Friday 25 November 2022

West Derby Village

I returned to where it all began (See here for the story.) with a short bus ride to West Derby Village, and I headed first for the Sefton Arms:

Has it been redecorated since my last visit?  I don't really recall the pleasant interior looking exactly like this.  The Christmas decorations (Bah! Humbug!! - It's only November) are done to a tasteful level, and mix nicely with a little world cup bunting.

One pump on the counter so I decided to risk Greene King IPA.  The barmaid had obviously never been taught how to pull cask ale, a hefty tug on the handle while the glass stood on the drip tray resulted in a pint of froth with about half an inch of beer.  She apologised, waited for it to settle and then repeated the process with the same result.  After she had served two other customers, interleaved with intermittent pulls on the pump we were getting nowhere.  Eventually I persuaded her to remove the sparkler, and we soon achieved the proper result!  The actual ale, when I finally got to taste it, was fine.  As fine as their IPA can be, anyway.

The sound in here was mainly football commentary, the hosts were not doing very well I gathered.

A gentleman at the counter was ordering some Baileys and brandy, with a double of Three Barrels in each.  I used to be overly fond of Baileys and whisky, I don't think I've ever tried brandy.

This pub used to have a separate room with counter at one end, forming a "public bar" which was almost a separate pub, while the main part was the "lounge" side.  I noticed on my way in that one or two of the windows at that end were boarded up, leaving me to suspect that it is now out of use, and I couldn't see a way through from this part of the building - i remember a door last time I was here.

Not many customers on a Friday afternoon, I wonder how the other pubs here are doing.  Let's find out - The Hare & Hounds:

And the answer is, a lot better.  Both sides of this pub were busy, and I sat at what appeared to be the last available empty table.  Of course, when I say busy I'm talking 2020s standards, the days when you had to squeeze in the door and push your way to the counter have gone forever, I fear, except perhaps for pubs in town in the weeks before Christmas.  (Actually, I've got a work reunion to go to in Liverpool two weeks tomorrow, it'll be interesting to see how busy things are.)  

There were no clips on the three handpumps, I suspect cask ale has been abandoned in the five years since my last visit here, when I got a free pint if I remember right.

The interior has not changed much, although it's been well looked after in the intervening years and remains pleasant and comfortable.

I had a choice of viewing here, two different racing channels or the footie.  The volume was pleasingly low on all of them so the main sound in here was chatter.

Again Christmas decorations were tastefully subdued, which seems to be a common theme this year, although I fear we may see a rash of more tasteless decorations once we reach December.  

What a classic boozer this is; chatty regulars, friendly barmaids, warm and welcoming, what more could one ask for?  Well, real ale I suppose.

Across the road to the Hunting Lodge:

Conclusive proof that the price of ale doesn't affect custom:  My Guinness here was well under £3, as opposed to £3.40 over the road, and yet it was pretty empty here.

Just a small number of customers were scattered around this pleasant but slightly "plastic" pub.  Remarkably, no Christmas decorations at all, which must be worth a million bonus points.  There were lots of world cup bunting and an impressive array of flags on the ceiling.

The Qatar match finished and we switched to the build-up for the Netherlands - Goedemiddag to all my Dutch readers.

Not really much to say about this pub, pleasant comfortable friendly and quiet.

Next, what I hope is the best pub in the Village, the Halton Castle.  Hang on, though, what's this?  The Book:

A rather good shop conversion, too big to be called a micro I think, as it is clearly two shops joined together. I wonder how long this has been here?  The menu says March 2018, so only a few weeks after my last visit to the area.  The shops were formerly a butcher and a bookmaker's.

The well done interior, with painted brick and rough woodwork walls, is very good.  The frontage is two shopfronts, don't try the first door, it's only a fire exit and pushing on it just makes you look daft, and everyone inside can see you make an idiot of yourself.  DAMHIK.

Five pounds twenty for a Guinness, that's double the price in the Hunting Lodge!  And yet the same level of custom.

Again, tastefully restrained Christmas decorations complemented the pleasant decor in here.

Once again let's head for the Halton Castle.  Oh no, there's another new one to do first, the Cubicle:

Well I never - Another bar I've never heard of.  One pleasant comfortable room with a tiny counter in the corner.  I spotted that the Guinness font was a surger not a keg so I switched to Love Lane.  But it wasn't Love Lane despite what the sign said.  Instead a very tasty pint of something else pale and crafty, the name of which I didn't catch.

The only other customers were a group of five who were enjoying some chatter at one table, the rest of the room was empty.

This small squat brick building used to be florist, Streetview reveals.  Given its location at the edge of the Sefton Arms' car park, I wonder if it was originally a betting shop?  (Update:  I have been informed that originally this building housed public conveniences, which certainly explains the rather unusual name.)

With winter arriving, they definitely need to sort out the spring on the front door, it seems to settle ajar, resulting in a cold draught.  Even when a member of staff came in and carefully closed it, it opened itself again.

Once again the crimbo dekkies (After 30-odd years I think I'm entitled to use the local vernacular) were not over the top, just tasteful.

Eventually a departing staff member banged the door properly shut.

Now comes a difficult question:  The Halton Castle remains, but I have already had five pints;  should I go for six and complete the Village?  I think so, although it's too dark by now to take a photo.  Here's one from last time:

I was disappointed to see the three handpumps were all clipless so its "best pub in the village" status is at risk, but this multi-roomed gem is still a fine establishment.  Busy with customers of all ages, a classic local's boozer doing a good trade at half four on a Friday.

The football was just about audible but the main noise was umpteen animated conversations, exactly as it should be in a proper pub.  Christmas decorations were sparse and well done in here.

My Guinness went down very easily and all too soon it was time to get the bus home.  It's not often I get six ticks in a single day, and two were new ones as well!

Pub of the day: Halton Castle, despite the lack of real ale.
Beer of the day: GK IPA
Miles walked: 0.8
Maybe coming soon: City Centre or Birkdale

Friday 18 November 2022


Perhaps unwisely given the weather forecast, I headed under the water by bus to try a few pubs in Liscard last visited in 2017.  And hopefully one from 1999.

There are lots of pubs in Liscard, so I had to walk past a number last visited in 2018 to find the 2017 ones.  I started in the Royal Oak:

A large very well done pub with restrained decor, comfortable and popular on a wet Friday.

Gentle muzak blended with cheerful chatter and the click of pool balls in here.  The world cup coverage on the telly was fortunately silent.  I didn't think it had started yet?  In any case, England won the World Cup last Sunday.

There were some loud arguments about the pool, apparently someone wasn't correctly following "Birkenhead Rules".  It seemed a bit like a game of Mornington Crescent, where no one actually understands the regulations.  (Don't get me wrong, it was all cheerful banter, and actually now I think of it there was a remarkable lack of swearwords.)

Looking around before departure I noted the impressive brick fireplace by the entrance, clearly a modern construction but none the worse for that.  Also, beside the main door is a K6 phone box, half inside and half outside, an unusual bit of fun decor.

Next, the architectural wonder that is the Primrose:

The fantastic interior has survived another five years unscathed, I'm very happy to report.  Dark wood paneling, wonderful ceiling plasterwork and so on.  I do wonder if the wooden gantry above the counter might be a more recent addition, from my angle it has more of a sixties look?  Another historic feature now rare is the pie warmer on the counter!

Again, background music mixed with happy chatter, the place was doing well although the back room accessed through a splendid wide arch was empty, all the regulars were concentrated in the bar side.

When I walked past the Saddle to reach the Primrose I noted quite a few people with black ties - Would it be shut for a wake, I wondered.

Everyone in the noisy packed pub was here for the wake, but no one objected to an interloper having a Guinness, so I sat in a corner and made my notes.

Not really a good situation for researching the guide, as I'm sure today is non-typical for this pub, but I can still say it is nicely decorated in traditional style, knocked through into one front room plus a back room with no counter.  The real fire in a wood burning stove added to the comfortable atmosphere.

There is a Liverpool tradition that you can't have a wake without a falling out and a fight, but there was absolutely no sign of that here:  Lots of very drunk mourners, plenty of manly hugs but all well behaved.  The deceased clearly had a lot of friends.  

Feeling something of an intruder I quickly downed my pint and left.  Rest in peace Robert Murray Brown.

Next, the prime target for today, the Boot:

Thanks to a combination of limited opening hours in the past, and my bad planning, I haven't been in here in this millennium, so I was especially pleased to tick it today.

Even better, they've got a couple of handpumps, my pint of Japanese London Pride was very good.  And at less than three quid it was the cheapest pint of the day so far.

It was quite busy in here, I had to look round for a free table.  The background music was almost completely overwhelmed by happy chatter.

The plan was to finish with another '17 tick, the Wetherspoon's, but on my way to the Boot I had spotted a place unknown to me, Twelve Sixty.  Sorry about the picture, it was getting dark by now:

Even better than a 1999 revisit is a brand new pub, and this one's a belter.  The place is difficult to get in to, the first door I tried was locked.  Eventually I found the correct door and after pulling, then pushing, then pulling again I was in, much to the amusement of the three customers and the landlord, Dave.  I was pleased to see five handpumps one of which dispensed a lovely pint of one of my favourites, Ossett White Rat.

As soon as I had sat down two of the other customers departed leaving just a young lady and me.

I have to say it's disappointing that the Boot is so busy and this micro is so empty, but it only opened three weeks ago so maybe more people will learn of its existence as time goes on.  I really hope it gets enough custom to keep it going.

The other micro here, the Lazy Landlord, is also on my '17 list but it will have to wait for my next visit.

I chatted to the other customer, she had come out to do some shopping but never got further than here.  Two more customers came in and the shopper went off to make her purchases.  

Leaving at least two '17 ticks for next time, it's time to head homeward...  I remember catching the wrong bus last time and half an hour later I was even further from Liverpool, let's try to get it right this time.  Just as I arrived at the little bus station, a bus with Liverpool on the front and the right number turned up so I was soon on my way. 

Pub of the day: Twelve Sixty
Beer of the day: White Rat
Miles walked: 1.6
Maybe coming soon: Don't know

Saturday 12 November 2022

Townsend Lane

I headed out on a sunny Saturday afternoon to Townsend Lane.  A schoolboy error - Liverpool are at home at three, so the traffic was horrendous and the bus took ages.  Eventually I reached my first target, the wonderful Farmers Arms:

This architectural gem dating from 1925 remains unchanged, I'm pleased to report.  I entered by the wrong door and found myself trapped in the smaller half of this two sided pub.

The room was busy with large chatty groups, their conversations drowning out the football commentary in the background.  Tellies all around were showing Man City struggling, except the screen above my head which had racing.

This is what boozers should be like:  Filled with cheerful drinkers and animated chatter.  Let's hope I find some more like this today.

Next, the Clubmoor.  I expected it to be closed and it was:

On to the Canon:

This plain two sided traditional boozer was fairly quiet when I entered, but judging by the array of glassware being loaded into the dishwasher I'm guessing it was full of fans a few minutes ago.

Another one that hasn't changed since I did the same survey five years ago, I think it is good news to find these pubs which have survived COVID apparently unscathed.

I checked the dictionary to confirm the name of the pub refers to religious (or musical) matters rather than a big gun.

I considered my plans for the rest of the day, basically this close to Anfield (Almost near enough to see the For Sale board!) I need to do as many pubs as I can manage and then catch a bus into town before the footie lets out.  I've got about 100 minutes.  I quickly downed my second Guinness and moved on.

Just a short walk to the Elm House:

Clearly I was tempting fate with my comments about pubs surviving, this one hasn't.

Just a short way further along Townsend Lane is the Winchester, also known as the Townsend Lane:

Both names are displayed, what is a pub researcher to do?  I think Winchester has greater prominence on the outside, so I'll go with that.

As I was handed my Guinness the live football match on the telly played the Last Post.  I was startled and impressed to see the whole pub fall silent, the cluster of regulars at the counter standing quietly.  At the end of the Post everyone relaxed, the chatter restarted and I moved to a seat.

Another classic boozer doing well on a Saturday afternoon, once again the used glassware being tidied away suggests it was very busy with fans earlier on.

Jeff Stelling was mostly drowned out by animated chatter amongst the regulars.  He seems to have aged a bit since I admired his non-stop talk umpteen years ago, with a lot more umms and errs now than I remember.

Next, the Stadium, formerly the Cockwell.  Annoyingly, I seem to have forgotten to take a photo here.

Oh dear, a rather worrying place this, almost every window along the frontage was smashed, but it was still carrying on.  Only a handful of customers, plus a group of women, staff or friends I think, one of whom was sticking Christmas stickers in the windows.  A poor substitute for reglazing, I feel.  Was this just mindless vandalism, or something more sinister, I wonder?

Liverpool winning 2-1, Everton losing 2-0. Is it my imagination or are there more three o'clock games than usual?  Perhaps because it's the last Saturday before the World Cup interregnum?

The decoration process moved on to the windows by my seat.  While a Santa sticker is undoubtedly better than a hole in the glass, I still think a glazier is needed.  

Here I am in pub number four, it looks like I'll have no difficulty in finishing my research before the final whistle, in fact plenty of time for number five across the road.  The Willow Bank:

A rather fine two sided boozer this one.  I think it has changed since my last visit, the arch-roofed area at the back has been integrated into the rear room perhaps.  It still has a stage at the back, which I imagine is used sometimes for live music and/or a disco.

Gently ticking over at four on a Saturday, there were a decent number of customers in here, families, couples and groups of friends.  Another place that has got through the last few years, I hope they all survive the coming recession as well.

Contrary to the previous plan, why don't I walk down to Tuebrook and get a bus home?  Good idea...

Pub of the day: Farmers Arms, for the imposing exterior.
Beer of the day: Guinness
Miles walked: 2.4
Maybe coming soon: No idea.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Birthday Bash

In what is becoming an annual tradition I marked my birthday with a Wetherspoon's breakfast and a pint.  This year's venue was in Old Swan at The Navigator:

It was ticking over steadily at eleven on a Tuesday, with the occasional breakfast coming out from the kitchen, but most of the customers were drinkers.  My Wobbly Bob was lovely, a great accompaniment to a large fry-up.

"Celebrations" over, I headed out to see if I could visit a few other pubs, but which would be open on a Tuesday morning?

The Masons Arms for one:

It was quite quiet but ticking over with morning boozers in one large open room nicely decorated in this Greene King pub. More lunchtime customers arrived as I downed my Guinness and soon lots of food was emerging from the kitchen.

As a software engineer I was rather pleased to note that I was seated at table number zero (Computers usually count from zero whereas humans generally start at one.)

One more tick to round off the morning I think, actually it's after twelve now.  I haven't been in the Black Horse since 2017 so it's worth giving it a try:

I'd not really noticed before what a fine building this is, I wonder from when it dates?  Maybe 1920s??

Another Greene King place, this time with handpumps from which I had a mediocre pint of Abbot - Probably the first out of the pump today.  There were fewer customers than in the Masons, and no one eating as far as I could see, although the menu was identical.

The other customer wanted Sky Sports Racing on the telly, it took three members of staff and an extended discussion to achieve this.  Actually it's a mark of good service that they put the effort in rather than just saying "it's not working" - Well done.  Mind you, he was clearly a regular, perhaps there would have been a different outcome if I had asked?

Many more people came in over the next half an hour, although the pub was hardly busy even when I left for home.

Pub of the day: Wetherspoon's
Beer of the day: Wobbly Bob
Miles walked: About a half.
Maybe coming soon: Townsend Lane

Thursday 3 November 2022

New Ones In Town

I headed in to Liverpool for what was supposed to be a mini-survey, starting at the Red Lion on Slater Street:

What a great pub this is, a stark contrast to the late night drinking establishments I expect around here.  It has one large room plus a courtyard at the back.  The room is decorated with lots of bric-a-brac, stuffed birds in glass cases, teapots hanging from the ceiling, and so on.

The decor isn't the best thing, though; there are five handpumps on the counter with a selection of cask ales including my favourite White Rat.

The barman warned me that someone had broken the pump, and sure enough the ale came out very aerated, with the handle return sucking beer out of the glass.  Eventually he managed to produce a full pint which I treated with some trepidation.  It was perfect.  (Thinking about it, the "abuse" the beer received was similar to an economiser and this one comes from autovac country - See my previous blog on the subject.)

Music mixed with gentle chatter from the half dozen other customers as I enjoyed my favourite ale.

Ten out of ten for this newcomer to the Liverpool real ale scene, perhaps it will make next year's GBG?

As I walked up I had noticed a number of people with LFC scarfs. Had I slipped up and come out on a match day?  Fortunately a quick check on the internet said no.

As I got to the end of my pint a group of blokes came in, and sat with me because there were no other seats available.  We soon got chatting on subjects ranging from Pink Floyd to my former employer on Edge Lane.  Our main topic of conversation, however, was pubs, and they admired my book and agreed that collecting pubs was a great hobby.  I passed all the "have you been in ..." questions with flying colours.  If you find this blog, lads, it was great to meet all of you and I hope you had a good afternoon out.  Don't forget to buy the book!!

Next, down to Wolstenhulme Square, and another new one, Seven Bro7hers:

Very different from the previous tick, but none the worse for that.  Modern styling, cable trays above my head, and bare brick, rough wood and black tiling on the walls.

I got the trainee barmaid who had to be shown how to serve me, but she produced a fine pint of a very good stout.  If I'd spotted Neptune's On The Bounty on the guest list I probably would have enjoyed that even more.  (At the excellent Rainhill Beer Festival last week I ended up breaking the unwritten rules of beer festivals and having three of the very same ale - it was in cask there.)

There were two other drinkers in, and they soon left leaving just me and the two staff.  Is there another one in the kitchen?  I hope they get more customers later.

Where next?  I wandered towards Hanover Street without any real plan in mind, but wait, what's this?  Pins Social Club:

A bowling alley with eight lanes plus a substantial bar area with pool tables and a selection of craft ales.  They'd run out of Brewdog Punk so I had a pint of the always tasty Neck Oil.  Blimey!  £6.25!!

Only one lot of bowlers were in action, with more people playing pool, and I wasn't the only person who'd come in just for a drink.

A very high ceiling with the usual exposed air conditioning ducts and cable trays combined with some rather fine lighting fixtures and even an enormous glitter ball to create a pleasant modern ambience.

I noted a small stage area in one corner, presumably they have live music sometimes.

Next I wandered randomly, noting quite a selection of bars I've never heard of so a few more surveys round here are definitely called for.  

After careful consideration (yeah, right) I selected Hatch on Slater Street for my final call of the day:

Many years ago most of my pub surveys were with one or more friends.  Before the tablet era my notes were scribbled in a notebook and we had a rule that if I'd made my notes before we were served we were allowed to walk out.  When this place was called DOM-1's we visited on a Thursday evening to find deafening music, no customers, and bar staff too busy chatting to serve us.  I completed my jottings and we departed.  So, depending on how you set the rules I may have never ticked this place!

Two name changes later and it's still deserted but the barmaid, despite being in mid chat with a colleague immediately broke off to serve me a pint, so no complaints this time.

A rather odd place inside, a long narrow low-ceilinged room with skylights leading to a counter area with a much higher ceiling.  A distinct "sweaty mop" odour filled the room, and no other customers came in while I enjoyed a decent pint of the black stuff.  It's probably very popular at midnight on a Friday, when I'm usually tucked up in bed.  (Actually, tomorrow is poker night so I'm unlikely to be home before two.)

Four is enough on a so-called mini survey, so I think it's time to head for home.  Three brand new ticks is a fine result.

Pub of the day: Red Lion
Beer of the day: Ossett White Rat
Miles walked: 1.6
Maybe coming soon: Townsend Lane