Sunday, 1 November 2015

BRAPA - Milton Keynes away

My superb view at the Red Lion, Fenny Stratford (see pub 726)

I broke my Bucks BRAPA duck yesterday with a commendable three pub effort (the MK Wetherspoons not currently being in the Good Beer Guide).  Buckinghamshire joins Essex, Gloucs, Kent and Worcs on three.

After arriving in Milton Keynes via Euston at about 10:15am, we had a long walk into town from the railway station, in a very straight line, such is the crazily uniformed layout of MK.  One of the main conclusions from the day was that MK is traffic friendly, but not pedestrian friendly despite the strange parallel walkways.

724.  Slug & Lettuce, Milton Keynes

My joke about this being the most historic, architectural gem in the whole of Milton Keynes went down well on social media, perhaps it was actually true!  Anyway, unlike the Leicester version of this chain, there wasn't a buzzing pre-match throng of breakfasting people enjoying a wide range of ales.  Only two were on, Tim Taylor Landlord being the most exciting and to be fair, it was well kept having made a similar journey to us.  Dad seemed to be flagging already.  Maybe MK had drained his soul.  Speaking of which, the obligatory 'nod to Hallowe'en' was in the form of old B-movie posters.  At least, that's what I thought until I read titles such as "City of the Alien Invasion" and "How to Identify a Zombie" and wondered if they were just tourist information posters.  And as for the Wolfman, he was just a regular chap with much facial hair and a crazed expression.  The barman was a nice, helpful chap though his touch of southern hemisphere accent slightly hindered his chances of staff of the year, not that we are prejudiced here on BRAPA.  The only other customer, an old woman, had fallen asleep behind me briefly raising hopes in my mind of a first BRAPA death, which would have helped this rather non-descript pub stick in the mind.  As it was, mine host called her a taxi and she was soon on her way back home.  And we had a bus to catch.

Heritage heaven in Milton Keynes
Dad was really in my hands re the logistics of today went, so I was glad when bus 23 turned up and went in a northerly direction.  Plus Bus worked too.  We were soon being dropped perfectly as I envisaged, on the outskirts of Great Linford.  Problem is, I hadn't really then worked out how to get to the pub - Google Maps was no help at all.  Luckily, a friendly dog walker assisted us and soon we were crossing a bridge alongside the Grand Union Canal, our pub just on the other side. 

725.  Black Horse, Great Linford

It looked like a creaky old ancient inn from the outside, but it was soon clear this was gastro-tastic, and we were nearly grouped in with two women who'd just come in for lunch.  Staff were good though, and when the women had been dispatched to a dining room to the left, we were served, again from a choice of just the two ales, but the Oxford Gold was good if maybe a bit thin,  The low ceiling and little nooks and crannies gave quite a nice pub atmosphere, even if the diners did keep arriving.  However, it was clear that this pub wasn't going to have enough to keep us occupied until the match, (even though the loos were in a strange double upstairs location and smelt of lavender) so I rang for a taxi, Ace, which was reliable and contradicted the dodgy online review I'd read and after what seemed like a fair old drive, we were in Fenny Stratford.

Canal side action at the Black Horse, but nicer out than in.

726.  Red Lion, Fenny Stratford

Dad was just taking the obligatory BRAPA photo of me outside the pub, when Dave Miller popped his head out of the door to welcome us in.  This was like a 'Welly' home-coming, with loads of old faces of Hull City fans I'd not seen for ages, cluttering the main bar which had a covered pool table and a hidden side room with a congregation of well hidden Amber Nectar people.  We ordered a Hydes 1864 original, a real proper taste of Manchester, but what was this, plastic glasses?  More on that later.  Me and Dad had a brief spell of being sociable, but when fanzine hero Matt caused a distraction, Dad (with mojo well and truly restored) saw the opportunity to nip through a conservatory into a beer garden onto the one bench in the sun.  Move of the day!  It was ridiculously summery for October 31st, and the location was stunning as we watched canal boats negotiate the lock (I'd have been annoyed if I'd had a load of pubbers gawping at me trying to drive one of those things), there was also some great buildings to admire and plants to identify!  It was like summer.  Christine and Chris D came along about 1:15pm to join us, and then a local walking his rat (oops I mean dog) chatted to us.  He explained how L**ds fans had turned up drunk a few weeks ago, broken off the canal gate and trashed two other pubs in town, hence the plastic glasses.  His rat-dog was mingling happy with Hull City fans, he'd never done this with other team's fans because WE are the nicest, still the Gooligans weren't present.  The beers again were a bit limited, the Ghost Ship had gone off so I was back on the Young's Special like in Bedford last week, but make no mistake, this was an excellent pre-match session.  

Arriving in sunny Fenny Stratford, we sat on a bench to the right that you can't quite see. 
After a laborious Hull City performance which at least ended well, and a traumatic walk to Bletchley station (which at least ended well!), we were back at Euston in surprisingly good time.

Dad was sure he hadn't been to the Bree Louise (not including a more recent aborted attempt with Tom post-Watford after an Everton v Liverpool cup game at Wembley - too busy).  Both me and Christine found this very hard to believe, so it was time to take him to see if anything stirred in his mind!  It didn't, and further research (thanks Christine!) shows my first (and long awaited) visit was probably 20th Feb 2010 after a West Ham away game which I remember Dad did NOT go to, so this makes sense.  Anyway, it was heaving so we sat outside, Dad had a dry cider and my "Horrible Night Stout" by Wild Weather Ales was easily my pint of the day.  We had to contend with two weirdo Man Utd fans (Kevin & Perry?) but that's the territory in such commuter pubs, still nice to see more than 3 beers on a bar. 

A "Horrible Night's Stout" outside at Bree Louise, a fine pint.
Back in Kings Cross for the 8pm train home, all in all, a very successful day all things considered.

November Preview

My target for the end of October was 720, I am currently on 726 so I'm ahead of schedule.  A 27 pub month was very pleasing.  So even if I have a bad November, I should be easily on course for the 750 by the end of the year......possibly the end of this month! 

That's not to say I'll be complacent.  Best laid plans and all that.....

A perfect example of what I mean is Brentford on Tuesday.  What was looking like being an extremely productive BRAP-fest is now going to be a bit of a struggle,  I won't be in Brentford til after 16:30 so have had to revise plans.  Whitton & Isleworth pre-match.  Kew Bridge and Brentford post match.  Hounslow the following morning for brekkie is a bonus option though.   It is what it is  (great phrase) and I'm looking forward to a "great day out" though not too optimistic football-wise!  

I'm actually now contemplating a rare Monday night BRAPA trip tomorrow.  Knottingley is next on the West Yorkshire list and being off work plus the late start on Tuesday means it makes sense in my mind, at least.  Nothing definite, I'll sleep on it!

The rest of the month will see me get back on the North Yorkshire trail (7th and 28th), we have our monthly trip to Bedfordshire on the 14th in the forboding form of Luton, whilst the 21st sees a trip to Bristol, though 3 o'clock kick off it ain't.  I'm also hoping to get back in the West Yorks midweek routine on 10th, 17th and 24th.   Twenty four pubs this month?  I should coco.  



  1. Pubs to end of November 726. End of year target 750. Pubs required 24. Monthly target 12. This is getting easy.

    Knottingley, your pass is valid Leeds-Ponte Carlo. The explanation for this can be found at: but I shall summarise it.
    Step 1:
    Trivial, Leeds is a member of the Leeds Group.

    Step 2:
    York is a routeing point.

    Step 3:
    Clearly trivial.

    Step 4:
    Trivial as both origin and destination are different routeing points and your season is routed 'Any Permitted'.

    Step 5
    Advance to Step 6

    Step 6
    Routeing permissions for Leeds Group - York are YN and YY.

    Step 7
    Map YN shows the following routes:
    Leeds Group - Harrogate - York
    Leeds Group - York direct
    Leeds Group - Pontefract Group - York

    Map YY shows only:
    Leeds Group - Pontefract Group - York

    Assuming you are travelling in the barred period of 16:01-18:29, a day return from Pontefract - Knottingley will set you back £2.30. Alternatively, if you don't fancy the potential argument (not many people will know it is valid and if I didn't know better my gut would be not valid), a day return from Leeds to Knottingley is £5.90.

    I shall email you separately about Brentford.

  2. I think a brilliant September was the turning point with all that Lewes-Brighton-Cardiff-London-Manc though not sure it was good for my health. December will be limited I expect as people start socialising and stuff which is annoying.

    Thanks re Ponte Carlo, I don't doubt you, but no faith in the train guards! I have an even better little plan devised though it will include busses and a taxi due to limited services if I go with it. Will see how I feel.


    1. I've been thinking about the people who disrupt BRAPA by socialising in December. Presumably they aren't voluntary signatorys to the Code of Conduct, so can't be put to death for breaching it. Therefore, assuming Newtonmas is the cause, would a good idea be to, in the spirit of Newton's great inspiration, to throw apples at such people in order to discourage a repeat. Of course, those who agree to the socialising becoming a BRAPA night can be spared apple throwing.

    2. You might be interested to know there is a apple throwing pagan ritual at Green Owl every 9th November, combined with a mini cider festival advertised nowhere!

      Funnily enough, in our work 'buzz' meeting this aft, I was tasked with organising a team night out for early December. A dangerous move by my team leader!

    3. Could it be that your team leader is actually encouraging BRAPA and wants you to organise it so that somebody else doesn't try but fail. I think you should make it a glorified BRAPA night. 3 ticks, or 2 at the very least. In a nod to other people, and to show you are considerate, organise it in a pub which has a black semi circle in the guide.

  3. To be honest with you, lack of faith in the train guards can be a good thing. The likelihood of being gripped, or if gripped, the unusual ticketing even being noticed is quite low. My strategy would be if queried point out the walking across Ponte is a valid route, not going into the technicalities of why. If they don't back down and attempt to ching up, cough up and let loose with the company afterwards by post.

    What is the plan? I'm just wondering if I will have a ticketing idea for that.

  4. Bus Leeds to Ponte, connecting bus to Kirk Smeaton, pub, 4mile taxi to south Ponte (Carleton) pub, 4mile taxi to Knottingley, walk to station, knot to Leeds (pay if get gripped), again it's more timing issue orintated plus not having to be up early Tues helps!

  5. Have you considered a West Yorkshire Train & Bus Day Rover for £7.90? There is no evening peak on the buses, your only train journey is presumably after the evening bar finishes at 18:30.

    If both buses are the same company, there may be a cheaper day ticket for that operator. There is also a West Yorkshire MetroDay ticket valid on all buses in West Yorkshire for £5.50.

    Both the MetroDay and the Train & Bus Day Rover can be bought in scratchcard form (ie you scratch off the date yourself) from the tourist information place on the concourse at Leeds station and also at Leeds bus station. The First Travel shop in Leeds can also sell them apparently, but I have no idea where that is.

  6. Very useful thanks Tom, it might be at bus station. I have time at lunch and before bus goes to investigate. Ta!

  7. It looks like I can get the bus n train one at bus station anyway but First Shop is by Corn Exchange.

    Do you think Kirk Smeaton bus will be covered? It departs Ponte but is technically North Yorks?

  8. You will need to pay the fare from the county boundary to Kirk Smeaton. Depending on how the ticket machine works, you may well have to go back to the driver at the boundary to pay the additional fare. Which company and which service is it?

  9. Sitting outside the Red Lion by the canal made me wonder why I would ever do anything else. I am still wondering. There again, there are lots of other good pubs to sit outside, or inside, and I look forward to reading about them.

    1. Wonderful, thanks Dad. Yes certainly both a beer garden and a football day highlight of the year. Only another 3,759 reviews for you to read about!

    2. Pedantry alert:
      Surely 3759 is a lower bound, because there will be the remaining archives, pre-emptives that never actually get in and pubs which you visit and are removed from subsequent editions of the guide.

      I do like a bit of gongoozling in a pub beer garden on a sunny day. Few things are better.

  10. Bernard is right. Apart from being an extended family (we're all related in the Fens) taxi service that's all I aspire to do. You must get to the Anchor in High Offley before the owner dies (no other way to say that).

    The Slug is the best building in MK. When I was there in September they had the weight watchers in, which was top entertainment.

    Does it fill your heart with joy to know that you'll have to go back there to visit a Harvester with Doom Bar on ?

  11. High Offley, right, sounds amazing. Walk from a bus? Woodseaves? Knighton? I've got it earmarked anyway. Something about pubs called Anchor and being hard to get to I'm noticing!

    Gosh, that doesn't say much for MK then. It fills me with joy almost as much as the knowledge Hull City will be going there again next season!

  12. It is possible that the franchise scum will be relegated due to Rotherham's renaissance inspired by Colin.