Monday 26 October 2015

BRAPA : the archives (341-350)

Evening all!  Welcome back to the now official Monday night archives slot, though we probably only have four or five sessions left in truth.  Are you getting teary eyed?

Here's some more as we travel to counties like Durham, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Lancs and Lincolnshire where I visited pubs yesteryear, before BRAPA was a seedling in my addled brain.

341.  Head of Steam, Durham

Probably somewhere between Newcastle's scuzzy gig Head of Steam, and the grand but sometimes foody Huddersfield version, JW2 thought that despite it being by no means a Durham GBG regular, he should bring me here before my train back home on my July 2011 visit.  Good pre-emptive work JW2!  I remember walking in to quite a young clientele, and smiley young female bar staff who seemed keen to impress but weren't really so comfortable when the subject of cask ale came up.  Can't quite remember the details but something didn't quite go according to plan!  I was most enthralled however by an interesting collection of Live Aid 1985 photos on the wall which must have been taken by someone who was at the front for all the bands - I'd just seen a programme on TV and wondered what it must have been like, Bob Geldof and Bono aside of course!   I remember telling JW2 I personally thought it was, all things considered, a pub worthy of a place in the GBG.  Now Camerons owned I believe, which seems to have been a change for the better.

342.  Prince of Wales, Westbury-on-Trym

Westbury was mine and Dad's Bristol suburb of choice for those Bristol Rovers games after we started using the GBG to help us pick a pub.  It even remained so after Dad read about a brutal murder, which surprised me cos it seemed a place full of poshos.  I'm going to stick my neck out here (not so I can be executed) but because I think my main reason for choosing this was it was an 11am opener on 13th April 2002, before we discovered the brilliant (but presumably no more) Post Office Tavern and it's invisible pizza menu and olympic athlete barmaid.  I digress.  This pub had a welcoming but very well to do feel to it, enhanced by incredibly posh Mum and student daughter demanding lunch just a few tables away, where Newcastle silently played someone in the lunchtime kick off.  The pub was almost too nice and I felt I was too northern and dirty to fit in here!

343.  Pembroke, Old Portsmouth

Friday 19th March 2010 and I'd finished my tour of HMS Victory and 'enjoyed' a pint in the not very pre-emptive Lord Nelson with a nice young chap who was actually a West Ham fan who was in Jimmy Bullard's class at school and loved dressing in a suit when he played Football Manager!  So it was off to get some proper GBG pubs ticked off and first on my list was here, a real old school pub with lots of old men with carrier bags of tripe, old women cackling with one tooth, and aggresive darts players.  I squashed in a corner with a pint of Bass and tried to look relaxed!  The people were nice really, just very characterful.   I must have thought it was ok, for I brought Tom and Dad back here a couple of years later after another HMS Victory walk around.  I think I went for the Greene King Abbot this time, sat even further in the corner, the pub felt very similar, like the type you'd find if you were on shore leave.  Understated but a bit of salty star quality!

344.  Dog & Gun, Aughton

14th September 2013 saw me and Krzb have a very enjoyable day in Ormskirk.  We combined it by geting on a very interesting Metro link which I didn't know existed to Aughton Park, from where we walked to this pub.  Two cosy roomed Marstons, it might have had a certain charm, but the menagerie of animals and birds was ridiculous.  I've never seen so many things flitting and running around a pub, not to mention the donkey in the garden or the rabbits.  I think at the time they were also doing 'light snacks', but who'd eat here?  It smelt unhygenic and the final straw had to be when I reached into the leaflet holder to get a local CAMRA mag.  Not only was it empty but a huge snail was inside!  "Inform your local CAMRA branch if this is empty" said the slogan.  But it technically wasn't empty, so I couldn't tell CAMRA anything!  It was time to leave, after a very quick glimpse of the donkey at the bank.  To be back in the GBG, I can only assume a full fumigation has taken place.

Arriving at the animal-tastic Dog & Gun

345.  Rose & Crown, Blackpool

Well, well.  I never thought this would be a pre pre-emptive BRAPA tick, not in my wildest imagination.  Not even this August just gone when Andy Dunn regaled me with stories of how scientific invention can change the world, whilst Lu rolled her eyes Jig got pegged after I gave a punk permission to do so.  Krzb then pegged me as pay back.  Still, I should have known something was afoot.  For the first time since my first visit here (probably Aug 2007), we were NOT drinking Wells Bombardier from a Polycarbonate glass.  We were in fact drinking a top quality pint of White Witch by Moorhouses.  Still, the word 'BRAPA pre-emptive' was a far from my mind as anything.  Over the years, this pub has almost become the official "punk" pub outside Winter Gardens.  It's normally packed and plays a spirited selection of old and new punk music at all times.  Although it's never been our favourite, it is tradition to come at least once every year (though we didn't in 2014) and has a great hubbub.  My highlights include when they made Lu a great vegan meal from scratch cos she was bored of jacket and beans.  Another good time was when a punk lady took a great photo of all of us on my little lime green camera.  This was when we were winding down, having witnessed the London riots on a TV through the window, we'd been sat in the outdoor area where Pet Shop Boys were being piped into the street.  Don't blame the punx, we were all in Blackpool! 

Lu and Jig enjoy a surprisingly top quality pint in the Rose & Crown!
346.  Pump & Truncheon, Blackpool

And on the other side of the Blackpool coin, "it's about time!" is all I can say about finally seeing this gem back in the GBG, though to be fair standards had slipped around the 2011-13 period and I know because I've had enough pints in here over the years to feel informed enough to say!  It feels strange looking back to say that my first visit was with football in mind, Boxing Day 2004 before Stuart Elliott tore those poor Seasiders apart.  I fell in love with it straight away, with it's strange almost courtroom feel as we sat around the perimeter with bannisters in our way.  On trail were England Cricket team, playing an Ashes test and it felt hard to get passionate about cricket on Boxing Day.  Shame the locals couldn't put the same passion into supporting their football team that day.  It's done us well for football a couple of times since, notably New Years Day 2013 when it won massive brownie points for being open 10am and having three perfectly well kept ales on!  That never happens on NYD.  But it's of course the punk festival I know it best for, having introduced it to my friends the first time we came to the Punk Fest after that 26.12.14 day (2007), it has been our safe-haven, regular pub and we all love it.   Even the harder to please members of the group and believe me, they can be hard to please!  In 2015 especially, I noted an upturn of beer range and quality and with a "punk wedding" on in the background, it felt like it was trying to compete with Rose & Crown for the punk errrm crown.  A toastie, a game of pool, and a listen to the 16 song muscial loop is always a joy.   Wonderful place.

Me, Lisa and Lu - not at all drunk in the Pump, 7.8.15
347.  Buffer Stops, Rawtenstall

27th July 2013 and our annual Welly day out took us to the East Lancs railway.  Some bright spark had learnt of a new pub opening the very day we were there, and I just remember sitting on some very new picnic benches (looked like they'd arrived from B&Q 10 minutes before) right at the bottom of the beer garden (outdoor area) in the summer sun.  Next thing I know, Christine's come back with a round and exclaims she's just been served by no other than Lancs steam train and shit pop music impresario Pete Waterman, who the internet confirms did do the grand opening of this pub on this day though Christine had stalked him sufficiently to get a photo to prove it.  This must be a BRAPA record for visiting a pub after it's opened, though I am determined to beat it one day.  Also probably the most famous person to serve me a BRAPA pint, though again, this will be beaten one day when Super Kevin Francis opens a micro pub in Hednesford.  

Cheers for the ale Pete, but not for the 80's dross! 
348.  Butcher & Beast, Heighington

By the time me and Dad went to watch Hull City away at Lincoln on 9th November 2002, we'd learnt two things.  Firstly, we'd be using the Good Beer Guide to select away match pubs for near on 11 months and we could finally do this for Lincoln.  Secondly, Lincoln away is one of the scariest, aggravational police ridden hooligan ridden places for an away day.  I think these two factors were the reason behind our decision to go to the nearest village to the centre.  I don't remember much about it apart from it being I think black and white beamed, very traditional inside, hanging baskets outside, a bit of food going on, and as it was a Bateman's pub as it is now, was this perhaps my introduction to this famous brewery's ales.  There was still something of a novelty factor pubs of visiting a GBG pub at this time, the standard overall seemed that much higher.  This was never a contender for the 2002/3 pub of the year, but a good one nonetheless.

349.  Blue Bell, Scunthorpe

Now I'm not going to claim that I was ignorant of the 'chain' of Wetherspoons when we visited here on 15th Feb 2003 but it's fair to say we hadn't really done our homework as it felt like Dad's car stumbled upon it more than anything.  No Autoroute map had been made, and I obviously hadn't read the description, so maybe it was more of a "bonus pub" than anything else.  Dad quickly pulled into the large car park with a "ey up, Blue Bell, is this one you wanted?" and I replied with an "errrm I think so".  We both found it a massive bonus to find a pub open to us well before 12 noon and the two bouncers didn't put us off as we pretended to have nothing to do with football (the town had been teeming with a sense of dread, as Scunthorpe often does anyway).  About 20 minutes in as we took our drinks to a raised area to the right of the bar, I read a menu and it twigged "aaaah it's a Wetherspoons, this explains everything".  It probably also explained how the previously empty car park was suddenly a hive of riot police, but they wished us a cheery good bye as we fought our way back to the car, with Dad muttering at them if THIS was really all necessary.  Off to Ashby High St. for a bit of peace and quiet(!)

350.  Magpie, Liverpool Street, London

Me, Dad, Christine and Ben had checked into our respective Travelodge accomodation and enjoyed three wonderful pubs close to the city before two of our group's birthday night on 28th Jan 2009 - the East India Arms being the highlight.   What could possibly go wrong in three words?  Chris Irvin Syndrome - that's what.  This apparently wonderful pub was a bad choice for a midweek night, being so close to Liverpool Street station.  Stressed staff, beers going off, nowhere to sit, dirty plates not cleared away, chaotic food ordering - oh dear, it was almost a blueprint for my forthcoming special BRAPA feature on the 'don'ts' of pubs.  Probably similar to fellow nearby Nicholson's Woodin Shades, I guess it is also a tourist trap but may be best visited 11am on a Saturday, though even this can't guarantee quietness as Woodin showed earlier this year.  I'd like to think it's re-emergence in the Guide proves it's quality, but in Central London even I admit you have to take it with a pinch of salt.

So, on that rather unsavoury note, I will bid you good night until next time (if not next Monday, definitely the one after) where we will be exploring East London, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and many more ......



  1. The Metro between Ormskirk and Aughton Park is just a bog standard BR train.

    Just for the record, we actually travelled behind Pete Waterman's Super D between Bury and Rammy if memory serves me right on that day. I can remember Christine having her picture taken with Waterman but I don't actually remember him serving her. The man has done a great deal for railway preservation, I just hope he gets his peak out for the lads. I was in Bufferstops on Saturday, still the same superb standard of pie.

    You say " Lincoln away is one of the scariest, aggravational police ridden hooligan ridden places for an away day". Please justify the two words 'one of'.

    To the best of my knowledge Chris Irvin had never previously set foot in the Magpie, he picked it from the GBG. I could be wrong on that, just outside Liverpool St is a likely location for him to have visited a pub at some stage. West Ham is always a difficult one to pick a pub for, in my opinion the worst in London, not a million miles off worst in the Football League. I'm not sure it will get any better with the new ground. I may one day when we play them suggest an out of the box Essex option.

  2. Can't wait for the Rose & Crown, waiting for the sun to reappear before my annual trip to the beach and St Annes.

    Do many Yorkies go to Blackpool; people down here think we're made when we go there.

  3. Martin, it really is quite a jolly place the Rose & Crown. Try and go mid punk festival, first Saturday in August, for a high octane experience. I'm a bit worried this year cos so many good bands on, my own plans for a St Annes/Lytham or Fleetwood day trip look like they might be tricky! It's always Scottish tourists we see, not many Yorkies, they all stay loyal to Filey, Scarbs and Brid.

    Tom! I never replied to this blog comment, sorry. The picture in this blog is the one Christine took when she was served by PW! I don't think she had one taken with him.

    Is Lincolnshire the most terrifying county on earth?

    Do we now have plans for West Ham's new ground pubs? Essex? There's a pub on an airfield I need! It might be a game I'd go to on the off chance we go up.

  4. Is there something new in Lytham St. Annes, or have you just not been? I've wondered about it for when we play Blackpool. A look back at the summer Saturday trains of the 80s, which are before my time but I can see some of the records, show existence of trains to Blackpool from Sheffield, Glasgow and Stranraer, amongst others.

    The more rural areas of Lincolnshire are so docile it's unbelievable.

    Where's the airfield. Stratford is in a very good position for transport, the obvious thought to me is Romford. I think if we go up Ehab may well implement an absurd administration fee on all away tickets. The only doubt is I'm not sure whether he has the gumption to think of the idea.

  5. Plenty to go at under both Lytham and St Annes, don't know how new they are but I've never been and would need to tag an extra day onto punk fest (wish I'd booked to stay over an extra day, maybe I can tag a day onto my accommodation (not done trains yet), or maybe I'd just be glad to get home from the punk in one piece!) And do it on a NFFD!

    I've got a Lincs friend on Twitter now, he seems docile but never seems to be drinking in Lincs!

    Airfield begins with an A, it's near nowhere, Braintree isn;t too far!

    KCOM stadium eh? Whatever next. KingCom would be better, then visitors can call it the King Kong!

  6. Is the airfield pub Milli-bar (see what they've done there?) at Andrewsfield Airfield. I'd have to look at logistics, but it opens at 08:30 and there are direct trains from Braintree to Stratford. Don't rule it out.

    Lytham and St. Annes are 10 minutes on the train from Blackpool South, easily done in the same manner as Bispham last year, even if you just pick off a couple a year. If a tram to/from digs or festival is needed, then Squires Gate railway station is very close to the tram terminus at Starr Gate. I think they'd work well for a Blackpool pre-match too.

    Thinking about it, the towns of Lincolnshire, which must account for a huge proportion of the population are terrifying. Even the little ones like Sleaford have reputations. The rural parts are docile and friendly as you like.

    Hull City play their home matches at the Circle Stadium.

  7. That's the baby! It looks fascinating but my A-Z gene says plenty of water under the runway before I think about that, and the water is called Bucks, Cambs, Cornwall (eek), Cumbria, Derbys, Durham and sorry if I've missed any.

    I won't rule it out this fest then, but I do have the Auctioneer Spoons near B.South to fall back on too, perhaps for Brek one day if I can't be bothered to do my self catering cooking after watching punk bands til 2am!

    The "Sair-cull", as I believe it is generally known in 'Ull. I may start calling it the Season Ticket Free Park or Admin Fee Meadow.

  8. It is quite likely that we won't play West Ham before you have completed those counties. We're going to Burton next season instead. I hope the inevitable relegation happens there just for the headlines.

    1. It's a classic ale town, might need a not very necessary overnight stop! "Hull City have gone for a Burton?"

  9. It was back to Bombardier (decent)& B. Gold at the Rose & Crown last week, and as I said in my blog it felt like one of those bars on a caravan park in Filey. Irrelevant really as Blackpool looked great.

    The new St Annes pub (Victoria) was wonderful in a modern estate pub. I might blog about it but a bit Blackpool overload. Friendliest barmaid so far. And Bass.

    The Essex Airfield is fun but you need a designated driver like I was for Mrs RM. You get to drink a bargain beer while watching little planes (technical term) land near your car.