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!

Thursday 10 March 2022

St Patrick's Day? One Week Early

Feeling too lazy for a long walk, I decided to tick off a few revisits in town, with the possibility of a new place as well.  I started in Coopers:

What can I say about this gem that hasn't already been said?  A tiny pub with a main room and a small snug at the back.  There's not many traditional boozers left in the city centre, but this one continues unchanged.

Very nice decor with some lovely stained glass lampshades, and I like the dark green ceramic tiles below the dado.

At one on a Thursday it was quieter than I've ever seen it but still ticking over well.  The kit is ready for Karaoke or a singer, but we only had background music.  Often you can hear the singing from a good distance away!

All the customers seemed to know the staff and each other, except for me, of course.

I noticed they've got a "wheeltappers and shunters" style fire bell on the wall.  I resisted the temptation to try it.

I headed round the corner, skipping the Globe because I've done it recently, and in to the Midland:

I was greeted by the sound of the Bonzos doing The Intro And The Outro, not a track you often hear in pubs.  No real ale so I had another Guinness.

A beautiful traditional pub this, very well cared for and full of happy drinkers.  The music was mostly drowned by chatter as I enjoyed my pint in a quiet-ish corner.  As my previous notes record, the interior is not as impressive as the Central next door, but it's still good, with some historic-looking stained glass and ceiling plasterwork.

I skipped the Central, again because it's been recently ticked, and headed in to Lanigans:

One large open room with a small stage and a giant TV screen at one end.  Only three customers when I arrived, although a lot more came in as I enjoyed another Guinness.

The decor features lots of black and white pictures of famous Irish people, sportsmen and women, actors, musicians etc.  This, combined with some antique (and obviously brought in from somewhere else) woodwork creates a rather good interior.

Again, all the customers seemed to know each other, with me as the odd man out, as always!  By the time I had finished my pint, there were enough customers for the chatter to down out the quiet background music.

Next door is the Irish House:

Another large one room place with attractive Irish decor, and another pint of the black stuff for me.

Quite a few customers, with chatter and music about equal in level.  One was asleep, stretched out on a bench seat with a half finished pint of lager on the table beside him.  That could be me any day soon!

Tellys all around were showing sports channels, not all the same one.  But where's the cricket?

The background music moved on to a favourite of mine, Local Boy In The Photograph.  What a wonderful poignant song.

Finally, on to a brand new tick, Lime Street Central:

Very well done modern decor in this place, which opened last December.

There's a wide selection of keg on the counter, but I just kept with the pattern and had another Guinness.  "Take a seat and I'll bring it over when it's settled".  Good grief, did he say £4.90?  The previous ones have been £3.00 or £3.20.  No wonder the enormous space is almost empty.

A few conversations were mostly drowned by the music.

I checked the menu.  Fish and chips £11.29 puts it at the higher end of the range, and as for "crushed peas", words fail me.  Is "mushy" too plebeian?

I sat by the window, watching the world go by on Lime Street.  Here, they've got the cricket on, but I doubt anyone was watching it.

I gazed at the signage.  I wonder what a bottomless brunch is?  According to the website it's all you can drink in ninety minutes for 25 quid and I think you still have to pay for the food on top.  Not so much of a bargain, then.  On the other hand, 90 minutes of unlimited beer could be an interesting challenge...

As I neared the end of my pint, a bloke of about my age came in, and asked for a pint of bitter.  "We don't really do bitter" said the barman, so he switched to Guinness.  Why doesn't a bar like this, with twenty taps, put John Smith's on one of them, I wonder?

Time to head for home.

Well, this jaunt certainly brought back memories.  I used to live on Guinness when I was in China and this is almost certainly the first time I've drunk five pints of the black stuff in one session since I was there in 2006.  I recall my last night in Beijing where I set out intending to take it easy because I had an early flight back to the UK the following morning, and ending up downing eight pints.  I made the flight OK.  I wonder how the Goose and Duck Pub is doing without me?

Pub of the day: Coopers
Miles walked: 0.5
Maybe coming soon: Don't know yet.