Thursday, 23 June 2022

Around Rainhill

A beautifully sunny train strike day, so let's go somewhere accessible without the railway.  An interminable ride on a very hot bus eventually delivered me to the far end of Rainhill, and there was only a short walk needed to bring me to the Manor Farm:

This pub in a beautiful old building was last ticked in 2016 and I'm pleased to say it hasn't changed at all in the intervening years.  Two cask ales were on offer, and the cheerful barman soon served me an excellent pint of Wainwright.

Normally this place is aimed at dining customers, but a gas leak means the kitchen is closed today, although some hungry people did manage to negotiate for some puddings, which of course only require the microwave.  Others gave up and went elsewhere on learning there was no food.

I couldn't tell how busy it would normally be, but today it was very quiet in the cool comfortable interior although there were a number of groups outside in the sunshine.

Next a short stroll to the Ship Inn:

Another food led place, in the Ember Inns chain with their standard decor done very well here.  Not many customers at half two on a Thursday, I wonder if they were getting any diners disappointed by the Manor Farm.

Three cask ales were on offer plus three more coming soon, my London Pride was good.

Another place with a bottomless brunch offer (See this blog passim.) I wonder what you get here between ten and twelve every morning, for twenty quid?  No internet signal so I can't look it up!

Very gentle background music blended with quiet conversations as I relaxed on a leather sofa and enjoyed my ale, which might be the last cask of the day.  I was advised by a member of staff to keep my pint in the middle of the table, as it had a distinct slope at the edge "and you'll end up wearing it".  The tilt wasn't that bad, but I complied - Better safe than sorry.

Now, a much longer stroll.  I had to walk the long way round because the bypass doesn't have any pavement and it would be risky, I felt, to walk in the road.  Reminded me of my time in Pittsburgh, where everyone drove everywhere and pedestrians were often not considered.  Our Friday lunchtime strolls to the local pub were fraught with danger.

Eventually I arrived safe and sound at the Micklehead Green:

A standard Beefeater, this.  Inside the decor is pleasant contemporary.  I had this down as a new construction back in 1999 when I was last here, but I noted some old brickwork inside, and a brick archway.  Could it be an older building, or is this all a well done fake?

The two handpumps were clearly not in use so I had a Carling to cool me off.

Not much custom at half three on a Thursday, the background music was pretty much all I could hear, apart from the staff chatting.

Surprisingly I couldn't see any menus, I thought Beefeater meant food?

Sometimes it's fun to listen in:  Barman lists varieties of wine; woman at counter calls to her friend "what type of red?" and the reply is "a large one".  A woman after my own heart!

Another long walk, again extended by avoiding the suicidal bypass route, took me to the Boars Head:

Phew!  I wiped the sweat from my brow.  The sun had disappeared, but the humidity and temperature felt high, and I was feeling a bit tired and overheated as I entered this rather fine multi room two sided boozer.  I last visited in 2012, since when I had noted it boarded up in 2015, but reopened in 2016, and it seems to be doing fairly well in 2022.

The interior is plain but well done, with partial knocking through retaining the separation of the rooms.  I sat opposite a rather fine old fireplace.

While checking the cricket score I noticed a local thunderstorm warning for today.  Was I going to get wet on my way home?  We'll see.  I don't fancy my chances of finding an emergency taxi if it rains on a rail strike day!

Suddenly I was in a cooling breeze.  Had someone opened a door, or was a cumulonimbus cell passing?  It looked a lot darker outside.  I called up the rainfall radar - Hmmm, I might need my umby.

The plan for today included another two targets, one never before visited, but the muggy heat and the long walk made me wonder if I should go home now.  I need to walk back to Rainhill whatever, so let's see how I feel when I get there.  As I walked I was spotted by a little light rain, and at one point I looked across the fields to my left to see that they were all greyed out by heavy rainfall, but luckily it didn't reach me.

My next destination, a new tick in the Bar Next Door, was shut.  Drat.

So I headed to old favourite the Commercial.  A quick Wainwright and I could be at the station in time for the last train home, surely quicker than the planned bus.

Cricket on the telly kept me entertained in this wonderful gem of a pub which has always been one of my favourites.  It was not busy but ticking over nicely. The rain had started properly, judging by the wet umbrellas coming in.

The rain had stopped when I left the pub, but it started again as I waited on the platform.  Would the last train be packed, maybe even too full to get on?

It wasn't.

Pub of the day: Long standing favourite, the Commercial.
Miles walked: 4.6
Maybe coming soon: Kirkby

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Everton and Anfield

I started today's excursion with a bus to Tuebrook, where I wanted to try the Venue Sports Bar:

Sadly, investigation inside revealed they only sell beer for events and functions, so I don't think this really counts as a bar.  I could have had a bottle of Moretti from the fridge to claim the tick, but it's not really valid.  Shame, this would have been another step towards fourteen hundred.

Instead I left for a walk to the second pub on my list.

Oh no, the Claremont, last visited in 2017, is well and truly closed:

On to my third target, the Flat Iron:

Thank goodness, a tick at last!  Eighteen years since my last visit and the internal layout, three rooms in a wedge shaped building, hasn't changed.  In the intervening period it has been beautifully maintained, inside and out.

I sat in the triangular front bar which has giant windows letting in plenty of daylight.  Every inch of wall is covered with all sorts of pictures and posters, ranging from White Star Line notices offering places on the Titanic, to humorous slogans (e.g. Save water, drink beer.)

Only five other customers at two on a Saturday, no wonder they don't bother to open in the afternoon during the week.

I really do like this boozer, the interior is very well done although a coat of paint might improve the window frames.

Just a short walk towards the football ground took me to the Arkles, last ticked on the same crawl as the Flat Iron back in '04:

As far as I can tell from my notes this place is unchanged, although obviously some good redecoration work and carpet replacement has happened.  One large open room around the servery.

I wonder if it's named after the racehorse?  I did some research (Google) to find that was called Arkle so clearly not.  The pub sign is no help as it shows a picture of the pub.  I guess the pub's name comes from Arkles Road and Arkles Lane, which meet here, but that doesn't really answer the question.

Three handpumps on the counter, two with glasses over, so with a little trepidation I ordered the other one, and was rewarded with a fine pint of Abbot.

I was intrigued by a sign warning that by entering I have given permission for Greene King to use footage in future advertising.  I've always wanted to be on the telly, but I don't think this empty pub, pleasant thought it is, is what they want to portray.  Anyway, they can't afford my appearance fee!

Oooer:  The predictive text on my tablet produced "but I don't think" in the last sentence without me having to type anything after but.  I'm afraid this demonstrates that my writing is unoriginal and repetitive but, dear reader, I think we knew that already, didn't we?

Next, the Midden:

It looks like an operational pub but it's not open at three on a Saturday.  Last visited in the year 2000, I would have liked to tick it again, but I was out of luck today.  This is not the first time I've found it disappointingly shut.  While we're discussing the origin of pub names, I thought a midden was a dungheap - Not an attractive name for a pub.

How about Turpins, last ticked in 1999?

Yes, it's still going and my comments from 23 years ago, "a rather grubby exterior hides a pleasant, clean, popular, friendly pub knocked through into one room" still apply, except that the outside is a bit tidier I think.  Although it could do with sign showing the name!

Quite a few customers in, and the main sound was animated chatter, mostly drowning the racing channel on the tellies.

In the well done interior I noticed some old, possibly original features, some fine leaded glass including the word bar in the porch through which I had entered.

I watched the racing channel for a few minutes, they were loading the horses into the starting gates at Ascot.  They really don't want to go in, do they?  Is it cruel?  I can understand the argument that the horses enjoy a good gallop, but they really didn't seem happy to be clamped into the gate.  I guess there's too much money being made by rich people for us to ever consider stricter rules, or an outright ban.

After a few pints one's mind wanders off on all sorts of odd paths.  I wondered how it would be if there were various distance races for human runners every day, and we could bet on them.  This would avoid any complaints of animal cruelty.  All the current horseracing stuff about form and so on would still apply.  Would we lose the theatre of the ring before the race?  Why, the trainer could lead their runner around for the crowd to assess.

The "salesman" here was selling plugins, I think it's a kind of air freshener.  He didn't find any customers.

Where next?  It's not far, in fact I can see it up the road, to the Grove:

A fine building with some good external ceramics and great leaded glasswork contains a fine two sided boozer, with quite a few regulars keeping the bar staff busy.

The interior is a mix of original and contemporary, a rather fine blend, I really like the decor here.

Again racing commentary mixed with happy chatter, one particularly loud gambler making most of the noise.  His horse came second, "I should have gone each way"!

On the counter was one of those Corona fonts which has a window in the front showing bubbles rising in a lager coloured liquid.  I hope this is a fake?  I'm not sure I want to drink beer that's been exposed to the light and bubbled since the last person ordered.

Time for home.

Pub of the day: Arkles, for the ale.
Miles walked: 3.2
Maybe coming soon: Rainhill, Kirkby

Friday, 10 June 2022

St Helens Again

I cancelled yesterday's trip because it was raining, and set off this morning in much nicer weather, and I was soon on a bus out of St Helens.

I jumped off on the edge of Haydock just before my first target, the Owls Nest (Photo later)

Curses!  It's not open.  Never before visited, this would have made a good start to today's mission but it was not to be.

I walked to the Ship Inn:

Despite a big sign outside saying they open at twelve, it was closed at 12:20.  In the time it took me to take the photo and cross the road, four other prospective customers arrived and departed, disappointed.

Facebook had suggested this might close after two, which was why I came early in the first place.  Hmmph.

Things can only get better?  Let's try the Starting Gate:

Phew, it's open.  A rather fine estate pub from the sixties or seventies, the interior has been knocked through to create one room, very well decorated.  Never before visited, so a highly desirable tick.

Five other customers were hardly keeping the place busy, thank goodness it's open!

The main sound in here was the clack of pool balls, and gentle chatter amongst the players.

Now, a bit of a dilemma:  Do I retrace my steps in case of one o'clock opening, or just move on?  I checked Facebook, and the Ship had posted just 12 minutes ago, so I returned and, sure enough, it was open this time.

Obviously I'm prejudiced by the previous frustration, but I thought the decor here was a bit dull, although well maintained, clean and tidy.

Two handpumps on the counter but no clips, so I had a second Carling.

Only two others were in, just think how many more there would be if they'd opened on time!  The main sound was cars passing the open front door, mixing with quiet music and conversation.

Should I now dawdle over this pint so I can retry the Owl after two o'clock?  Or carry on?  To be fair, Google says they open at two, which seems more likely than whatpub's eleven which I had noted when researching, so the temptation of a second brand new tick was too much to resist.

Victory from the jaws of defeat!  It's open, for a second new tick making this number 1,391.  That fourteen hundred is getting close.

Clearly they had only just opened, with one solitary regular to greet me cheerfully and the barmaid busy sorting crisps.  Not complaining, thirty seconds later I was drinking another Carling in a quiet corner.  The barmaid circled the large open lounge turning on the tellies to show racing, kindly skipping the one above my head and turning down the volume on the one in front of me.  If I'd been more awake I could have asked for the cricket.

The decor here in the knocked through lounge side is very well done with some bare brick pillars and wooden panelling as well as matchboarding below the dado rail.  Little or none of it is original or historic, I think, but it is very attractive.  Whoever is responsible has done a great job.

Two pm is obviously normal opening time here, by quarter past another six or more regulars had turned up.

Having walked double the intended distance already, I cancelled the plan to walk all the way back to St Helens and went for a bus instead.  If I get off at the right stop I can get another desirable tick, last visited in 2004, the Queens Arms:

A classic two sided boozer this one, with a selection of lively regulars in both sides.  The busiest pub I've been in for ages, unless you count Wetherspoon's Blacklers which is always packed.

Everyone who came in was met with a chorus of greetings and banter (Except the solitary pub researcher of course.)

The trains home are cancelled, no surprise there, so I have to get a bus.  I must say, I think the RMT might be wasting their efforts around here, will we be able to see the difference when they go on strike?  There's no useful service when they're working!  Would I manage a one hour journey without a toilet break?  

I did.

Pub of the day: Queens's Arms, for the lively friendly atmosphere.
Miles walked: 2.8
Maybe coming soon: Anfield, Kirkby

Saturday, 4 June 2022

St Helens

I headed away from St Helens station in bright sunshine and a cooling breeze for a long distance mopping up operation.

After a slight delay while I got lost in Tesco's car park, I reached the Glass Horse:

We know what to expect in a Hungry Horse, don't we?  This is a massive example of the chain, the interior seems to go on for ever!  Partly hidden behind a sign on the counter were two handpumps offering Greene King IPA; I ordered with some trepidation but it was spot on.  One cask is enough!

The place was doing a good trade at one on a Saturday, although there were still plenty of empty tables.  The room was filled with the happy chatter of families dining.

One new tick to start the day's research, let's see if we can get any more...

One again I got lost.  This time the fault of my database, which had the Glass Horse at the wrong roundabout.  Once I had corrected my mistake, my next target I was certain would be closed, and indeed the New Inn has been an electrical supplier for some time.  One that got away, but at least I've got a picture now:

On to the Pickled Egg:

To be honest, this place was on my "probably closed" list for many years, and I saw some streetview pictures that showed it looking rather dilapidated, but more recent researches suggested it was much improved, and indeed I found a rather fine free standing building which contains a well cared for pub, which has been knocked through to create a pleasant U-shaped room around the counter.

The music was very loud, Pretty Vacant, as I entered and there were about half a dozen regulars all sitting at the counter and chatting with the barmaid, who quickly served me a pint of Carling.

The pub is surrounded on all sides by building sites, so in another few months there should be a lot more customers from the new housing they're constructing.  Or perhaps the sort of people who buy brand new houses don't spend much time in the local boozer.

Another new tick for me, I seem to be doing pretty well recently, but I don't think I'll get any more today.  My next target was first visited in 2004, and more recently it spent a long time boarded up, but purely by chance when I was checking the Pickled Egg on Google Maps I noticed it popped up.  Could it have reopened?  The Bowling Green:

Here I found a very well done two sided boozer.  I entered the quiet side, where there were just two other customers, but I could hear quite a hum of chatter from the other side.  There was also a barbecue going on in the front yard. 

No one was serving and I was quickly advised by the customers to stand at the other end of the counter where staff can see me from the other room.  Do I need to wave my arms, I asked?  No need, I was quickly served another pint of Carling.

One of the bar staff dropped a glass, and I was pleased to hear the resulting cheer.  Last time this happened while I was in a pub there was no reaction at all and I had wondered if it was no longer politically correct to applaud such an accident.  Clearly there's no such problem here.

The room I was in was covered in football memorabilia, Liverpool and Everton.  We must be close to the border where Man Utd becomes the favourite, but clearly we're on the right side of the line here.  There's also a lot of Saints stuff, but I know even less about rugger.

That's the main targets completed, but I need at least one more before the train home, so I selected the Vulcan:

I think I exhausted the supply of Star Trek references at the other Vulcan Inn back in 2018, so we'll skip them this time.

I entered the rather crowded bar side and bought my Carling and then nipped through the door to the quieter and larger lounge to drink it.  I remember last time I was here the lounge side was occupied by a wake, and I contemplated but wisely and rightly resisted pinching some of the buffet, and stayed in the tiny bar side.

The decor here is plain but very well done, a classic local boozer.

One more before I go home?  Given the post-COVID half service we currently have to put up with, and the fact that there's a train in a few minutes and it's neither cancelled nor late, I think I'll catch it.

Pub of the day: Difficult.  The Glass Horse had the best beer, but the other three were all "proper" boozers.
Miles walked: 3.8
Maybe coming soon: To be honest, I've no idea.

Friday, 27 May 2022

The Nether Regions

I can never fix in my mind the difference between Netherley and Netherton, but today, er, [Consults map] Netherton is where I headed.

I caught a train to Old Roan, for a short walk to Netherton...

But wait, first a visit to the Oldy Club:

A classic social club this, although no one asked me to sign in.  The large concert room was closed, I sat in one of the two or three bar rooms.  Plain rather well done decor with a preponderance of grey as is now fashionable.

Two locals sitting at the counter were the only other custom I could see at two on the afternoon, although there might be more in the other side.  Hopefully it's a lot busier in the evening.

Quiet or not, I was pleased to see this increasingly rare sort of place surviving.  This example was previously the British Legion, I believe.

Next, on towards Netherton...  But wait, what about the Park Hotel?

Now this is definitely a residential hotel, so it probably shouldn't be in my guide and I think if I discovered it today I wouldn't add it, but once you're in the database you can never leave, so it needs to be ticked.

Quite an impressive hotel, I as usual turned the wrong way at the door so I had a tour of the restaurant and function rooms, all very well done, before I found the bar, also very nicely decorated in contemporary style.  

Just three or four other customers at three, as I enjoyed my second Guinness of the day.

I wonder who the hotel customers are here.  Tourists would need a car or a taxi to get anywhere, except perhaps for a walk to the racecourse.  Business visitors would have a car.  Plus, of course, anyone attending a function here.

On towards Netherton...  But wait, first - Only kidding!  At last, into the Nether regions, to Marti's Sports Bar:

Not much to look at from the outside, is it?  This shop conversion in a parade of shops contains one plain square room rather nicely decorated and well cared for, and very popular at four on a Friday.  The music was mostly drowned out by lively chatter. (From the bits I overheard, yesterday's payout was nowhere near enough to save the Tories from future electoral defeat!)

Another new tick for me, three today!  No cask, of course, so another Guinness.  The friendly barmaid had some trouble pouring it, everyone else was on lager, but eventually she produced a good tasty pint.

A large sign refers to the Village Inn Group, is that related to the Village Inn in Formby I wonder?  Some internet research later revealed nothing.

Just a short distance down the road is the Eden Vale:

This classic 60s estate boozer has been remodelled on the inside, creating a large open lounge side and a slightly smaller bar side.  I took a 50/50 guess at the doorway and entered the lounge which was quite quiet with only a handful of customers.  The bar side was much busier, and the main noise in the lounge was the hubbub from the other side.  My notes from twelve years ago include the word grubby; not true now, the whole interior is nicely done.

The long counter was "protected" by a yellow and black hazard tape, I'm not sure what for as everyone, and I, just leaned across it to order.

I enjoyed a fourth Guinness in a secluded corner of the lounge.

I observed with interest the 2020s Jukebox protocol; you have to pay here, but at least one lad put money in and then didn't spend it all, leaving some credit for someone else to choose a track.  Later, another bloke selected Bob Dylan's Hurricane, but there was no credit left so we didn't get to hear it.  As I watched the display I was a little surprised to see that there isn't a bit of the screen allocated to "now playing", surely that would be of interest?

As an aside, I was disappointed but not very surprised to learn that the BBC has censored Hurricane, clearly they haven't actually listened to what it is saying.  Are they allowed to play Oliver's Army, which contains the same contentious word?

My original plan for today had assumed that some of the targets would be shut, so I'd mapped out a long walk through Litherland via a number of other ticks, finishing at Seaforth station, but having done four it's easier to go back to where I started, so I headed back to Old Roan.

Pub of the day: Eden Vale - Classic exterior, well cared for inside.
Miles walked: 3.3
Maybe coming soon: St Helens/Sutton

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Two Breweries

Saturday lunchtime is possibly not the best time to go into Liverpool.  The first train was so full it didn't bother to stop, the second one was also wedged but I managed to squeeze on.  Compare and contrast:  In London the multi-billion pound Elizabeth Line is about to open, complete with gold decorations;  in Liverpool we are still squeezing onto half the pre-COVID service.  Levelling Up?

Anyway, stepping off my soapbox, I took a mile's walk from the station and soon reached Love Lane Brewery:

It was remarkably full, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised on a Saturday.  Standard warehouse conversion decor, bare bricks and steel beams.

The echoey double height main room was filled with chatter and many of the long tables were occupied by people who all seemed to be waiting for their dinner.  At the counter I was pleasantly surprised to see four handpumps; only one had beer on (Two idle, one cider) so I had a pint of some delicious murk, their New England IPA.  It came in a Higson's glass.

As my pint was being poured a waitress informed me that they couldn't do any food at the moment, fortunately not a problem for a pub research trip.  As I swigged my ale lots of food came out and soon the chatter was mixing with the clink of cutlery on plate, so I guess the difficulty was a temporary overload in the kitchen.  Perhaps the three full tables of ten or so each were all one party who had ordered at the same time.

Next a short stroll brought me to the second brewery of the day, the ex-brewery that is now "Cain's Brewery Village".  I wanted to tick some of the places here which I missed before, plus a number of new ones, and I started in Punch Tarmey's:

I entered by the smaller door on Grafton Street, not the entrance shown above.  Once inside it's a very well done atmospheric warehouse conversion with a barrel vaulted ceiling in the part I sat in.

No cask, of course, and the Guinness was an appalling £5.30, but who's counting.  The great interior almost makes it worth the price, they really have done a fine job here.

The place was quite busy although there was still plenty of room, and more and more arrived as I enjoyed my beer.

I exited via the gents, passing through two more bars.  Perhaps I should add Tarmey's Tunnels, Punch Tarmey's Courtyard and Tarmey's Tavern to my database?  Near the toilets you can walk on a glass floor over Higson's original well.

Out of the other entrance (pictured above) and on to another place that wasn't here last time I was; Hippie Chic:

Good grief, the places I go just to update the guide!  Rather cleverly decorated to look like tents filled with hanging flowers, very loud music, two bar staff and no customers at all.  My pint of Madri was only three quid.

This is where the pub surveyor needs a total lack of self-consciousness:  I'm sure the staff were wondering what that old bloke is doing in here, typing on a tablet.  Never mind them, they should be grateful that I've substantially increased their sales this afternoon!

Eventually two younger ladies tripled the custom, there was probably a bit more profit in their bottles of Corona or whatever it was.

Through a connecting corridor is my next destination, the Yellow Submarine Bar:

This one wins points for the exterior decor, a yellow submarine obvs.  Inside it's also well done, the tubular room decorated with old music posters, gold records and so on.  Not the first submarine I've been in, but certainly the first one I've drunk in.

As I arrived I was one of three customers, but there was a steady flow in and out here, some drinking outside in the intermittent sunshine.  A reasonable three quid for a pint again.

This pint of Madri came in a standard sleeve unlike the proper goblet next door.  It tastes the same, of course.

The soundtrack of sixties hits was rather good, I must say.

There are no toilets in here so I nipped back through the corridor to use the ones in Hippie Chic on my way out.

OK, room for one more, let's try the Black Pearl which I noted last time but didn't visit:

Doesn't look like much from the outside, does it, but once inside you find my idea of a nightclub vibe, and it reminded me somehow of the Rock Jungle in Pittsburgh.  Pretty deserted at three in the afternoon apart from a number of people drinking at the tables outside but I bet it does well in the evening.

Obviously no cask so I continued today's theme and had a pint of Madri, in a Madri goblet this time.  And three quid again.

As I sat in a booth (complete with candle) enjoying my lager I continued to think this place reminds me of American night clubs.  Since I haven't been there for twenty years I'm guessing that means it's "retro"!

The tellies were showing live footie, playoffs of some sort.  I stopped paying attention when Everton reached safety on Thursday; not that I was taking much interest before.

Five pints, five new ticks, who can argue with that?  My total progressed to 1,384.  How long until fourteen hundred?

Pub of the day: Love Lane Brewery for the ale, or Punch Tarmey's for the decor.
Miles walked: 2.7
Maybe coming soon: Undecided.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Southport Variety

Yes, I'm back!  I apologise for the break in blog entries, which was caused by a number of trips away followed by building work at home.  Time for a jaunt to Southport, where I started in the Tap & Bottles:

They seem to have expanded into the unit next door since I was last here, back in 2015, so it's no longer the tiny place I visited then.  Nothing else seems to have changed and, most importantly, the quality of the ales remains excellent.

No need for the expansion when I visited, at twelve thirty I was the only customer as I enjoyed my pint of White Rat - One of my all-time favourite beers.

A delivery of kegs and casks kept the barman busy, and then finally another customer arrived.  I hope it's busier later.

Next, somewhere completely different:  Hidden in a back alley is Enelle's Glass House, never before visited:

Definitely at the down market end of the scale, but none the worse for that.  The higledy-piggeldy interior is well decorated and well cared for.  At one on a Thursday there was quite a crowd of what I suspect are locals, enjoying the lager at £2.50 a pint.  Some were watching the silent racing on the TVs but the majority were laughing and chatting in a throng around the counter.

The part of the pub in front of the counter is a glazed extension to the building, hence the name, I guess.

Now, unusually for a research trip, I need to visit a Wetherspoon's - I suspect it's an error, but my database says I haven't been in the Sir Henry Segrave since 2014, so let's correct that omission:

On a sunny Thursday in term time we know what to expect here, and it is full of mainly older people enjoying a cheap lunch.  They had about ten real ales on but I didn't look further than the wonderful Titanic Plum Porter, another of my all-time favourites.  (I had a couple of their Chocolate Vanilla Stout in Blackler's yesterday, also gorgeous.)

I seemed to be the only person not dining, they were doing a roaring trade in curries, fish and chips, and so on.  I don't understand why my shares aren't going up!

I noticed that Carling is £3.10 in here, a full 60p more than Enelle's is charging.

As I savoured my Plum Porter the lunchtime crowd began to thin out, and the staff were able to clear the debris from many of the tables.  I was amused by one lad playing a game like Tetris, trying to carry as many glasses, mugs, and so on in one journey, his puzzle made more complex by the fact that some of them weren't empty.

By the way, I'm told the new 'spoons in Heswall is now due to open on 28 June.

A quick deviation before the next destination to confirm that the Falstaff and the Cheshire Lines are both closed, a sad loss in the case of the latter.

Next, why not try for yet another very different type of pub and another new tick - Southport Market:

This is one of those places where a large room full of tables is surrounded by various food counters and you order whatever you want and your buzzer goes off when it's ready for collection.  In the middle of the room is an island bar with six handpumps.  Only one had a clip which can be a bad sign but my pint of something pale from local brewery Parker's was excellent.

The wafting odours were very tempting but I resisted.  As I looked around I realised that the down side of this format, from the owners' point of view, was the number of staff idle, poised waiting for an order.  Customers were thin on the ground at three on a Thursday.

I wonder how many places like this are in my area; the only one I can call to mind is the Baltic Market in the Brewery Quarter.  By coincidence, I'm planning a visit to that area soon.

Finally, a more traditional boozer:  I need to tick the Southport Tavern which I last visited in 2006 when it was the Albert Hotel, and had real ale.  I wonder what it's like now?


My notes from '06 include the word grubby, but as I expected this is no longer the case.  A well looked after spotless boozer is what I found this time.  I have said a number of times that the scruffy ones have either tidied up or closed, and in this case they have tidied rather well.

At three the place was mostly empty, with just a few customers creating a background chatter to mix with the music.

Two handpumps but no clips so I finished my survey with a Guinness.  I was impressed to note a shamrock in the head.  (I know it doesn't improve the flavour, but it surely indicates care by the server.)

More customers arrived as I drank my pint, and the conversation began to drown out the music.

So, in conclusion, five pubs all very different and all, I think, surviving well post pandemic.  Two never before visited bringing my total to 1,379.

Pub of the day: Tap & Bottles for the great ale.
Miles walked: 1.3
Maybe coming soon: Baltic Quarter

Friday, 1 April 2022

April Fool

When will I learn?  Friday afternoon is not a good time for a survey in Liverpool.  The train was jam packed with very noisy stag and hen groups and once I was out of the station I kept tripping over wheeled suitcases.  On well, I'm here now so let's get to it.

First call, the Newington Temple:

Last time I was here, in 2013, it was called Bier.  The interior under its new name is similar, perhaps more comfortable than I remember?  The rather austere white tiles and grey paint have been softened by flowers and ivy.

The six handpumps have been reduced to a perhaps more sensible three and my pint of Purity Mad Goose was excellent.

Not many in here at half two, a couple of conversations were drowned out by the music.

What a nice pub.  I think it'll be all downhill from here as I head into party country!

Coyote Ugly:

A rather good film, but then I (almost) always like a film about a pub.  (Except Cocktail!)

Last time I was in here, in 1999, it was the Hogshead, obviously it's changed a lot since then!

The counter has a handrail above, for the dancers to hang on to (Health and safety gone mad?)

No cask, of course, but the Guinness was carefully topped up and had a shamrock in the top, I've not seen that for ages.  Lots of people in even at three, I got the last free table, I bet it's packed later.

The efficient bar staff were four or five scantily clad young women.  Which reminds me:  When is the Liverpool branch of Hooters opening?

The tellies above the counter were showing IPL cricket when I looked.  Perhaps not really suited to the audience here?

Obviously this is not really my sort of place, I'm at least thirty years too old for a start, but I must say this bar is very well done, providing exactly what you expect from the name, and doing it very well.

Next, Einstein Bier Haus:

This used to be Walkabout but I never ticked that one, so it's new for me.

I wondered why the ground floor was completely deserted, but it didn't take me long to realise that the big doors were open and an icy wind was blowing in.   After typing one sentence, I carried my Guinness upstairs where it was much warmer and a lot busier.

The converted warehouse has bare brickwork decor, some of which looks fake.  The inevitable loud music mixed with quite a lot of chatter from multiple groups of people, I imagine it'll be busy later.

My booth upstairs had a beer font with a touch screen and card reader, presumably when it's working you can pour your own lager.  Quite a good gimmick, I think.  I wonder if it's per pint or all you can drink.  Not in operation now, so I couldn't investigate.

Two large groups decided it was time to move on, and suddenly the place was almost deserted.

Looking out of the window I could see the former Crafty Chandler is going to be Cheers Big Ears.  I don't think it's open yet so I'll have to save it for next time I'm up this way.

Next, McCooley's:

Last ticked in 2015, I knew what to expect here:  A noisy busy warehouse conversion with fake Irish styling.  

I must say the Guinness was the worst I've tasted for years, some pipe cleaning is overdue, I think, it tasted stale.  I have to admit I've tended to disparage people who talk about the quality of Guinness in a particular pub, saying that it's keg and always the same, but clearly I have been wrong, this was definitely worse than the previous two pints.  I looked longingly at the Wetherspoon's across the road, why aren't I in there enjoying some real ale?  The things I suffer as a pub researcher!

The music was drowned by the noise of a number of big groups, stag and hen, one woman was wearing a bridal veil, I don't think that's usually matched with white trousers but I'm hardly qualified to comment on couture, am I.

I noticed across the road in Soho they have a shisha bar, I must go there some time, I used to enjoy a puff or two when I was in Dubai.  Perhaps I'll wait for some warmer weather, though, it's bitter out there today.

Time for home, but perhaps I need to clear the dishwater taste out.  I wandered down Wood Street, what's this, Mulligan's?

Did this used to be Revolution, or was that further down?  Once I got home, research in my database and on Streetview revealed that this was Beluga which I ticked in 1998, so it's long overdue for a revisit.

What I found was one long room below street level with rather well underdone Irish decor, completely deserted apart from three staff.  Obviously I ordered a Guinness, and it was a damn sight better than the last one.

Some friends of the staff came in for a chat, but no customers.  Why not? I almost felt that as a customer I was intruding on a family gathering, I remember some years ago dining in an Indian restaurant when everyone else, including the staff, was there for a family celebration, and we were the only "outsiders".

Time to go home, one new tick (Making the total 1,377) and one not visited for 24 years is a good haul.

Pub of the day: Newington Temple
Miles walked: 1
Maybe coming soon: Southport 

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Greasby and Upton

Upstairs at the front of the bus for a ride through the tunnel and on to Greasby.  My original idea for today's jaunt had me starting at the Farmer's Arms in Frankby, followed by a pleasant country stroll to Greasby, hence my choice of today with its sunny weather, but this morning's pre-flight checks revealed that the Farmer's closed last year.  So, no rural walk, and I started in the pub closest to the first bus stop in Greasby, the Red Cat:

I wonder from when this building dates?  Could it be a rare 1970s construction?

A very large pleasantly decorated chain dining pub, this, run by Greene King.  No less than six handpumps on the counter, all with the clips turned round, so I had my usual Guinness.

A few diners created some background chatter in the mostly empty space, while the music, which had accidentally slipped into St Patrick's Day mode a week late, returned to more normal selections once the manager had adjusted the machine.

The tellies were showing golf.  I wonder if I'll catch any of the cricket later.

Next, a short walk to the Coach and Horses:

This gem of a pub continues unchanged, I'm pleased to say.  A number of small rooms with antique wooden bench seats, and just a small counter, sporting four handpumps from which I selected a lovely Reverend James.  I remember last time I was here the only handpump was at the back of the bar and I didn't spot it until I'd ordered a Guinness.

Worryingly, I was the only customer at two on a Thursday, just two more came in as I enjoyed my pint.

There was racing commentary, I think, providing low level background noise, but the main sound was the landlord's young child.  (Who was not loud enough to be annoying, I hasten to add.)

I wonder how much of the lovely interior to this pub is truly historic?  I've got a sneaking suspicion it was all done in the 1960s.  "Fake" or not, it's a wonderful place.

Next, across the road to the oddly named Greave Dunning:

Standard Ember Inns styling in here, but less cookie-cutter than some, I think, helped by a higledy-piggeldy layout.

Eight handpumps on the counter, but I didn't look further than my favourite Plum Porter, which was excellent.

At half two on a Thursday afternoon this place was amazingly busy, a steady queue at the counter resulting in lots of drink and food sales.  The background music was almost entirely drowned out by chatter.

I eyed up the blackboard by the counter.  Coming soon Oakham Citra.  One of the few beers better than Plum Porter!  From my corner I could observe the handpumps:  A decent amount of cask was being sold, and the Wainwright ran out as I watched.

I couldn't get over how popular this place was.  It wasn't full, there were a few available tables, but it was one of the busiest pubs I've been in for years, I think.  Despite two bar staff working efficiently, there was sometimes a queue at the counter.  Good news indeed.  Now we need a few customers to go across the road to the Coach and Horses.  A different demographic, perhaps?

Is it really ten years since I last surveyed Greasby?  It doesn't seem any different.  Good thing too.

Now a bit of a quandary. Should I tick the Graevsberrie, last done in 2019, or move straight on to Upton where there are two 2013 and one 2019 targets?  I think I'll stick to the oldest ticks, and catch a bus to Upton.

At Upton, ignoring the Bow-Legged Beagle last ticked in 2019, I headed into the Horse and Jockey:

Back in 2013 I described this classic 60s boozer as "a little threadbare".  No longer true, it's still a traditional boozer, but well maintained and cared for, and deservedly doing well.

The two handpumps on the counter were merely ornamental, I think, so it was Guinness for me.

"Now 70s" was mostly drowned out by the cheerful chatter of the regulars.  Other tellies had Now 80s instead, causing a bit of a clash!  The Partridge Family doesn't really mix with Duran Duran, creating something of a cacophony.

Now 70s played a few of my favourites, hang on, that's fifty years ago.  Suddenly I feel very old.

The barmaid busied herself hanging a new card of pork scratchings on the bar back, amid much barracking from the regulars sitting at the counter.

I have visited far too many empty pubs on Thursday afternoons post COVID, so it was good to find another one doing well today.

Finally, the Eagle & Crown:

Two operational handpumps, I chose Thwaites Gold.  The barmaid had great difficulty in pulling it and eventually consulted the landlady, who gave some advice, than tried to demonstrate, and then headed down to the cellar to fix the problem.  "The Wainwright is OK" said the barmaid so I switched to that.  Just as she'd finished pulling an excellent pint of Wainwright the landlady returned having resolved the problem, so I had to apologise for wasting her time, luckily she said she had to fix it anyway.

The interior of this pub, though pleasant enough, doesn't really live up to the magnificent exterior, I think.

The place was ticking over very well at half four on a Thursday, quite a few regulars scattered about the place, but there was plenty of room for more customers.

Racing commentary was mixing with chatter, chatter winning.  No cricket, I'm afraid, but as England were 46 for 3 at lunch, I'm not sure I wanted to know!

Time to go home.  In contrast to last week there were no new pubs today, but the ones I visited were last done nine or ten years ago, so five very desirable ticks.

My bus back to Liverpool was making horrible noises and was eventually terminated in Birkenhead, so I passed under the river by train instead.

Pub of the day: Coach & Horses, a gem.
Miles walked: Hardly any.  Maybe I should measure train miles and bus miles as well!
Maybe coming soon: Southport

Thursday, 17 March 2022

North of St Helens

St Helens Bus Station was in chaos due to a bus breaking down right in the middle and blocking half the stops.  The "where to catch your bus" board didn't list my intended route, so I had to ask at the enquiry desk, "it's the stop round the corner".

Anyway, soon enough I reached my first target, the Moss Bank:

As I approached it didn't look open, and circling round for a better photo (see above) I found another closed door.  Not a good start, but wait a moment, I can see lights inside.  I headed round the other side of the pub and found two open doors:

What a well done pub this is.  It has clearly been heavily refurbished recently, and it's a very good job they've done.  Knocked through around a three sided counter, it retains two distinct areas, lounge and bar, both of which are well done out, with pleasant understated decor.  

Doing good business at two on a Thursday, and the background music was mostly drowned by animated chatter.  One or two customers were dressed up for St Patrick's Day.  I celebrated with a pint of Guinness.  The two handpumps on the counter were not in use.

I must say this is a beautifully done pub, everything inside well cared for and spotless, and it deserves to do well. 

Next, a mile or so of residential streets.  They were all named after Lake District locations, which is perhaps why they were all up or down hill.  Phew.

Eventually, I reached my next objective, the Toby Carvery Waterside:

You know what to expect in a Toby, and this one didn't hold any surprises.  Pleasant chain pub decor, well maintained and very clean and tidy.  Oh, and an all pervading smell of stewed cabbage.  Not many customers in at three, and I couldn't see anyone eating.

The three handpumps looked more ornamental than functional, so I had another Guinness.

There is a nice view from some of the windows of the reservoir, on which I could see mallard and moorhens.  I learned from Wikipedia that this is the largest body of water in Merseyside, and strangely it is called Carr Mill Dam, which I had always assumed was the name of the dam.

Not too far away, across the perennially busy East Lancs Road, is the Carr Mill:

I was previously here in 2018, and I don't recognise the interior.  Has it been refurbished?  Last time it was at the end of a survey, so it's more likely I've forgotten.  Very nice, anyway.

What I did remember from last time was vinegar masquerading as Abbot, so it was with some trepidation that I ordered Greene King IPA.  It was again well past its best, with a tang of vinegar, but not as bad as last time.

The large open pub was not very busy, just a few drinkers and diners scattered around the pleasant interior.

There's a proper bowling green at the back, which probably marks this as having been a Greenhall's pub when it was built, they were particularly keen on bowling greens.

The cricket was on the tellies, England seem to be doing well for a change.  I waited for Root's 150 to come up and then headed off, leaving some of my vinegary pint undrunk.

Next, another one new to me, the Woodlands:

A rather good, very large pub, all knocked through inside with plain well done decor on a sporting theme.  A few quirky touches make the place rather attractive.  

Only one available of three handpumps, should I risk it again?  I did, and my Sharp's something-or-other (I think it was Sea Fury) was spot on.

This pub belongs to Blackrose, not a chain I've noticed before.  

Unfortunately all the TVs were showing Cheltenham so I didn't get to see any more cricket.

In the enormous interior there were a lot of empty tables, but still a gentle ticking over of custom as afternoon faded into evening.

I looked around:  In a raised area near where I was sitting there were three dartboards.  I wonder if they all get used at once?  Each had a scoring machine, I always used to struggle subtracting treble seventeen from 501, but no such trouble nowadays.  (I originally wrote dartsboards, but the auto correct changed it, is that wrong?  Surely there's more than one dart involved?)

Anyway, linguistics notwithstanding, another excellent survey, three pubs never before visited taking my total to 1,376.  I keep thinking there can't be many more to do, but clearly I haven't exhausted the supply yet.

Pub of the day: Difficult.  Moss Bank for being a great pub, or Woodlands for quality cask.
Miles walked: 1.8
Maybe coming soon: Back to Southport, where there are dozens of targets just waiting for a visit.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

At Last, Garswood

Regular readers, if there are any, may have noticed that Garswood has been popping up in the "Coming soon" at the bottom of these blog posts for about six months.  Various reasons including the poor train service, not wanting to walk down narrow country lanes in bad weather, low confidence in opening hours and sheer laziness have caused the trip to be postponed multiple times, but I couldn't waste today's lovely weather so off I headed.

My first destination was the Stag:

The real ale and the welcome has been up and down in here over the years.  I haven't been in since my local friends moved away, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  What I found was a nicely done interior, and four handpumps on the counter.  Three were "coming soon" but the friendly staff had soon poured me a fine pint of Eagle IPA, from Bedford.  One quality cask ale is enough!

About a dozen customers in at half two on a Saturday, gentle chatter forming the main soundtrack.

I tried unsuccessfully to recall the decor last time I was here, in 2015.  Has it been changed since then, or simply very well cared for? It looks good, anyway, with a dark grey and white colour scheme.

Next, on to the Simms Road:

Another one which had suffered intermittent beer quality in the past, but my pint of Landlord was spot on this time, the beer has been good on the last couple of visits.

It doesn't seem to have changed inside since I was last here in 2014, but the pleasant traditional decor has obviously been well maintained.

Quiet music, slightly louder rugby commentary and background chatter combined to give the place a comfortable pubby feel.

Customers were a bit thin on the ground at three on the afternoon, but it was ticking over, and a few meals came out of the kitchen.

My next objective is the most doubtful of the day, the Blue Bell spent some time closed and then became a community pub with limited opening hours, although it has now reverted to being run by a brewery.  Their Facebook page hasn't been updated for some time, so I felt my chances were slim, but it was worth a try as I haven't ticked it since 2004.  Would it be open?

Yes, it was.  After asking if I was from the brewery (She saw me taking a photo.) the landlady followed me inside to pour a pint of Guinness.  I was the only customer.  She bemoaned the lack of trade since COVID, they only took over the place a couple of months before the first lockdown.  Perhaps that's why the brewery want to sell it, she said.  Oh dear.

Plain well cared for decor in a knocked through u-shaped room, with some good woodwork. 

This is the sort of place I fear we will lose over the next year, as the COVID support such as reduced rates, staff furlough and so on, ends.  Come on, folks, support your local, I can only do so much on my own!

One more person came in, but after a chat with the landlady he left again "I must have a pint in here some time" he said as he departed.

Half way down my pint, custom tripled, thank goodness, and then another two came in a couple of minutes later.  They all knew each other and the landlady and, as usual on my research trips I was the odd one out.  I also got the impression I was sitting in their corner, although no one complained!  Ten minutes later there were quite a few in, and I was on the edge of a large group of chatty pals.  So perhaps not quite as doomed as I feared.

Finally, the best pub in Garswood (On previous experience, at least) the Railway - always a reliable source of cask in the past, and convenient for the station as well:

Would it live up to my recollections?  In a word, yes.

"Only" two real ales in here, I had Farmers Blonde, the other was Wainwright.  Mine was spot on.

Quite busy here, with the football commentary completely drowned by lively chatter.  As always, this pub is doing well, lots of blokes, couples, families, oh and one lone pub ticker.  I was the only person in here with no one to talk to!

I looked around.  All the blokes I could see were on lager, I tried to keep an eye on the counter and I didn't see any cask poured.  But my pint was jolly good, so either they're selling enough or they're throwing a lot away.  I suspect the former.

Some kind of "important" footie match started, everyone moved around the pub so they could see a telly. I think it was Man U? Luckily, my corner seat was underneath a TV so I wasn't depriving anyone.  Actually, having written that I noticed the screen above me was showing something different so I think the people looking over my head were rugby fans.

So, quite a good survey, three pints of quality ale and four overdue revisits.  The country roads weren't so bad, they all had pavements on at least one side.  I don't remember that from last time, perhaps they've been upgraded, or more likely my memory is inaccurate.  

What a friendly place Garswood is:  In each pub people said hello to me, and most of the drinkers seemed to know each other.

Pub of the day: Railway
Miles walked: 2.3
Maybe coming soon: Don't know!