Sunday, 14 February 2016

BRAPA - Swiggin' in Wigan

Jam jar pub fun at the Berkeley (see pub 813)
Aspull was next up alphabetically for Greater Manchester, though in truth, the next GBG could easily 'relocate' the three pubs to Haigh, New Springs and 'Twixt Macron Stadium & Springfield Park. It all started though at Hindley after some excitement involving TB and Manc Oxford Road.

Me & Tom arrive at this little gem in Hindley
808. Hare & Hounds, Hindley

Like Armthorpe on Wednesday, the best pub of the day proved to be the first.  Ultra traditional, it had some great beers from Wigan's Allgates, a bored barmaid with immaculate make-up and a Wigan facelift (hairstyle), a vaping old man with a terrible cough which meant that we entered through a fug of sweet smelling smoke, very much like being on 'Stars in Your Eyes'.  Dad had wondered if the smoking ban just hadn't reached this part of the world.  We sat in a lovely lounge room which screamed "YOU ARE IN THE NORTH WEST!" with a fantastic 'Smoke Room' stain-glassed window, which investigation led us to realise that it had previously been attached to a door, or at least some other part of the pub.  As I went back to the bar to get a swift half as we waited for a taxi, I made an old local in a Motty style Sheepskin jacket jump out of his skin, for he was watching iPhone footage of a fork lift truck accident complete with blood curdling screams, which was unnerving our barmaid and her still stoic expression was wavering somewhat.  Incidentally, the local CAMRA mag we picked up was called 'Swiggin' in Wigan' - best name yet!

Pints of Allgates in the Smoke Room, perfect! 
Hindley Taxis can be best described as 'not terribly tardy', 'silent' and 'quite efficient' as we were soon being beeped at by traffic on the Bolton Road as we had our 'photo shoot' of pub number two.

I had my reservations about this place - ha ha ha

809.  Gerrard Arms, Aspull

Dad's horrified expression on entering here said it all, the revenge of the restaurant disguised as an old fashioned pub.  Well, that was our initial thought and it's no exaggeration to say that EVERY table was bedecked with condiments, menus and holders for knives and forks.  These 'holders' soften the blow for me, it's when the knives and forks are laid out with a place-mat that it hits hardest!  I decided to lay our cards on the table to the affable young barman about being here for drinks only, and that was a turning point.  He was later asking us if we needed anything else, how was the beer quality etc etc - wow, to be treated like first class citizens in a diners pub is indeed a rare treat, and this barman must be an early candidate for 'staff of the year', great rounded Lancs accent too.  It even took the edge of an electronic blackboard 'screen' offering specials - perhaps the most hideous thing I saw all day (and I walked through Manchester at 9pm!) Just goes to show how important people are in pubs.  We sat in the furthest corner under the horse racing on a table that was (like most) reserved but only from 6:30pm.  I thought it was good to show times, but as Dad argued, was it necessary when 6:30pm was so far off?  They could "take all the shite off our table" I think was a direct quote.  Still, we could've been planning on a 6 hour session here.  All in all though, a positive experience due solely to being treated well!  We don't ask much.  

Watching the cars go by, at the Gerrard A**s
Our bus was a teeny bit delayed but we were soon 'alighting' in the Haigh area of Aspull.  Typical BRAPA this, the minute you relax and think all is well with the world, it comes back to bite you on the ball-sack.  Well, it said 2pm opening on Whatpub, it was nearer 2:30pm now.  

We decided to cut our losses and get the next bus (every 15 mins allegedly) to our next pub BUT it didn't turn up either!  Was Haigh on strike today?  I engaged a miserable old man at the bus stop in conversation who admitted the pub sometimes just opened the back door when Wigan were at home as they were today.  Well, for the love of BRAPA, i just HAD to check!  The guy said "dunno why you wanna go anyway, it's shite .... Gerrard Arms is much better."  Errrm, whatever old man!! 

As we walked back to the pub, the bus was rounding the corner and Dad looked on, wistfully at the bus that might have been.  Me and Tom are made of more adventurous stuff but I knew I'd be in for a bollocking IF the pub was actually shut.   But the gamble paid off as we saw the landlord opening just as we were coming down the street, phew!  It was 3pm.

810.  Victoria, Aspull

"You were lucky I was just opening!" declared the friendly landlord, and he wasn't wrong.  He explained how he'd been tinkering with his opening times for a while now and decided 3pm on a Saturday suited him best.  After all, he said, he knew his locals drinking habits and he's got to cater for them first and foremost, even if they do drink John Smith's Smoothflow!  And right on cue, one such man walked in at that moment!  We were soon chatting on BRAPA and pubs, his wife was confused by a missed call she'd received but I realised it was from me wondering why the pub hadn't been open so I cleared that up.  This was another cosy intimate no frills pub with some superb ales, again from Allgates, perhaps the pub didn't quite have the class of Hindley earlier on.  Mr Smoothflow is a local pub expert and was not holding much hope for our next pub being open either, so he told me when on the bus, look out of the right hand side, if you see a big white door, pub is shut, and if you see a black hole, it means the pub is open so press the bell to get off!  Top local knowledge.  But, opening times, the curse of the pub explorer!

Happy times, seconds before we realised the pub was closed! 
The next bus thankfully did arrive and with our eyes peeled, we could see the pub WAS open so Tom pressed the bell and we bid Dad farewell who wanted to be home in time for tea.

811.  Crown, Aspull

And he didn't miss much to be fair, although the couple running it were very friendly and interested in visitors such as ourselves, it never felt GBG quality to me.  Jennings Cumberland (yawn) was the only ale I could see, better quality than I've had in York, apparently Prospect Silver Tally was on too but he couldn't the pump clip.  The pub was cold despite a not-too-raging fire in the far corner, which as Tom said, didn't really belong there.  Entertainment was in the form of a Mum, Dad and daughter who had heated discussions about things like who was buying the next round and the perils of modern technology.  Good news came through that Hull City were 2-0 up, and I smuggled a celebratory pork pie from my bag.  And that was as good as it got. 

Black hole rather than white door means pub is open! 
Another walk and bus took us back into Wigan central, and after Tom stocked up on Morrison's Pain Au Chocolat, we were ready for pub number five.  

812.  John Bull Chophouse, Wigan

And we were both suitably impressed by this quirky little side street pub.  It was bustling with a Saturday evening crowd and the bar was situated in a tight corner, where I was served by a man strangely not wearing many clothes, maybe this was Wigan's Canal Street area?  Still, I'd have to say the Symphonic Ale by Thwaites' was pint of the day, best I've had from that brewery too.  There was an amazing old style jukebox, and as we went upstairs, it had a hidden pool room though sadly not big enough to hold more than one group, so we stood on the balcony eating Pain Au Chocolat and reviewing the football results.  Hull City had won, hurrah!  An excitable group of pool players started an enforced karaoke session and you could tell things were warming up for a crazy Saturday night in Wigan town.  

View from the balcony at John Bull's Chophouse
813.  Berkeley, Wigan

Bouncers on a BRAPA pub?  Crikey, it really was Saturday night now as we popped in here via the North Western railway station.  This seemed to have quite a'Spoonsy feel to me but don't think it was, vast layout with a big screen showing N*wcastle getting hammered by Chelsea and Diego Costa's stupid mask, but somehow the pub felt real and kind of homely despite everything.  Staff were very on the ball, and I was soon enjoying a pint of Panner's Gold from the excellent Greyhawk, more common to East Yorkshire than here but not sure where they are from.  Unsurprisingly for a pub like this, they had those little off putting jam jars so you can see what colour your ale is, well, in "cloudy off form" anyway - you wouldn't wanna drink those jars.  I'd just been talking to Retired Martin about this subject, so fitting I should see it.  My drinking speed was seriously dropping off anyway, but Tom was spurring me on and as Andros Townsend got a late consolation, everyone yawned and it was time to go back to Manchester.  

Me hanging with the bouncers at the Berkeley
So, that was a superb and productive BRAPA day, let's ignore the monumental train farce in Manchester trying to get back over t'hills but all's well that ends well.  Let's hope Hull City get promoted and we can have plenty more NFFD's (Non football football days) in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside later this year! 

Back on the South Yorkshire trail on Tuesday, then our Berkshire debut next Saturday.  I can't think of a better hobby. 



  1. Just to be pedantic, the CAMRA mag is actually called 'Swiggin IN Wiggin'. I believe you have a copy Si, it is well worth reading as there are a couple of worthy sounding pubs highlighted that I suspect opened too recently to be in the current GBG.

    May I second Gerrard Arms' barman as a candidate for bar staff of the year? The one thing I don't understand with table clutter is why it can't be delivered shortly prior to a meal being served, it would get rid of it from tables and is surely more hygenic as leaving it out is surely asking for a child to lick one or it get dusty or something. I note on the photograph that I am on the pavement by at least a foot. It is surely shortly after the motorist used their hooter as I am clearly looking in their direction.

    You may email me separately if you prefer, but how severe was the farce? I trust you at least succeeded in getting to Victoria on the tram and that didn't collapse as well.

    We are staying up.

    Dagger for Duncan.

    1. Pedantic, you Tom? Surely not. Astley is next up in GMR, may be not for months but did a vague plan yesterday.

      Yes, you'd quickly jumped back on pavement obviously. Dad knows the truth!!

      The farce traumatised me too much to talk about. I'll run through details with you at Brum, may have recovered by then!

    2. Does the plan for Astley involve 25 bus from Swinton or one of the other buses through from Manchester? I take it there are others nearby. Has Adlington gone out the guide, knowing your fascination with the alphabet.

      I firmly deny all allegations of being on the road, apart from crossing the road at the corner. I was on the pavement at all times where this was possible. The low height of the pavement may have given the illusion of being on the road.

      Birmingham, is just acceptable for paperwork purposes, 3 weeks after the event so if you do your homework the day after you will be able to get it sent off and in in time for the 28 day limit. Just make sure you keep all the tickets.

      We are staying up.

      Dagger for Duncan.

    3. Hi Tom, just catching up on a few of these blog replies. Not sure on Astley bus number, but it ties in with Leigh, Atherton and Tydlesley. Just a rough plan. Shall we try and do it on out 25th June fixture day?

      Adlington comes under Lancs and I thought we said we'd do it pre-Bolton game, along with some Manc ticking and then on to Bolton itself?

      I saved my Manc farce tickets from the bin, Dad is gonna pick them up and do a form for me he says, aaah how nice.

    4. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable plan for Astley. We could do it 25th June, but we shall leave it up for discussion. Your Dad seemed keen on both the Port Sunlight and Crosby ideas, so I wouldn't want to step on his toes.

      I've sent a separate email based on what I know about the Manc farce.

    5. Sorry, I forgot to say. I do now remember discussing Bolton Wanderers and Adlington. I am happy with the outline plan, assuming there are pubs that open early enough (if not I seem to recall East Didsbury and Gatley are both 'Spoons only towns in GM).

    6. Errrm excuse me Thomas, this is a BRAPA, not some "do not step on Bernard's toes" challenge. I am also keen on the 'Merseyside' BRAPA debut, BUT I like cracking on with counties once I've started them. My brain can't cope with lack of order.

      Just to complicate our Bolton day slightly, I'm in Manc a week before for a music fest and may try and "mop up" the remaining pubs but if possible, will try and keep an early opener in Victoria area free, if it exists. Is Salford an option would you say for Bolton day?

    7. Also Tom, East Disbury has a 'Spoons nearby yes but also 2 other pubs near the village Metrolink - one a Spoons, one a 12 noon opener. Gatley's isn't a Spoons but it is a 11am opener if that helps us.

    8. I may regret making this argument if I don't scoop up the last pacers by then, but Atherton, Astley, Leigh, Tydseley and Crosby are all in Lancashire. I concede that Bebbington / Port Sunlight and other Wirral destinations are in Cheshire.

      Salford is very much an option for Bolton day. I'd say something with 'Spoons type opening hours will be best, if we want to be at Adlington near to opening, we will want the 11:23 from Man Vic. Given that there is only an hourly train, unless there is something very close to Trinity St, I'd suggest a pre match pub in Bolton may be optimistic. There is always post match though, I'm booked on the 20:20 from Picc.

      Given the 12:00 opener in East Didsbury, I'd say pair it with Gatley and anything else in the vicinity. It could work if we ever decide to go to Old Trafford. Whenever you do them, unless there is something on the way, don't bother doing the tram out to East Didsbury, just get the half hourly train from Piccadilly, it will be far quicker. I suspect there is even the odd direct train to/from York.

    9. Tom, disclaimer time - if I say "Merseyside", "Greater Manchester", "Tyne & Wear" etc etc I am not saying I agree these are proper counties, I'm simply using GBG terminology to avoid confusion for fellow GBG users. We are a simple bunch.

      Bolton plan is forming well then.I am wondering whether Adlington would be better post match, it looks like it might be a stifling influence. After Wigan, I've proved I can stay in that part of the world til midnight if needs be!

      I don't think I will ever decide to go to Old Trafford after our last two away days there.

    10. I know your reasoning behind your disclaimer, but I will always make the same argument. It is largely aimed at CAMRA.

      Adlington post match is in theory a good idea. However, in practice the trouble is that the trains leave Horwich at xx:50 and the away end is at the far end of the ground to the railway station. Of course, all this presupposes:
      a) it is actually a Saturday 15:00 kick off
      b) there isn't a huge coming out of the woodwork we might get an inverse relegation as per Barnsley a couple of years ago, resulting in us not getting a ticket.

      I will go to Old Trafford iff they charge a sensible admission price and have a proper kick off time. I really enjoy being threatened with ejection for appealing for a penalty and stating the truth.

      Dagger for Duncan.

    11. I had an idea and did some homework on my way to the wrong side of the hills yesterday. We could make Adlington the last pre match pub (unless there is something near the ground) and go to the game from there. The move could work something like this.
      Man Vic 12:23
      Adlington 12:57-14:09
      Horwich Parkway 14:17
      The train to Adlington stops at Salford, Salfordf Crescent (I expect anything there will be studenty) and Bolton Trinity Street on the way, so we could do pubs at any. There are many more trains between the aforementioned listed stations should we need two of them.

      A variation would be to do Chorley before Adlington and have an hour in Adlington, but I would have thought it would make more sense to do all of Chorley in one go on a different day.

    12. Does that mean we'd need to be out of Manc Vic for one tick only from 12:23 onwards? I'm seriously thinking Adlington may be better as part of an NFFD day now and actually do Bolton on Bolton day.

      But I suspect I just don't understand what you mean. It is one of those classic Tom 'mind benders'.

      I agree though that Chorley needs it's own day. We'll talk about it more on Sat when I'm on my 4th pint, please, then I can write it in my book!

  2. Your Dad is the real brains behind this, isn't he. Suspect we'll shortly hear he's only got the Mermaid in Herm to go to complete BRAPA but can't because he gets seasick.

    He was a decent excuse for you not to walk between pubs in the same village anyway; typical that you try to put them in different places. I've just walked six miles to what turned out to be an Ember Inn in Caversham !

    Great photos, particularly the Hare & Hounds. I thought the beer was very good in all those; the Crown had more Allgates on when I went. Thwaites seasonal in the John Bull was, as yours was, the best example I've had.

    After Sunday's results I'm following the women's cricket team; Cricinfo is dead cheap.

    Dagger for Duncan. Newbury Tim hadn't heard of him either. Can you do the Duncan in Leeds as a pre-emptive by the way. It scared me just walking past.

    1. Dad did say he felt he'd graduated to full BRAPA honours after the Victoria opening excitement! You could be right though, he mentions 'herm' a lot but mainly in an ironic Hull accent I.e. The Taaargers have a herm game tomorrow night!"

      Haha, very good! And I think that Ember might be my first planned tick on my April Berkshire special. Oh the joy.

      Poor Citeh! You could always come and watch Hull Utd if Tom doesn't disown you for it.

      Dagger for Duncan. I think he'd be in the Twitter pubby groups if he was worth his salt. When I first got into ale, the Duncan was in GBG and did Tetley's and nowt else. Couldn't find pub. I'll have another look one lunchtime.

    2. I would not disown anybody for watching Hull Utd, it is their choice. I may think the club entirely removing the St. Andrew's name appalling, and not approve of many of their actions, but similar applies to half the football league.

      We are staying up.

      Dagger for Duncan

    3. Re: Duncan - was it Tetley ? I've never visited it so must have been GBG decade or more ago. Sam Smiths keg and scary now. Go tomorrow and write about it; have a cranberry juice for £1.02 like I did in Stocky.

      Hull United - is that the new club for real fans then ? Presume they all go for pre-match drink in East Hull's many craft bars, or that pub in Preston you wrote about.

    4. Hull United is a recent takeover of relatively new club St. Andrews. It is an attempt at runing a club for supporters, but not a direct spin off or protest at from Hull City Association Football Club (Tigers) Ltd. At one stage under their previous chairman, they actually paid supporters to go to matches.

      Si, they've recently been deducted points by the way.

    5. Oh St Andrews, so they do have a name. I hope the outraged one man and his dog now spend Saturday's in Digbeth ticking off heritage pubs and supporting Brum.

      I think Hull Utd saw a gap in market with the disillusioned Tigers fans and are trying to exploit it. Good on them!

      Me and Dad got given a free season ticket when we went! Admittedly was March! But their old and current chairman (a Hull City legend of character we have not had since) have both shown great respect for fans which is more than our current one has. Sad my blood is black n Amber, or I'd do more to support them!

    6. Oh that Preston pub was horrific. Yes need to try Howden n Hedon n Withernsea micros as they are probably GBG SHOE INS!!

      I might try n get to the Duncan one lunch this week. Will let you know on Twitter!!

    7. St. Andrews were previously called St. Andrews Police so it is likely that a dog was a supporter. I don't care whether it is 10 supporters disillusioned or 10000, it is still equally wrong, just less noticed.

      I would have been more supportive had the gap in the market been filled by a completely new club, called something like City Hull Association Football Club. My only fear would be what happens if City ends up in good hands, say a consortium of Adam Pearson, John Eyre and the Brough branch of the CWU.

      I agree about the care towards supporters, I just don't like some of the other controversies surrounding the club, some of which have made me question my memory and love of said former captain, who I agree has never been matched, even so there have been players who I have thought might do it. Indeed there is one current player who I am wondering whether they just might. Which is funny seeing as until fairly recently I saw him as a complete halfwit. I suspect he won't become a great, I just have a niggle it is possible.

      Erm yes, heritage pubs in Digbeth. Lots of them. This isn't a rambling off topic post at all.

    8. Tom - If Simon doesn't come out of the Duncan, do you know where all his BRAPA records are kept ?

      I have that Preston pub and Sailmakers to finish East Yorks to do, can't wait. Will presume the No.277 runs every 10 minutes on Sundays.

      You mean Ash I presume; Alex Russell apart, probably my favourite Cambridge player.

    9. I think I have his address somewhere in my archives, and I have a fair idea what I am looking for, so they should be recoverable should the worst happen.

      Sailmakers is an easy walk - one of my earliest pub memories as a child. Assuming you are young enough to not be old enough for a pass, EYMS will sell you a plastic card over the internet which works in a similarish manner to Oyster and gives you 10% off their single and return fares. They hit parts of northern Lincolnshire too and North Yorkshire, in case your pessimistic enough to believe you will need it for future ticks.

      We do mean Ash. My favourite ever City central midfielder (Warren Joyce doesn't count as such, just as manager), also the recipient of my favourite every violent conduct red card when he defended himself vigourously against a thuggish Lloyd Sam attack.

    10. Glad you both have a contingency plan when South Yorks finally gets me!

      Dad went to Sailmakers recently and said it had gone all foody, not sure if the tropical fish have ended up in a fryer.

      Oh Ian Ashbee!! Love him. I think he restrained Lloyd Sam by pinning him to the floor. Parky went mad on KC FM after the game. But our loss is Bradford's gain (joke). Joyce wasn't loved til he was a manager so yes I wouldn't count him. Stuart Elliot?

      Tom you're a bit cryptic re Hull Ltd. What other controversies? Does it involve antique dealing? Which current player, Curtis D? And why did St Andrews take all reference to the police out of the name - scumbags ha ha.

    11. I don't care about the fish, only the chipmunks which I understand now live behind the bar.

      Oh poor little Lloyd Sam. That is possibly the weakest line I've ever heard a manager (alright he was only assistant at Charlton Athletic) come out with. I don't think Parky could go mad. Losing his bottle after a game and a half.

      Which question are you trying to answer with Stuart Elliot, clearly our third best left winger in my time watching the club.

      There were various incidents whereby the promised to attend charity functions and failed to turn up, also the fall out and shunning of the previous chairman who had been so generous I felt left a bit of a sour taste.

      The current player is not Curtis Davies. He is a central midfielder. If I tell you who, you will think me stark raving mad. I only think there is a small chance, but the potential is there now he has proved he is capable of showing endeavour.

    12. It's amazing (to me at least) how little credit Stuey Elliott gets for his part in our history. I guess it's his asthmatic championship season where he simply couldn't do it physically, but by gum I've never seen one player win us so many games single handedly, especially the second promotion season. I hope as the years go by, he gets a jesus style resurrection he deserves!

      That is bad about Hull Utd if true, makes Dr Allam look like a kindly old man. Well, perhaps not.

      If you mean Livermore or Huddlestone, I think you are stark raving mad. If Meyler, a bit more understandable but still can't see it. If A.N. Other, it's too outlandish for me to even comprehend.

      That new chant really is bollocks the more I analyse it!

      We appear to have turned BRAPA into an HCAFC forum.

  3. Stuart Elliot was one of those players who could do naff all for an entire game, bar popping up three times to score a tremendous hat trick. A little bit like a good version of Unable in that regard. I'll always have him down as a City great, with half the team he played in.

    I'm stark raving mad. I only have it as a slight possibility, but I think if somebody spends the summer showing Jake Livermore the art of the tackle, he has it in him to be a great. If you discount last season, when he understandably wasn't at his best, I see a talented young midfield in there. Off to Cambridge he goes then. Of course, the correct answer was to sign Steven Quinn on a long term deal and give him the number 4 shirt every week.

    The new chant is complete bollocks, but I rather like it.

    1. Stuey Elliot is a club legend and was the best of a great period in the clubs history (well, along with Ashbee).

      Jakey Jakey, no chance! We will see. Fell free to say "I told you so" in the Ivy House in 2042. He'll bugger off back down to London 1st chance he gets. Or Cambridge. Agree about Quinn, and McShane, and Rosenior.

      "Steve Bruce had a dream, to dismantle a very good team!" I sang my own version at Ipswich which never caught on.

  4. I will never deny Stuart Elliot legend status. There were a great many from that period, possibly the best in footballing terms of my time watching the club. But he was still the second best left winger at the club at the time. Kevin Ellison was a better winger, Stuart Elliot was a better footballer.

    I think it is a remote possibility with Jake Livermore. Even if he learns to tackle and does fulfil his potential as an all action midfielder, which I am not sure will happen, he still won't have led the club to 3 promotions, a last gasp survival and come back from two career threatening injuries.

  5. As I lay awake last night I recalled a conversation. Bernard and I said Sheffield Wednesday predicted that Sheffield Wednesday would be promoted, indeed would win the league. You were slightly incredulous. This recollection led to memories of the pub the conversation took place in; the Hare & Hounds and detailed recollections of its structure. It is a wonderful place, and I thank you for taking us there. Insomnia is a wonderful thing sometimes.

    Part of me hopes we were right in out prediction. Another part of me thinks 'we're going up you know'.