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:  (Picture not taken today)

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.