate boozer, though.

More pool players arrived as I finished my pint.

Not too far to walk to my next target, the Farmers Arms:
If any of today's pubs were going to be closed it was this one, but I thought it was worth going to photograph the remains.  Streetview showed it looking very tatty and standing in total isolation, surrounded by scrubland.  But when I arrived I found it looks tidy outside, and there are lots of new houses.

Inside I found one plain well cared for room with the most customers I'd seen so far today, about six.  The landlady was playing pool with one of them, while the rest chatted.

Surprisingly, there was a handpump on the counter with a Doom Bar clip, but I wasn't going to risk it, so it was Carling again.

Next, I caught a bus back to the railway station, for my last two ticks.  Continuing today's theme of nobody about, I had the bus to myself initially.  Annoyingly, I got the one that goes the long way round, and then when it finally reached the station I pressed the bell too late, and had to walk back from the next stop, but eventually I reached the Carters Arms.  It was much too dark for a photo by now, but luckily I'd snapped one a few hours ago, when I arrived:
I entered the pleasant room to find it quite busy.  For the first time today a gentle hubub of conversations mixed with the music.

I used to come here regularly twenty years or more ago, and apart from a good redecoration it doesn't seem to have changed much here in the lounge side.

No real ale, my half of Carling was served in a glass from the fridge, as if it wasn't cold enough already!

Finally, the Railway, again photographed earlier today:
Only a few yards from the Carters, but still managing a decent level of custom on a Tuesday evening, and once again the music was mixed with lively chatter, and an awful lot of swearing (Until the Scotsman went home.)

The two-bar interior is partly knocked through, but there's still a separate side room where I sat alone.

Unusually, they don't seem to have Carling, so I had Fosters for a change.

I glanced at the telly at the end of the room.  CHELMSFORD HAS BEEN ABANDONED said the large caption.  What, the whole city?  Where have they all gone?  And how will I tick the Wetherspoon's now?  Time to go home!

Pub of the day: Difficult.  None of them stood out, but all were good.  I think perhaps the Farmers wins, because I only went there to photograph a closed pub!
Miles walked: 5.3
Maybe coming soon: St Helens, Bromborough