Friday 21 April 2023


An out-of-area pub crawl for a change: Finding myself in Chester I thought I'd tick a couple of Good Beer Guide pubs not previously visited, so I started in Artichoke:

Another converted warehouse on the canal side, this one is nicely done inside, although the plastic chairs look a little uncomfortable.  I sat on a luxurious leather sofa instead.

Up to four cask ales are served, the Osset Butterley was excellent.

I must say it was very quiet in here at one on a Friday.

There is an off licence attached, I learned from the blackboard that if you buy your drink in there the "corkage" is £2.50 for beer and £12 for wine.  Ouch!

I perused the drink menu.  The scotch ranged in price from £5.50 to £75.00.  It didn't say but I'm guessing that is for a single!

Next, off the towpath and up to street level, to Cellar:

A somewhat quirky place decor wise, this one.  And it's not in a cellar.  Very pleasant anyway.

Six handpumps, I chose Thornbridge Kipling which was very good.  They've got an array of craft taps as well.

The menu looks rather good; a small selection of pizzas, nibbles, pates, sharing platters and the like.  Perhaps not for you if you're after a bog standard fish and chips.

Once again, very quiet at two on a Friday afternoon, surely it's near enough the weekend for the denizens of Deva to come out?  Maybe later.

Now here's a typographical note:  On the food blackboard, the zeros in the prices have a line through them, as I was taught to do back in the 1970s when programming computers.  Imagine my annoyance when I got to university and they wanted a line through the letter O.  I still "slash" my zeros when necessary for clarity.

By the time I had finished my pint I was the only customer, a shame for such a good bar.

Number three is really hidden:  You start on the upper level of the famous Rows then you go in to a wine bar, snub the friendly welcome from behind the counter and proceed up the stairs to find the Cavern of the Curious Gnome:

A wonderfully decorated room with a very high ceiling, the peculiar decor includes toadstools to sit at the counter, church pews, and a truly enormous gnome.

Four handpumps on the counter, and I chose long time favourite White Rat.  An impressive array of fonts includes Chimay Rouge and Geuze Boon.  Is this the first time I've ever seen a Geuze on tap outside Belgium?  I see they've got some Kwak flasks behind the bar, I must try that some time.  (I've drunk the beer, but never in the novelty glassware.  Is it just for "tourists", like Scotland's deep fried mars bar?)

I noticed the draught beer list, including the cask, was painted on the wall.  Do they never change it, or does someone have to climb a ladder and repaint every time a cask runs out?

Unlike the previous calls it was by no means empty in here, and the echoey room was filled with chatter.  

Much later, in fact well past my bedtime, I headed for Telford's Warehouse.  No picture I'm afraid.

This is a large converted warehouse split into a number of areas.  The somewhat eccentric decor is very good.  There were six handpumps on the counter and I had another White Rat, quality once again spot on.

For ten thirty on a Friday evening it was not quite as packed as I might have expected, but certainly busier than all the other pubs I had visited today.  A lively band were doing an excellent job of standards such as River Deep Mountain High for an appreciative audience.

So, four pubs new to me, four quality pints, a great result.  And Kate Rusby, the actual reason I was in Chester, was brilliant.

Saturday 15 April 2023

Another Junction

I headed away from the inevitable overcrowding in Liverpool on Grand National day and took the train to St Helens Junction where there are a number of pubs overdue for a call.  I started in the Boilermaker's Arms:

Outside, the previous red colour scheme has been replaced by a less conspicuous green.  The closed door gave me a moment of concern, but the entrance round the corner was more inviting and I was soon inside this pleasant plain two room pub.

A handful of locals were enjoying the early footie, we had a choice of two matches.  On the screen near me I noticed there were two beer glass logos bottom right.  For those who don't know, the beer glass indicates that the pub price, much higher than domestic prices, has been paid to Sky.  An investigator only has to look in the door to see if the pub is cheating.  The glass varies between full, half full, and empty from day to day so the landlord can't paint it on the screen!  However, I've never seen two glasses before.  BT Sport have a red box top right for the same purpose.

I resisted the free curry on offer, there was a pile of nans beside the heated pot, but I didn't see anyone eating.

It is good to once again be sitting in a classic boozer, I keep saying they are a dying breed but I keep finding them, thank goodness.  Hopefully another one next...

The Little Pig:

This two sided corner house is beautiful, comfortable, tidy and well maintained.  It really is a little gem. 

A dozen or so customers were keeping the place alive, commentary from Aintree mixing with gentle conversations.

Unlike in the Boilermaker's, the TVs were showing the racing here with some of the regulars watching.

Next, the Red Lion:

This classic sixties building contains a rather fine two sided pub in which I'm not sure which is lounge and which is bar.  I walked through the corridor to the other side because that's where the landlady was, and soon had an excellent, and cheap, pint of cask Holt's Bitter to enjoy.

I returned through the corridor to the quieter side where I could sit in peace and quiet and write this.  There's a stage at the end of this room with a DJ booth and lots of disco lights set up so I imagine it will be noisy later.  Shortly after I sat down, the other two occupants of the room finished their drinks and departed, leaving me alone.  I seem to recall sitting in solitude on the same seat in this room last time I was here five and a half years ago.  Occasionally a local passed through to have a smoke outside, one said "Orright bud".

I looked at the counter, this is a Holt's house so almost all of the fonts are for their own products, Crystal Lager, Crystal Gold, Trailblazer Stout and so on.  But they don't make a cider so Strongbow and Strongbow Dark Fruits are allowed in as the only non-Holt taps.  An opportunity missed there, they should be making a cider as well.  (Business management advice available, only £100 an hour, enquire within.)

Finally, back towards the station and the second Junction of the month:

As you can see, it's really hard to get a good photo of this place, the busy car park thwarting my attempts.

Gosh, this place is busy.  The garden has a bouncy castle and lots of kids, the lounge side has some kind of buffet going on, and I managed to grab the last table in the bar.

A rather fine and obviously very successful pub this, I can only assume skilful management gets everyone in when the other three pubs I visited were fairly quiet.

I reached into my bag for my tablet, to make some notes, and panicked when it wasn't there.  I searched through the bag twice and then decided to abandon my lager and head back to the Red Lion to find it.  Then I noticed I'd already got it out and put it on the table beside me.  What an idiot.

No racng here, Sky Sports News forming the soundtrack in the bar side, mixing with the animated hubbub from the lounge.  Actually I'm wrong, a smaller telly was showing Aintree for those who wanted it - No one that I could see.

Mindful of the sparse post-COVID service I was checking the timetable for a train home, fortunately there was one at a convenient time.

People familiar with the pubs in the area may be wondering why I missed out some.  I even had to walk past the Vulcan.  No slight was intended to the Bowling Green and the Vulcan, it's just that I ticked both of them last year, so priority went to pubs not visited for over five years.

Pub of the day: Little Pig, by a narrow margin.
Beer of the day: Holt's Bitter
Miles walked: 1.8
Maybe coming soon: Everton, Wavertree

Thursday 13 April 2023

Two Reboots

A trip into town for shopping provided an opportunity to tick a couple of places that have enjoyed recent refurbishments.

First, the former Beehive on Paradise Street is now called Futurist:

I found a very good refurbishment of a formerly slightly careworn pub.  It's hard to judge how much of the well done interior is original, the ceramics I saw last time I was here seem to have gone.  The stained glass windows look genuine although the rather fine seating booths are definitely new.

No real ale any more, sadly.  The new girl was in charge of the counter and she took ages to make a cocktail which went wrong, so her boss poured it away and made another.  Then the girl served someone who'd arrived after me, something that always irritates me.  Finally I got a decent pint of Guinness.  Over a fiver!  Minutes later there were three staff, obviously I was unlucky.

Another shop, and then into the Vines:

WOW!  A major refurbishment throughout has resulted in a truly wonderful pub, really a match for the more famous Philharmonic.  And it's gained real ale as well.

They've done up the billiard room as well with a second bar counter and there was even a real fire.  One of the "stag's heads" on the wall is actually half the animal, complete with front legs.

With reference to this blog passim I did note two missing glass shades on the electrolier nearest me in the billiard room.

For some reason every table, mantelpiece, and flat surface had a lighted candle.  Are they expecting a power cut?

There's a booby trap for real ale fans here:  Four handpumps on the counter, I had a fine pint of Jarl, and four different ales on the billiard room counter, so I could have had Plum Porter.

Pub of the day: The Vines really is glorious.
Beer of the day: Jarl
Miles walked: 2.6 (Mainly shopping)
Maybe coming soon: Sutton, Picton, Everton

Saturday 8 April 2023

Two Steps Forward, Four Steps Back

On a pleasant sunny April Saturday I travelled to Rice Lane, hoping for some new ticks and some overdue ones.  I started in the back streets at the Breeze:

How did that happen?  This pub has been in my list for twenty-three years, it's only a couple of hundred yards from other pubs I have drunk in, and yet I've never been here.  It seems so unlikely that I'm wondering if I came in twenty something years ago and then the record got lost in the pre-database days.

Anyway, this is a typical backstreet boozer, knocked through to create an L-shaped room, plainly decorated and fairly tidy.  Apart from the bench seats being due for a recovering the interior is in good nick, as all pubs seem to be nowadays.  I was amused to note one place where the painter doing the what do you call it, the moulding between wall and ceiling, (Checks Google - crown moulding, no wait, that's American, it is of course coving.) had run out of paint half way along and never returned to finish it.

Just a handful of regulars were watching Everton lose on the telly.  Oddly the caption on the screen was labelled home and away with no indication of the team names.  Perhaps some dodgy foreign channel? 

Now, on to Rice Lane itself for a quick picture of the Queen Victoria which my pre-flight checks had shown was closed:

Next, probably the least well known architectural gem in Liverpool, the Prince Arthur:

I'm pleased to see they've improved the outside by taking down the excess of Sky banners, but it is the inside that is most important and, wow, it's all still here.  The lounge side is served via hatches in the bar back, across a drinking corridor.  The bar back itself is filled with wonderful leaded glass, and the arches between the lounge rooms and the corridor are also crowned with leaded glasswork.  

I relaxed and enjoyed my pint of fizz, admiring the interior.

Quite a lot of people were in here, the pub was filled with lively chatter.  Most were watching Everton lose on a channel which has the team names in the caption.  As soon as the football was over the TV switched to racing, and there was a flurry of newspapers and betting slips.  I was interested to note modernity creeping in, a significant proportion of the racing fans were betting on their phones rather than nipping out to the bookies.

Just across the road from the Arthur is the former Raffles/Shamrock/Northcote which has turned into a shop since I was last here in 2018:

My next target, again for purely photographic purposes, is the former Plough, last visited in 2003 and now a nursery.  At least the rather good building has survived, it was proposed for demolition in 2017 I believe.

Now, a few steps up a side road is Dunny's:

I always had this down as a social club and the only time I tried to get in, back in 2000, it was shut, but it's certainly welcoming drinkers today so I gained another brand new tick.

Behind the small frontage is a large social club style L-shaped bar room and a function room laid out for a "do" later, or perhaps it always looks like that.

The bar room was quite busy, although there were plenty of free tables and I selected one in a secluded corner.  BT sports news competed with racing on various TVs, but the main sound I could hear was the chatter of the regulars.

I noticed a small area divided from the main room by a glass partition and signed "smoker room".  I assume that's left over from the pre-smoking ban era.

Continuing northwards up Rice Lane we reach the former Bakery Inn, now an Indian restaurant.  Another one lost:

Just across the road is the Prince Leopold:

The outside has been well looked after since I was last here, and inside I found a very well cared for two sided boozer in which everyone, including me, was in the bar side.  A bit of a classic, this one, with a small amount of leaded glasswork surviving, and the lounge side served from a small opening in the bar back.

Five years ago I was startled to find decent cask ale here, no sign of any handpumps this time, so I stuck with my usual Canadian fizz.

Just four regulars keeping the place going at four on a Saturday, MTV providing the soundtrack.

Time for home, I think.  Two new ticks is excellent, but four closures is less welcome.

Pub of the day: Prince Arthur
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 1.9
Maybe coming soon: Everton, Southport, Smithdown Road.

Thursday 6 April 2023

The Junction

Not a pub survey today, I travelled to Rainford to ride on the last ever trains between there and Kirkby.  Those of you interested in railways will know the details and those who are not won't care, so I will not describe this further.

However, finding myself at Rainford (Formerly Rainford Junction) station I took the opportunity to nip in to the Junction pub:

It's always good to visit a quality pub such as this, and I have long forgiven the incident many years ago when I came all the way here by train only to find the place closed when the signs said it should be open.

At six there were plenty of drinkers in the place, with gentle chatter mostly drowning the background music.

My pint of a rum porter from Wily Fox was excellent.  The menu looks good but I was surprised that I couldn't see anyone eating.

It is lucky they've got free WiFi because I had no mobile signal, and I needed to check the progress of my train.  As soon as I typed that, all the lights went out, along with the internet!  Someone said the pub is powered by a generator.  I know this is the middle of nowhere, but surely they have mains electricity by now!  Perhaps diesel is cheaper, although I don't think you can use the red stuff nowadays.

Anyway, brief power outage notwithstanding, this is truly a great pub, deservedly popular, and well worth a visit if you're passing - Or even if you're not.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Closer To Home

I headed out on a sunny Tuesday afternoon for a short walk to a new bar.

Soon I reached Bowring Park Golf Course, and their new nineteenth hole, the Coach House:

Apparently this has been open since last November but I only learned of its existence yesterday.  Inside the ancient building I found a very pleasant bar, pretty busy with only one or two free tables.  The attractive interior has a stone floor, bare brick walls and, above, naked beams.

My Guinness was slightly delayed by a problem with the contactless machine, soon resolved by the barmaid wiggling the wire.

Many of the customers were enjoying food, and the slightly echoey room was filled with happy chatter.  I can't quite put my finger on why but the whole place had the feel of a well run successful establishment.  Long may it continue.

I noticed the food from the kitchen seemed to come via outside.  Don't order if it's raining unless you like soggy chips!

Next, just a short distance back towards home is the Derby Lodge:

Nothing much has changed since the last time I was in here, fifteen years ago.  There's really no excuse for a gap that long on a pub an easy walk from my home!

The handpumps on the counter looked to be long out of use, last time I tried cask in here it was awful so probably just as well.

The decor, pleasant and well cared for, is, what do you call it, er, Ember Inns style, you know what I mean.  (It's not an Ember Inn, being a Table Table location.)

Just a few customers at two on a Tuesday, although I didn't check the restaurant end of the building.

Part of the same complex was a regular haunt of mine back in the 1990s.  Natterjacks is still there, looking like it only closed last week rather than 25 years ago:

Next on my walk homewards is the Stanley Arms, the eagle and child resplendent on top of the sign:

Unchanged since my last call three years ago, immaculately maintained and I think that might be a new carpet.

A disappointing lack of customers here, I suppose half two on a Tuesday is not a peak time.  I had the large back room to myself.

My Guinness followed today's trend of getting cheaper, £5 in the Coach House, £4.55 in the Derby and then £4.10 here if I remember right.

I noticed if you park here you have to enter your reg number on a computer, otherwise I guess you get a nasty bill.  I suppose pubs like this have to get their income where they can, but it seems a bit unfriendly.  It would be interesting to find out the ratio of 'customers who've failed to register' to 'non customers exploiting the car park' in this revenue stream.

Finally, the walk home passes the Crofters, it would be rude not to go in:

In the same Sizzling chain as the Stanley, this one was also quiet but not deserted, with just a few customers scattered around the well maintained interior.

A bloke at the bar had the biggest dog I've ever seen, no idea what breed but it was enormous.  Luckily it was well behaved and spent most of the time relaxed on the floor.  The owner said he weighed nine and a half stone.  (Er, that's he, the dog, not he, the owner.)

There seemed to be more locals that know each other in here than in the Stanley, I could hear quite a lot of chit-chat despite the place being mostly empty.  Many of the regulars said hello to the giant dog, before he led his owner out.

It was good to do an impromptu survey without having to worry about buses or trains: Rather relaxing, and it was also helped by the splendid weather.  I guess cutting the grass will have to wait another day!

Pub of the day: Coach House
Beer of the day: Guinness
Miles walked: 1.9
Maybe coming soon: Rainford, Rice Lane, Southport, Everton

Saturday 1 April 2023

Edge Hill

I had a bad feeling about today's excursion:  Was I going to be the fool who walked miles without finding an open pub?  I headed to Edge Hill station, and to my first boozer, the Durning Arms:

Well!  This plain pleasant pub has been done up inside since my last visit.  Unless my recollections are faulty they have knocked through so it is now one u-shaped room around a three sided counter.

About a dozen other customers meant that chatter was about equal to the music in the bright sunny interior.  The former back room, with a pool table, was empty.

The regulars were exceptionally friendly, at least three independently greeted the stranger in the corner.

Moving on, I walked past the Spekeland, long closed, never visited, and now student accommodation, I think:

On to the Boundary:

It looks a little tatty inside this imposing building, but the glorious ceramics and woodwork mostly survive.  Painting was under way in the larger back room, so clearly it is not totally out of use.

Only one other customer at two on a Saturday, which is a shame.

The front room is on a slope and the counter has a step in it.  Not as steep as the Globe in town.

The other customer and I enjoyed (or ignored) Murder She Wrote on the telly as I drank my second Carling of the day.  Unusually, in here I requested "Carling please" and the barmaid answered "pint?", normally that goes unsaid.

My mind wandered:  If I won the lottery and bought a pub to save it, this could be the one.  Spend lots of money on restoration and maintenance, put on a couple of real ales, and then run at a steady loss indefinitely.  I suspect most of the cask ale would go down the drain as I can't see the locals being fans of Oakham Citra!  Perhaps Titanic Plum Porter would tempt the Strongbow Dark Fruit drinkers?

Next, on to a pub that my researches showed had probably closed since my last visit to the area, the Newstead Abbey:

And indeed, it's now a Syrian shop.  I was amused to note that the shop sign still has Burtonwood branding!

So, just down a side street is the Earl Marshall:

As I approached, the blank signage and drawn blinds suggested I might be out of luck, but a closer look showed the door was open and inside I found a popular boozer with customers of all ages filling the bar side.

Another Carling was promptly served and I retreated to a side room across the corridor from the bar.

This pub has obviously had a good redecoration fairly recently, the paint work, upholstery and carpet are all in excellent condition.  A good measure of the quality of maintenance is antique-style lights with glass globes:  How many are broken - None here - and how many light up - I can't tell.

The football punditry gave way to music once the assessment of Liverpool's defeat had finished.  I thought the BBC were a bit unfair saying that Liverpool were thrashed, losing 4-1 away to a team above you in the league is hardly a thrashing, although I should own that (a) I didn't see the match and (b) I know nothing about football.    If you're a regular, dear reader, I expect you've already deduced the latter.

From where did I pinch the "dear reader" meme?  I can't remember and Google doesn't seem to know:  Uncle Tom's Cabin?  Pah, I've never read it.  While we're asking irrelevant questions, what did we call this sort of thing before the word meme was invented?  [Update:  The word I was looking for was motif, I think.  Or maybe trope?]

The barmaid plus a customer singing along with the jukebox produced some talented harmonisation.

I walked past the closed Earle 

... and on to my next target,  another one I think may have closed, the Ashdale Inn:

No, it's still open, with a well maintained unchanged interior.  Quite a few locals were spread about the split levels.  With the front door being open it was very chilly in here, I kept my jacket on as I consumed Carling number four.  (Pint by default here.)

I examined my surroundings;  they really are well looked after.  Just like the Earl, the carpet and upholstery are spotless.  On my previously stated measure, all the lights were lit, but a number of them had lost their globes.

So, on to my next target, first passing the closed Salisbury, Waldeck, and then the Railway, all three still displaying their pub signs.  The cool sunny day had changed to a very very grey sky and a bitter breeze.

Finally, one I never thought I'd visit, the Picton:

I only discovered the existence of this shop conversion a few years ago although it has been here for over a decade, and to be honest I feared it wouldn't survive lockdown, but I'm happy to report I was wrong so I got a brand new tick for my collection, number 1,432.

Just across the road from the Wellington, I thought they would steal each others custom, but apparently both have managed to endure.

In here, a plain comfortable and warm shop conversion, with a lively gang of regulars blocking the counter.  The barmaid instantly spotted me behind the crowd and soon provided another Carling.

Certainly the warmest pub so far, which was very welcome after the walk from the Ashdale.

People came in and out while I watched The Chase on the telly.  I've only just noticed that this quiz, and the Tipping Point, are cleverly designed so that one can have a go at at least some of the questions in a pub without the sound on.  I wonder if that's by design.  Probably not, because we drunks turn away when the ads come on.

Now what?  The pub across the road is also overdue for a visit.  On a couple of recent surveys I've prioritised the tick when relaxation and enjoyment should be more important.  So this time I'm going to get it right and, because I feel I've drunk enough, head for home leaving the Wellington for next time:

Pub of the day: Earl Marshall, truly a classic urban boozer.
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 2.5 miles
Maybe coming soon: Rainford, Everton, Southport, Rice Lane