Saturday, 11 November 2017

11/11/17 - Bishop's Castle Pubs

Bishop's Castle offers plenty to the Rambler.  We came three years ago, expecting to find the Three Tuns brewery but being surprised by the wealth of beery entertainment options available.  A proper night out is required to sample the pubs and the two breweries.

Pub crawl inspiration was found in a nifty little CAMRA guide but for the definitive pub guide - you have to love the Internet.  This cracking site details the current 6 and the lost 40.  Good work.

50 GreatPubWalks
49 other adventures await
Following a damp November walk over Oakeley Mynd, we had the afternoon, evening and night to explore.

The Six Bells, Church Street, Cloud Nine
Six Bells
Six Bells - Pub and Brewery
Returning into BC, we decide to knock a couple off and the Six Bells is a fine place to start any adventure.  Its a decent enough pub, but also a brewery.  Through the porch and closed doors left or right.  Decision time and we make the correct choice by going right, where the bar and other customers are located.

The punters are a lady waiting for her CAMRA loving husband and son to come back from a brewery tour and three dogs - including the adorable Milly the resident Labradoodle.  She refused to give up her bench seat, even when humans fill the bar later in the day.

Service - and fire starting - is provided by two enthusiastic Polish Ladies.  We will meet them, and Milly, later on.

Inside the 6 Bells
Marie Celeste of bars.  10 mins later, the place was heaving
Beer wise, I was on new ground and consulted the various menus dotted around the place.  I went for a Cloud Nine - A Golden Beer that was functional.  When the CAMRA tour came back, they all had Hero - which looked much more lively than mine.

I could have stayed all day to sample more but there was much work to do.

The Boar's Head, Church Street. Ludlow Gold

Boars Head
Boars Head - Food
Well presented, welcoming family dining type pub with a wonderful log burner.  One or two real ales on and the Ludlow Gold was in fine condition.   Cask Marque Accredited.

Ludlow Gold at the Boar's Head
Fast becoming a favourite
Castle Hotel, Market Square, Clun Pale Ale

The Castle Hotel
BC by Night
Town full of surprises.  Night fell in BC and we headed out for our evening meal.  This tick was included, simply to complete the town, as you don't expect much beer wise from a hotel.

But this place was top notch.  Once you work out how to get in, there's a proper bar full of drinkers, taking advantage of Chesterfields, a log burner and a really top class selection of ales.   There were several from the three tuns (going there next), some Hobsons and a never before seen Clun Brewery Pale Ale.

Clun Pale Ale at the Castle Hotel
Even has a record in UnTappd for check in
Great place.

The Three Tuns, Salop Street, Rantipole

After our last visit, I went to a pub quiz in my local where the question was "Name England's oldest Brewery".  My team mate looked to me.  I said The Three Tuns, Bishops Castle, with some confidence.  I had read their bar mats.   The answers came in.  Shepherd's Neame.  Much protestation ensued but I may have mis-read the info.  This is England's oldest licenced brewery.

It was, as I remember it.  Good food and organised tours of men who have come especially to this small town for beery day out.

Three Tuns
England's Oldest?
Did I learn anything new on this visit?  It's in the 2018 Good Beer Guide.  There's a blue plaque on outside dedicated to the man who wrote the songs for Cliff Richard and the Shadows.  The Rantipole was even better than the Cleric's Cure.

The Kings Head, Church Street, Wye Valley Butty Bach

The night is moving on and we determine where the action in town is on these last two ticks.

External photos were not possible due to the many smokers gathered outside on both our entrance and exit.

We fight our way through and the place is heaving but we strike lucky, with a pub crawl party of 10 men just about to leave.  We can soak in the atmosphere of a popular market town pub at 9:30pm.  Things we observe.

  • Oasis is the most popular band on the jukebox
  • There are some spectacularly drunken people
  • Many of them have come straight from work.  Unless its fancy dress and high viz jackets is the theme
A cracking atmosphere and a very good example of my local tipple.   This photo captures pub life.

Kings Head
Pub Life
The Crown and Anchor Vaults, High Street, Ludlow Gold

We had high hopes for this place as we could see the sign from our B&B over the road that proclaimed live music.   But how good will The Endings be?

Crown and Anchor Vaults
Bathed in Orange.  With Live Music
They were perfect Saturday night entertainment - fiddle driven Irish based rock anthems.  Everyone in town knows they are on, as most of the Kings Head come in once they start up and our two blokely pub crawl teams are already here.

We manage to get a seat at the back and peer at the action through gaps in the bar.

The Endings at the Crown Vaults
The Endings at the Vaults
In come the two Polish ladies from the Six Bells, with Milly the Labradoodle and another dog on leads.  You would think this would stop them from hitting the dancefloor with such aplomb.  If you've never seen a Pole do an Irish jig with a dog on a lead, then get yourself down to Bishop's Castle on a Saturday.

With our room in such close proximity to the action, there's no point in going home.

Our extended stay is rewarded with a rendition of "A Fairy Tale of New York" and we know Xmas is on the horizon.

11/11/17 - Bishop's Castle to Lydbury North

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 0
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine, Dec 2011, Walk 10
Pub - The Powis Arms, Lydbury North

We can hold the weather forecaster's responsible for this weekend's activities.  On Thursday, we were promised two days of glorious sunshine.  We looked to book a weekend adventure and settle on Bishop's Castle - an ancient Shropshire Market town, with much to offer the keen rambler and beer drinker.

By Friday, the forecast had changed.  To rain and fog.

Too late - our C16th Bed and Breakfast was booked up.

We start from the town centre and head South East to the nearest hill, Oakeley Mynd.  A fine path across fields and then through pine woods delivers us to the top.  The low cloud questions the logic of our endeavours.

Oakeley Mynd
Across Farmland to Oakeley Mynd
Oakeley Mynd
Plodding up, with Bishop's Castle behind
Oakeley Mynd
Topping out with no views

Lydbury North is the half way point.  A church, a school and a pub.  Our timing is impeccable at 12:01 but initial panic set in when the front door wouldn't open.  A skirt around the back and we are first in - with staff outnumbering punters 3-2 at this relatively early part of the afternoon.

Lydbury North
Lydbury North's Massive Church
Powis Arms, Lydbury North
Real Ale, Food, B&B and Camping
Ludlow Gold
A beautiful Ludlow Gold

I always worry that the first pint pulled that day will be poor quality but no complaints about this stunning looking locALE.

On with the walk and its as simple as going back up and over Oakeley Mynd a bit further to the west and along another good sunken path.

Sunken Path
Kicking the leaves over the Mynd

Views on any other Day
More lost views
A suitably beery welcome to a town that used to have 46 pubs but somehow manages to support two breweries and 6 pubs.   A field report to follow.

Beery Welcome to Bishop's Castle
Bishop's Castle promising beer

Saturday, 4 November 2017

04/11/17 - Heart of England Way Stage 7 - Hints

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5, Stage 6

No real way of sugar coating this walk, its a case of "After the Lord Mayors Show".

The walking on Stage 6 was average but it did have the benefit of ending in a City with four Good Beer Guide Pubs.  Stage 7 starts at Hints, a DRY village that is so boring, the A5 was re-routed to avoid motorists falling asleep.

It means that Old Watling Street provides a quiet refuge for parking.

Road to Nowhere
The old A5 at Hints.  A lost highway
We start by heading north to pick up where we left the HOEW at Knox's Grave Lane.  There's a roped off quarry, an aerial and 3 elderly caches that don't get found too often.

Crossing back over the A5, we do get some views of agricultural Staffordshire.  This is where someone comments "What did you expect from Staffordshire?  Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically...."

Leafy Lanes
I bring you leafy HOEW....
Some views
... And a Clump of Trees

Normally the pub saves the most boring of walks but today, we are in trouble.

Hints has a Church and little else.   We kept our eyes peeled for a suitable refreshment stop on the road from J10 of the M42.  There was nothing.....

We try heading home through Sutton Coldfield.

Once Mrs M had refused the Harvester, I knew there was no chance of the Hungry Horse.

For the 1st time, I have a Mappiman Real Ale walk with no real ale.

The next leg of the HOEW looks even less inspiring....  my guidebook doesn't even describe it properly and it seems to be along lanes with no verges and lots of cars.

Next month, I may be blogging a first Virtual Walk.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

29/10/17 - Mow Cop from Congleton

Distance - 9 Miles
Geocaches - 19
Walk Inspiration
Pub - Queens Head, Congleton

Our two Mancunian offspring have been complaining that we don't come up and see them.  Taking advantage of Premier Inn's generous early bird offer, we rectify this position.  On the same weekend they both decide to come back home.

No worries, there are walks to do, CAMRA Good Beer Guide Pubs to tick off and generously, they have agreed to meet us in Manchester, so we can buy them dinner.

Today's walk starts at Congleton Railway station and instantly heads out onto the Macclesfield Canal.  With October's geocaching smiley count looking poor, its fortuitous that there is a Power Trail of more than 100 caches laid along the canal's 15 miles.   We only do around four miles and Mrs M gets bored, leaving me to find what I can in short time frames at many GZs.  She pays for leaving me, as she misses our canal exit point and needs to retrace her steps.  She takes the extra 1/2 mile quite well, all things considered.

Macclesfield Canal
Mrs M deciding that finding film pots on canals is not for her
The exit is at the foothills of Mow Cop.  We have a stiff climb up tracks and fields to reach the hamlet of Mow Cop.  The views behind include Jodrell Bank and most of Cheshire.  Stunning day for it.

Views over Cheshire
Mow Cop is where all the action is.  Along with the views, a lunch time bench, we also have the Old Man of Mow and Mow Cop Castle to explore.

Old Man of Mow
Old Man of Mow - left over Quarry Stack
Mow Cop Castle
Mow Cop Castle - 1754

A gentle walk downhill, along a vergeless road before we eventually get refuge in Willocks Woods.

Through Willocks Woods
Willocks Woods
Fields return us to the outskirts of Congleton, where our 2018 Good Beer Guide Tick awaits.

Queens Head Hotel, Park Lane Congleton, Bass Premium Ale

Queens Head, Congleton
Queens Head - from the Railway Bridge
Plenty to admire in this solid looking community pub.  I'll start with the monthly Sunday dog walks.  If you partake, you get a discount on their highly recommended Sunday Lunches.

There's two entrances, the main reception and the intriguingly named "Tap Room".  We deboot and enter through this door to a central bar.

And what a choice of beers!  We can only stop for one and I am forced to choose between TT Landlord, Black Sheep and a couple of others.  I eventually plum for the Red Triangle of Bass.

Bass Premium Ale
And the Sunday Rags
Stunning walk from again.  Enough to justify this year's subscription.

29/10/17 - Knott the Greatest Start to GBG Ticking in Greater Manchester

A Sunday night in Manchester, where there is much work to do.  There are 17 Good Beer Guide entries in the 2018 Bible.  In a typical no nonsense Northern Way, one is called in "Micro Pub" and one is called "Pie and Ale".

With both adult offspring residing in the City, there is a chance to take our time getting the ticks.   I live in hopeful expectation that one may even buy a round.

The Knott Bar, 374 Deansgate

After feeding them at the Wharf (a 2017 Entry, inexplicably removed), we use the power of Google to find the Knott Bar.  Its just up the road from Deansgate Locks, where in 2001, I nearly drank in the same establishment as Kylie Minogue.  I'll always rue the day I chose Revolution over the Sugar Lounge.

The bible promises an "Electronic Poster Board", so I should have guessed what to expect.  It's crammed under the railway bridge and full off exposed ceilings, providing a gritty urban experience.  Every time a train goes over, the artisan gin bottles rattle.

The Knott
Mappiman going Trendy
I have no problem drinking in establishments not really designed for me.  After finishing up here, I take my son to the Temple Bar and attempt to wow him with my tune selection on the jukebox.  He gave up after a 90 minute wait, claiming a £1 con and music fed by iPod.

So back to the Knott.  It is a Sunday and Mrs M suggest that I make allowances. following what may have been a busy weekend.  There are around 8 handpulls on but all but 3 are turned the wrong way round.  I am left with the choice of a dark stout, a pump with three lines of description that the barman cannot explain and a Pale Ale from Dan's Brewery.

The North really doesn't do superfluous marketing.  It was Pale.  And presumably made by Dan.

Pale Ale
Pale Ale and a Three Lined Sign that the Barman couldn't decipher

The beer was OK but nothing special to make me wonder how this got in the Bible ahead of many similar City Centre bars?

Maybe Sunday's not the best evening to go ticking.

Dan's Brewery Pale Ale
Dan's Pale Ale and half of Mappiman Offspring #1

The Britons Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater Street

An interlude for Coniston Bluebird in the Temple Bar and I need to redress the Pub Ticking balance and go for something more traditional.

With the Peveril of the Peak all in darkness (again!  Is it ever open?), it falls on a pub that sounds like a recruiting ground for the English Defence League to provide some tradition.

Horrifyingly, Google suggests it is now a Gastropub.  It's not, its same as it has been since the 1930's refit and a worthy entrant in CAMRA's Heritage Pubs.

Britons Protection
It's tiling like this that gets you Heritage Pub Status
For the first time, I stop admiring the whisky collection in the narrow front bar and head around the side to see two enclosed sitting rooms, providing a very homely feel.

Beerwise, I only noticed Robinsons Unicorn.  I know its not got many fans but here, it was perfectly presented and a lovely colour.

Britons Protection
Snug in the Britons Protection
2 ticks down, 15 to go.  I wonder where I can get a decent Pie in Manchester?

Saturday, 28 October 2017

28/10/17 - Bodenham Arboretum

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Walk Inspiration

Second week running where I struggle to spell Arboretum.

Mrs M declares she wants a quick local walk to see the autumnal colours.  I flick through walking books, consult old Country Walking Magazines and eventually settle on typing "Worcestershire Arboretum walks" into google.

This results in finding a decent looking walk that ticks most of the boxes but fails to have a pub on route.  The name of this blog is in jeopardy.

It does, however, meet with Mrs M's approval.  She's always wanted to go to Bodenham Arboretum.  I have to explain that due to a £6 entrance fee (per Adult), we are merely passing by the Arboretum.  But don't worry - we will still be able to see the trees.  I am accused of a meanness not seen since the kids dobbed on their grandfather for putting them on a ride outside a shop and shaking it, rather than putting in the coin.

Putting hereditary skinflintism to rest, we'll get on with the walk.  Its a gem.  Sometimes you don't need to travel miles - real beauty can be found on your doorstep.

Early walking takes us up sunken lanes, climbing always to Witnells End Farm.  The rising mist and crystal clear blue skies add to the Autumnal feel.

Leafy Paths
Leafy, sunken lanes
The Ridge
High Point, the Ridge
Worcestershire Views
Great views over Worcestershire

We head through Arley Wood.  No need to show you photos of trees.  We find the solo cache of the day - an ingenious field puzzle that takes me an age to decode.  Mrs M asks what's wrong with just having film pots.

A long straight track takes us down from Castle Hill.  No sign of a castle although there is a rumour of King John's Hunting Lodge.  The hamlet below is Kingsford, so it kind of rings true.

Coming down from Castle Hill
Coming down from Castle Hill
Walk over, we head to the Arboretum's cafe for refreshment.  It was a delight.  Mrs M was most taken with the carvery meats available on a baguette.

I found something to maintain the blog's authenticity.

Town Crier
Town Crier at the Big Pool

Monday, 23 October 2017

23/10/17 - Bull Baiters Inn, Worcester

Time flies... it's almost a year to the day when I last visited St Johns area of Worcester to get a pub tick.

So, what has the Bible done to the area in its latest release?

Well, it's taken out two traditional pubs and replaced with a promisingly named Inn.  Farewell to The Bell and The Bush, Hello to the Bull Baiters Inn.

Except it's not an Inn.  It's housed in a former patisserie.  It can only be a micro pub.  The Halloween Horror.

Bull Baiters Inn
Mistimed the Neon.  It doesn't always recommend "Soft Drinks"
Enter through the shop door into a single room.  There's no nooks and crannies to hide the punters.  To make matters worse, the electricity meter must be spinning off its axis, powering a lighting system that could probably be seen from space.

There's no escaping the glare from the four other patrons or the Shop Keep (Is Landlord the correct term in a Micro?), who looks out from behind his bar, king of all surveyed.  I am chillingly reminded of my old English Literature teacher.

It couldn't have helped that I had popped in from evening Geocaching.  What is a rambler doing trying to take photos when no-one is looking?

Three Tuns Stout at Worcester's Bull Baiters Inn
Close Encounters of the Micro Pub Kind
Beerwise, I will always remember this place for my first Three Tuns Stout.  Big fan of their beers but never seen this one before.  And I have been to Bishops Castle.  Other choices included a few hand written labelled ales and a barricade of Cider Boxes.

Decor wise - read the Bible.  Furniture fashioned from hop sacks and yes, I could have partaken in a game of "Ring the Bull".

The Sport of Kings.