Sunday, 17 July 2016

BRAPA - Richmondshire La La La

Sightseeing from a beer garden is my kind of sightseeing.

"Did you just talk to my dog?"  That was the first thing anybody said to me in Colburn, and he wasn't happy.  You know how it is, friendly dog trots ahead of owner, jumps up at you, you stroke it and say hello, owner catches up, knows you are a good egg, says hi, end of social situation.

Well not here in the fictional county of Richmondshire.  I'd already been mowed down by a shopmobility scooter in Darlington but it was going well otherwise.  I overtook a couple of  scroats down a narrow country lane, said an awkward hello, and reached my first pub soon after.

Lurking through the trees is this gem

973.  Hildyard Arms, Colburn Village

Having leant against a wall around the corner so as not to look impatient, I was delighted to hear that most perfect noise, an old pub door being unbolted, at 11:56am, 4 minutes early.  I nonchalantly ambled on in, to find the earlier scroats already at the bar (how??) ordering fruity Kopparberg bottles, with ice - exactly the kind of drink I'd expect from them.  As I got served a fantastic Richmond stout called Greyfriars from the no nonsense nice landlord, his dog started getting very excitable, desperate to go outside but not being allowed.  You might be familiar with the pub situation, where dog tries to manipulate the visitor with it's eyes into letting it out.  I made sure in no uncertain terms that whilst I wanted to find the beer garden, i wasn't letting him escape.  Sick of dogs already and not even midday!   Anyway, I succeeded and found a fantastic beer garden (the scroats had gone to the less superior front of the pub), the inside of the pub was half farmhousey, half modern.  I heard the landlord whistling and saying "come 'ere!", it was hard to know if he was talking to wife or dog.  Despite the fine weather,  it was very windy and some ancient trees were creaking like they were going to collapse on me so I couldn't totally relax.  Just as well.  Plenty to do!

Google Maps then had a rare moment of added usefulness by letting me know my bus was 12 minutes late so I kept walking until I was well on the Colburn road back towards the "county town" of Richmond.  Hopped on a bus, and 10 minutes later was ready for pub two.

Richmond was, as I expected, one of those beautiful North North Yorkshire towns with castle, historic buildings galore so when I photographed the Wetherspoons, a man looked up as if to say "of ALL the tourist snaps, you chose to take this one?!"  He even looked up at the sign to see if I'd spotted a giant Pokemon or something.

974.  Ralph Fitz Randall, Richmond

I entered to find that reassuring(?) 'Spoons smell of coffee and after the kind of tardy service you only really get in 'Spoons pubs, I was drinking a £1.55 pint of Wensleydale bitter with the help of a Curmudgeonly voucher.  A scary skinhead man was quizzing the staff on the lager, the barmaids showed their "knowledge" by recommending him a Devil's Backbone (which made me smile inwardly) but despite a pushy ' try before you buy' offer, he stuck to Heineken.  I decided to sit at the far end of the pub next to a "real" bookcase (how long before we get a real pub bookcase society?) on rare bench seating so I could observe the pub.  I'd only just "unpacked" my BRAPA 'kit' when a young couple returned from smoking outside to inform my they'd ordered food for this table.  I guess normal people would either have left something at the table, OR accept their error and ask the staff to change their table number.  But as I was learning, the people are not normal up here so with good grace, I moved seats, despite their kind offer to "join them for lunch" (well, the boyfriend said it, she hovered in the background looking scared and guilty).  This all meant I was sat too close to two tearaway 10 year old girls running amok.  Parental supervision?  Not a chance.  They did come up with quote of the day though, suddenly realising they hadn't seen Mum for ages.  "She's either having a fag outside, or she's gone to the toilet" reassured one, to which the other replied "Maybe she's having a fag IN the toilet!".  Absolute classic Wetherspoons experience.

The two hourly bus to Gilling West (hard G, so the bus driver knew I was a tourist) wasn't far off so I stood and waited in the market place as the 29 became an X34, a 155 became nothing and sped off, and a 70 something turned up and became the 29 we all needed.  Phew!   To quote one teenager at the stop, "I'm sick of these busses mugging me off!  Lolz".

White Swan - doing the whole "old" and "modern" thing.

975.  White Swan, Gilling West

It was nice to be in a peaceful and secluded village after the hustle and bustle of Richmond, even if a main road did run through it.  As I arrived, two hooray henry's were leaving on bikes so I seemed to have timed it well.  However, stood at the bar were a middle aged couple twatting around with coffees and dessert menus with no awareness that I might (a) just want a pint and (b) want to be able to actually see the beers.  I despised these two a lot more the the Kopparberg chavs, so unsmiling and unfriendly.  Had they been tourists, I may have let them off but the fact they had north east accents made their behaviour doubly unacceptable.  However, I did have the last laugh as they went to sit outside on the road (hopefully literally), I found a secluded suntrap ancient courtyard garden which was superb, and my Old Nel(?) by Richmondshire brewery was as good as anything I had all day.  Frustrating then that an obviously historic old pub with slate flooring, a real fire etc etc should have gone to lengths to overly modernise.  I guess I find it a lot ("gotta do food in pubs in this day and age to survive, it's what they call progress you dinosaur!"), but had this been a wintry trip and I'd had to sit inside, I reckon I'd have been very underwhelmed.   I tried a hideous half of a keg beer called Theakstons Peculiar IPA which was wrong on so many levels, then the hooray henry's returned (at least they said 'what ho') so it was time for my bus.

Great courtyard experience.

Just wrong.
It was hard to know where the bus would stop (there wasn't a stop) so when I saw the driver helping a frail old lady off it a few yards down, I had to leg it.  "Oooh good timing!" he said, but then stopped in a random place for another old lady a few yards past the pub,  They have their own rules in Gilling West.

976.  Bishop Blaize, Richmond

Shame about the scaffolding, but it did seem to suit this creaky old pub where you enter through a corridor, and everything seems very squashed and narrow and ancient.  A nice tonic after the last pub, and talking of nice tonics, Upham ale was on which I only thought they sold in rural West Berkshire, as I quickly glossed over that dream combination of Doom Bar and Sky Sports.  A harassed looking man arrived at the bar with a sense of urgency, then asked in a hushed embarrassed way if he could have a bucket of ice for the prosecco.  As I smirked and wondered what Martin Taylor would think, he added as an aside "because you know what demanding women are like!"  I passed through a rather drab games room, and found another courtyard, this time more shaded, with great views of the castle.  I sat facing the prosecco gang (he was right, the women were quite annoying) and one squealed when the ice bucket finally arrived.  I looked at the man expectantly, but giving her a slap was sadly not an option he'd considered.

A bus took me back into Darlington and I had 2 hours til the train to York, so luckily I had pub ticking potential for the first time in County Durham since Feb 2015's Chester-le-Street extravaganza.

Down an unlikely looking side street ....

..through the red door, and up the stairs.
977.  Old Vic, Darlington

Sometimes you know a pub is going to be magnificent before you even get to the bar, and after a couple of flights of stairs, I entered a lounge where yet another crazy dog greeted me (can't remember his/her name!) and I was the only customer.  I got talking to the landlady Bernie about all aspects of pubbing (well once I'd bored her with BRAPA) and it was really interesting to talk to someone running a pub just for the love of it, the challenges of weeding out undesirable locals (as if anyone in Darlo is anything other than human kindness personified!),getting real ale introduced, introducing locals to each other to form a community feel, evil Marstons (poor Minster Inn), unwanted pool tables, unique jukebox selections, the list went on and before I knew it, I'd ditched other further out Darlo pub options in favour of a second pint before my train!  And I never do that.  You either get this pub straight away or you don't, I know a lot of people who'd be unimpressed (but I think you'd love it, reader), but the shabby (but not shabby chic) 80's style decor and layout is deliberate and increasingly rare.  This must be a candidate for the best pub in the land, surely!  When Hull City play at Darlington in a Blue Square North clash in 2025, I know which pub I'll be in.

CAMRA mags from all over the land.
 Having fallen asleep on the train and nearly missed York (I was tired, okay!) I still had time to pop into York Tap for a 'swift half' but I was 10p short so they MADE me set up a tab I didn't really want.  Luckily, Tom Irvin's cameo appearance helped me realise I could just get a half, down it, settle up the tab, which sounds obvious now but at the time, I felt like a prisoner!

Still, a really good day and for the first time, I can exclusively reveal I am not that far from finishing North Yorkshire ticking.  Perhaps 2 more chauffeur days and 2 more train days.  Though the new GBG is bound to scupper all of that.

 Giving myself a break from South Yorkshire this midweek, feel I need a sustained break from the ale, but I have a "special" blog in the pipeline about a slimmer GBG, and I'm in Morecambe next weekend with friends for pub ticking.



  1. Glad to hear my vouchers are being put to good use. Doesn't sound as though I would have enjoyed that particular Spoons visit :-(

    1. It took me so long to get over the "being moved" incident (where was my AIDS beermat when I needed it?), that it luckily took me ages to become aware of the Twilds.

      Still, a Mudgie voucher somehow makes the ale taste better than a Simey one!

  2. Wow what a lovely section on The Old Vic, thank you so much. It was a pleasure to meet you but how could you forget that the dog is called Moose lol :-)

    1. Moose, of course, how could I forget! Was thinking Bruiser, Brewster or Bruce even, so was kind of close.

      Thanks for taking to time to chat to me, and what an amazing pub, not just saying that cos you're reading!

  3. If Bernie from the Old Vic is the Unknown visitor I can add that I also thought it was wonderful last year, both the chat and the attention to detail in serving the beers.

    I've only read a third of this post, but I agree that Google Maps thing that tells you buses are late and your pub will be shut when you get there is only second to PokémonGo and the Parmesan as invention of the millennium.

  4. Really should have had a PROSECCO ICE BUCKET ALERT at the top of the post, still recovering.

    1. I must admit Google Maps is one of the things about BRAPA that I would not be without, amazing App! Apart from when it took me over fields and through woods to Toddington that time.

      I wish I had a Prosecco Ice Bucket now (minus prosecco), Scorchio in York.

    2. It's awful when it's hot and you're on a break from beer, isn't it ?

    3. Exactly what's been going through my mind! Could murder an ice cold can of here. Still, Sheff area trains, walking and busses after work yesterday may have been unbearable.

  5. From my limited historical understanding, I don't think Richmondshire has ever claimed to be a county in its own right, merely a district of North Yorkshire. In researching that bit, I did learn however that for a significant period of time there was a Hullshire, thus making Henry VI surely the greatest king of all time.

    I was run over by one of those god awful powered wheelchairs in Southampton once. I share your pain. Unless used in football by centre forwards, they should be banned. In fact, I say we give Peter Odemwengie and entire bottle at dreamy sleepy nighty snoozy snooze and the big fat head can control him in one.

    The trouble with these real time bus indicators, whether posted on the internet or on a sign on the bus stop itself is that they rely on the bus having a working GPS tracker. If they don't have that then come departure time the bus will disappear. I saw that in Northallerton with a panicky Chinese lass having to be reassured by half a dozen cranks, ourselves twitching over a dodgy connection, that the bus was actually likely to appear.

    Many buses in rural, and some urban, areas operate on a hail and ride basis whereby there are no actual bus stops, you just request the bus to stop anywhere it is safe to do so. I suspect that is what you saw in Gilling West.

    I note your optimism as to how quickly we are going to bounce back from our rapid decline. In the 2025-2026 season we will be in the Northern Counties East Premier Division. Darlo will be in Division 3.

    I have got through one and a bit bottles of blackcurrant squash since Sunday evening. I blame the hot weather entirely.

  6. Hullshire is a chant we need to start next season (if we ever actually go to a game!) HAVE we signed Peter Chicken Wingy? Really?

    It's rare I've seen busses that have "live" bus times so I never rely on it fully, don't worry. As for Gilling West, they had designated stops on the way in to the village but not on the other side (and it didn't say "stops at both sides" either). Weird place.

  7. The Hullshire chant should be reserved for when the cretins from some non descript lower league shite, most probably Donny, chant Yorkshire at us.

    I understand that Peter Odemwengie was an unnumbered trialist at Field Mill.

  8. Hullshire must be the most made up thing I've ever heard that's actually true.

  9. Hallamshire is a widely used term, of course.