|One more to tick off!|
So there I was, waking up disorientated in a Premier Inn on Saturday morning thinking 'where am I? what have I done?' with the empty Big Mac meal remnants next to me, before the dawning realisation I was in Oldham. I felt dirty. Am sure this wasn't how I imagined BRAPA in my mind's eye back in April 2014 as Bedford's gentle songbirds sang my name.
After a quick shower and exchanging pleasantries with a hotel receptionist on the value of a good night's sleep (not at the same time), I toddled off to the nearest Metro stop, which by now was called Westwood, from where I got to Manc Piccadilly via Victoria. A man was walking his pet ferret through the station and a policeman helped him with directions. I wondered if it was going to be 'one of those days' again.
I only had one focus in mind, and that was to get my final Cheshire pub done. But to do that, I had to go to Shropshire. Of course. Whitchurch to be precise. The trains were heaving, I had to change at Crewe, Chester Races were on. It was like all the elements that had 'made' my time in Cheshire painful/brilliant (delete as appropriate) had come together for one final huzzah.
I boarded that one carriage monstrosity through agony inducing places like Wilmslow and Alderley Edge, past populist fake request stop Wrenbury, and was soon in Whitchurch.
Now the main drawback of having not returned to York last night was not having my 'Sandstone Trail' booklet with me, which included a three mile canal walk from Whitchurch to the pub.
Naively, I thought Google Maps might be able to pick it up, but a mile in, it became evident it was trying to get we to walk along a major A road with no footpath. Naughty Google Maps!
Luckily, I saw a stile and a pedestrian footpath sign and a couple disappearing beyond it. I knew if I could get directly west, I'd at least get to Grindley Brook (home of today's second pub) and pick up the canal path north into Cheshire.
I caught the pair up, they too were trying to get to Grindley Brook, but as I marched ahead, the signs soon dried up, and trying to follow a blue dot on your phone in this situation is impossible. And when I got to a gate with a bunch of cows beyond it, I had a serious confidence crisis and turned back!
But luckily, the couple were still around and their vague directions they'd got out of a newspaper article said it was indeed 'onwards past the cows' so we had to limbo under this fence.
The couple were called Ian and Dr Laura Barton ('not a real doctor' she admitted) but she was scared of the cows trampling her. "I can't look, are they running after us?" she asked. "Nah, they're just jogging" I replied.
We crossed a field diagonally and my phone reset itself, hallelujah praise the lord, we'd reached Grindley Brook. "Off you go then!" said the good doctor, worried I'd come for lunch with them and they couldn't get rid of me. 'Don't worry babe, I'm as independent as a free bird' was what I wanted to reply, but I didn't wanna punch and they seemed a nice couple so said our goodbyes and I carried on north.
|Looking back along the canal .... what a relief to finally be here|
I couldn't relax totally though, still a good yomp up the canal and I knew the pub closed mid afternoon even on a Saturday on though it was only 1pm, you can never really trust such pubs.
Canal walks are often interactive and jolly, and soon I was 'ahoying' and waving at all manner of weirdos though this canal man was more anal than can, judging by his flag, he'd got a bit lost ....
|"Wrexham is the other way mate"|
|Peak-a-boo you little scamp!|
1370 / 2116. Willey Moor Lock Tavern, Willey Moor Lock
If you can ignore all the 1 star trip advisor reviews and a 20 year old tale of woe from two Stockport pub heroes, I'm here to tell you that this was a fine end to ticking in Cheshire. (I say 'end', of course I just mean 'for now'). Canal pub + Cheshire + 1:05pm on a Summer Saturday didn't exactly fill me with glorious hope, but our landlady masterfully handled the stream of tourists wielding leather bound menus ready to order their smashed avocado and squid baguettes. I got served alongside a gorgeous southerner, disappointingly called 'Sarah', but her tribal tattoo which may have said 'BRAPA til I die' and hidden boyfriend was a shame. When it came to my round and I simply asked for a pint, landlady was like "anything else?", the customers looked shocked too, as if there must be a catch and I'd forgotten how to say 'quinoa asparagus cous cous pasta bake'. I hadn't. The pub felt nicely old and tumbledown for something 'est. 1978' and I went to a backroom where I perched at a table that was 'reserved for 4 Danes' at 1:30pm. "20 minutes to neck it!" joked a gammon-faced old southern bloke, with greyhound and wife in the background adjusting themselves. But I was planning on lingering beyond 1:30pm, waiting to see how I got kicked out of my seat, and whether these were Viking longboat bearded Danes, or actress Claire Danes and family. 'It'll all be fun for the blog write up' I thought. The food looked good, my ale was good, service seemed friendly and efficient, but the atmosphere remained somehow sleepy and relaxed. As I gleefully highlighted my final Cheshire pub, Mrs Greyhound suddenly exclaimed "what does fortitude mean?" Hubbie didn't know, and the other two couples within earshot couldn't help either. 'Jeez! Fortitude, fortitude, you are looking at the pubby personal embodiment of fortitude' I wanted to say, but didn't, it may've sounded big-headed, slightly. It was 13:35, still no Danes, time to move on. "You got 5 mins extra there!" said Mr Greyhound. I told him shame I didn't get to see what they looked like, but he just looked confused, like a man who knows no fortitude.
|A disappointing no show from the Danes|
|Peering through to the bar area|
|A greyhound named Fortitude, possibly.|
It was back south down the canal, crossing the border into Shropshire, for my final two pubs of the day. Which you'll hear about tomorrow night if you can be arsed to read my blog again. Thanks.