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?
Miles walked: 2.8
Maybe coming soon: Anfield, Kirkby