Monday 30 March 2020

Lockdown Update

The last two pubs I visited were the Oak Tree and the Swan in Huyton, in the afternoon of "Lockdown Friday", the 20th of March.  The landlady in the Swan was busy putting up Mothering Sunday decorations, not knowing they wouldn't be used.

I was tempted to nip to Wetherspoon's in the evening for a farewell pint or two of decent real ale, but in the end I didn't bother.  I may come to regret that more as the weeks drag on into months.

Today (Monday) I headed into town on the train to visit the Blood Donors.  The city was very quiet, of course, with all pubs shut, but I was particularly concerned to see the Vernon Arms was boarded up - They're obviously not expecting to re-open any time soon, if at all.

By the way, if you're short of supplies, the Lidl on Lime Street had plenty of bread, milk, eggs, rice and toilet rolls, a few bags of pasta and even some antibacterial liquid soap.  And it wasn't busy.

Thursday 12 March 2020


Gosh, it's windy here, perhaps I should have selected an inland location for today's survey!  Anyway, the sun was shining brightly as I started a mopping-up operation in Waterloo.  I've been here a few times in recent years but there's still a handful of places overdue for a revisit.  I started in the Old Bank:
Something strange in here.  Either my memory from 2011 is faulty or the place has been gutted and remodelled.

The interior now is extremely well done in traditional pub style, with lots of dark wood panelling and some glazed partitions.  The more I look, the more I think it is all new, in which case they've done a superb job.

Two clips on the pumps, and my pint of Titanic Steerage was excellent.  Most of the regulars were watching the horse racing (Cheltenham Festival), and my change came with a sweepstake ticket offering a free pint if my horse won, but it didn't.

The sound in here was lively chatter amongst the cheerful regulars, with racing commentary in the background.  What a great pub.

Just two doors down is Wetherspoon's Queens Picture House:
A quick scan of the counter here, and it was another Titanic brew which caught my eye, so I had an excellent pint of White Star which I must say tasted just like the Steerage I had before.

As you would expect in a spoons, the place was busy with a wide spectrum of customers, but not so busy that I couldn't find a comfortable seat.

The quirky decor is rather good in here, I sat in the side room which has bare brick walls and a skylight to let the sunshine in.

My next target was another pub not visited since 2011, the Lion and Unicorn:
They certainly like their pubs in Waterloo!  Another busy lively boozer with the soundtrack a mixture of cheerful chatter and racing commentary.

No real ale in this one, so I had a pint of Foster's for a change, Australian fizz instead of the usual Canadian.  (Yes, I know they're both brewed in England.)

No matter which way I looked there was a screen showing the racing, I couldn't avoid it.

That's the three pubs here overdue for a visit ticked off, what should I do now?  I decided to finish in one which has changed its name since my last visit.  In 2018 it was Stamps Too, now it's the Waterpudlian:
Apart from the name, nothing seems to have changed here since my previous visit.  The decor is exactly the same, in fact there's still a Stamps Too sign, and most importantly the real ale continues to be excellent.  Another favourite of mine, White Rat, was on so no difficulty in choosing what to have.  And it was great.

Only two other customers, which is a shame; this place deserves more.  Happily, as soon as I'd written that another one came in, followed moments later by some more.

Time to head home.

Pub of the day: The Old Bank for it's brilliant rebuild.
Miles walked: Only half a mile today.
Maybe coming soon: Thornton and Crosby.

Thursday 5 March 2020

Saint Helens West

A bus ride in bright sunshine carried me to some overdue ticks in the South west of St Helens, and I started my researches in the Eccleston Arms:
In the twenty-two years (!) since my last visit this has moved up market and it's now a rather posh looking dining place. They also have accommodation upstairs.

Two handpumps on the counter, I'm afraid my pint of Lancaster Amber was of poor quality, probably first out of the pump today.

There were a few groups of diners scattered around the four areas, I sat in the front room in splendid isolation. The Muzak was pleasingly quiet.

Just a short walk away is the Bird i'th Hand, another pub last visited in '98:
No problems with the real ale here because they didn't have any, so it was a half of fizz for me.

Outside, as you can see, this is a rather fine inter-war roadhouse, I don't think much if any of the interior is original apart from the doors and windows, but it's very pleasant. It has been mostly knocked through but pillars and some glazed wood panelling keep the separation between areas.

Only a handful of customers were in, quiet chatter mixing with the music.
The menu of pub food standards looks good, and good value. The font on the name sign had led me to believe this is another Greene King chain pub, but the menu suggested it might be independent?

On to the Black Bull:
Completing a very satisfying trio of pubs not visited since 1998, this one is housed in a splendid inter-war building even better than the last one. Inside I found the interior is a mixture of original features and more modern parts.

No clips on the handpumps again, I had Guinness this time.

At three on a Thursday afternoon the place was pretty empty, in fact at one point I think I was the only customer in the room.

This large room was only a small part of the building, I suspect there are other rooms perhaps closed on a weekday afternoon, or permanently. On the other hand, I could hear voices from elsewhere so maybe they are in use.

My next target was a never before visited pub which I expected to be closed, the Glassblower:
And indeed it was.

Now time for a treat, CAMRA's national pub of the year 2018 and still great, the Cricketers Arms:
I was pleased to find this place continues to be a real ale fans' heaven, and my pint of Jarl was perfect. Served in an oversized glass as well.

No audible music in here, the soundtrack was cheerful chatter from the many customers, certainly the busiest pub of the day so far.

It's pleasing that, away from the town centre, hard work and quality ale can make a successful pub, long may it continue.

Pub of the day: Obviously the Cricketers.
Miles walked: 2.3