Wednesday, 19 June 2019

BRAPA - Cornwall Pt 1 : Luxulyan Luxury / Leave Those Clomes Alone

With thanks to M.Lawrenson of Preston
'Twas time for my third year of Cornwall BRAPA.  A whole seven days booked this time, trying to learn my lessons from last year where I did five days in Cornwall, had a day off (but still did a pub in South Yorkshire), and then five in Cambridgeshire, and nearly killed my poor liver in the process.

Much of the west of the county had now been complete, though of course since the 2019 edition of the Good Beer Guide had been published, a few gaps had opened up for me to 'green off', but on the whole, I was looking to focus more on the middle and north of this beautiful county.

People on my previous two trips I'd so far found friendly, but not quite in the Lancs or Dorset class, being a bit insular and watchful at times.  The beer quality I can't say I've found amongst the best in the UK.  The old adage (which I invented) goes something like "if it is a building in Cornwall with a tap which has brown water coming out of it, it is likely to get in the GBG at some stage".  Catchy eh? It might sound cruel, but it'd be interesting to see how 'year three' compares to the last two.

And despite the lack of micro pubs, kitchens, cafes etc popping up as in some counties, the turnover (churn) of Cornish pubs seems quite high from year to year.   Again, I might be being unfair but what gets into the GBG feels a bit of a lottery.

I was amazed that the pub in Towan Cross where I had two pints of vinegar, the Mousehole one where I drank a pint of snot, and the Trevaunance Cove pub where I had really lame homebrew (great pub all the same) all remained in from 2018 when others I preferred (Gweek/Angarrack) have fallen/not got in!  Still, who am I, a one time visitor, to judge?

I flew down from L**ds-Bradford to Newquay (MUCH quicker AND cheaper than the train, even factoring in boarding time and shuttle buses/taxis etc) feeling in pretty good spirits.

Like Bono's Hat before it, my GBG gets its own seat on the plane

Quintrell Downs would be my home for the next seven days.  I chose it because it has a railway station on the Newquay-Par branch line, a cracking Spar shop (said no one ever til now), a few bus services, quite close to the airport, and most importantly, a nice impersonal Premier Inn where I could come and go without interrogation over breakfast, 'your TV was loud last night', cold showers and all the other 'joys' you get with some B&B's.

Anyway, with the scene (long boring intro), set, time to get on with pubs and my friendly taxi driver from Pudsey dropped me off at Quintrell Downs just after 12 noon.  Too early to check in, but what with a GBG pub round the corner, it didn't matter .......

Is that a pitchfork?  Are they ready for me?

I didn't even have to duck .... demoralising!

Two Clomes (1644 / 2613) looked a lovely almost triangular shaped building from the outside, almost Peveril of the Peak-esque but that is where the similarities ended sadly, as it was quite a bland food-led interior, had obviously been 'tidied up' in recent years.  The two clomes are two old ovens which used to sit round the fireplace, but I couldn't see them today, just random piles of logs doing nothing instead.  Could it be that they were deemed too old and characterful for the look the pub is going for now?  Mine host was a cracking chap, surprised and pleased to see a drinker so early, and the first ale I selected had gone off, so he gave me an Sharp's Atlantic and it was a good drop too.  The pub sounded like Niagara Falls as taps were running throughout making me need a wee even more than usual.  He told me there'd been some overnight muddy water contamination in Quintrell, and he was having to 'FLUSH IT OUT' , welcome to rural Cornwall! A couple came in for lunch and waxed lyrical on the food just at time I was returning my glass to say what a good pint it was, so it looked like I was just competing with them!  I walked through the wrong door on the way.  "Not that way unless you want to be eaten by my dog!" says the landlord.  I didn't, not at this early stage.

Oi, Quintrell, leave those Clomes alone!

Yup, this was about it

Toilet decor distracted me into nearly turning the tap off by mistake
So a solid if unspectacular start but with that first bit of green highlighting done, I had the bit between my teeth and tried to check in an hour early,  Well, no harm in trying.  I mean, I could get the 13:11 if so.  Luckily, my room was ready so it was a race against time to dump my stuff off and run for the train.

The nice train guard sold me a Ride Cornwall ticket for the new extortionate price of £18 and she got v.excited when I asked for the request stop of Luxulyan.  I nearly did this pub in my first year down here, but kept missing it, and it got binned from the GBG in 2018........

Yet the King's Arms (1645 / 2614) felt like everything you'd want in a proper old pub, it had a friendly air and a basic yet cosy no nonsense feel with the obligatory pool table you see in loads of pubs down here but hardly ever in York unless you are purposefully going in somewhere 'rough' with shit beer.  Despite being Tuesday afternoon, it still had a liveliness about it.  Everyone looked fairly old to me, but they were bemoaning being ID'd ("it's only when I go and buy fags!" moaned one lady who definitely looked over 40).  The owners then blamed a barmaid for leaving the till on overnight.  "I always get blamed for everything!" she whined, before adding as an aferthought when everyone had left the room ".....actually, yeah, it probably was me".  A group came in looking for food, one lady had a Wolves bobble hat on which no one needs to see in Luxulyan in June.  I was ready to laugh at them because it was gone 2pm, when the pub stopped doing food, I'd seen that on WhatPub.  But they served them anyway!  My ale was excellent, one I'd not seen before from St Austell called Hicks but was strong and top quality.  And good job, cos I had a long walk coming up.

Mr Potato Head likes the church

Hungry as Wolves

Because of that long boring scene setting intro, I'll stop here but I'll be back to tell you what else happened on my first day tomorrow.  Betcha cannae wait!

Have a good 'un.


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

BRAPA - Not imPrest(wich) but Ramsbottom Majors in Pub Science

Halfway through a Saturday straddling that imaginary border between East Lancs and North Greater Manchester, as Dad and I left the varied Rostron Arms in Edenfield on our way back to Irwell Vale station. 

Dad has always been one of the more adventurous walkers out there, and can be often heard saying "oh well, all roads lead to Rome!" as he looks for a shortcut down some unlikely country lane before getting lost.  

Follow that man
Technically speaking, he wasn't wrong in so much as the path did lead back to Irwell Vale station, but it was actually a longer way around and involved squeezing through hedges and over stiles and down muddy dirt tracks full of puddles. 

We weren't too concerned about missing the train though as we approached civilisation with three minutes due before the next hourly departure.  After all, not one train had been on time and surely they wouldn't start being on time now, would they?  

They would actually.  "Toot" went the steam train whistle, and we had to break into a gallop, me leading the way, managing to grab onto the door with the train starting moving and Dad yelling at the station guard.  'Twas like being in a 1940's film, BRAP Encounter or something.   We climbed on, out of breath and panting! 

The group in our carriage described the area as being like 'League of Gentleman' country, and one asked the others if they'd seen the comedy by the same writers which he reckoned was called "What's Going On Inside of that Number 9" or something!! 

And in one of the best moments of the day, the bloke next to him then asks with all seriousness "is it based on Downing Street?"  Classic.  

Ramsbottom was our next stop, and the real 'monkey off my back' pub was here, having had aborted attempts on two occasions to get to this GBG regular .......

And sure enough, I was quite fond of Major, Ramsbottom (1641 / 2610) in a low key no nonsense local kinda way.  Being a two roomed pub, I was a bit confused what ales were on but for once in my life, I did actually clock the blackboard.  But I was still confused, unsure whether there was a Moorhouses beer called 'Right Beer' and a Robinsons' beer called 'Right Now' (and they'd brewed them in sync!), so just murmured two pints of Robinsons' and was none the wiser.  The barman was a young surly chap to compete with Edenfield lady earlier, and to be frank, I expect better friendliness from this part of the world.  But on the plus side, with Dad having a suspiciously long toilet break which he didn't elaborate on in case I mention it in this blog (poops, I mean oops), the moody guy brought over FIVE Tim Taylor Landlord beermats and plopped them on my table, so he did have a heart.  As two young girls played pool, you could almost relax into a soothing community hubbub, the ale was pale but tasted like a proper bitter.  But 'relax' was not a word in our vocabulary today, and we had to look alive to get the next connection if we were to get all the pubs on the line ticked off as only two services were left to Bury.  Phew, what an epic day this was.

Teddy bear as confused as me!

Me at the bar feeling confused

Cricket and carpet - a winning pub scene

See the gap through the bar into the other room to the right?  Was SO tempted to run through and see if anyone said owt!
Onwards and upwards then, and no disputing the prettiest stop of the day, though it helped that the sun had finally come out.  Summerseat might sound a bit like the home of the greatest cricket team in the world ever (fight me!) but as a leafy rural outpost on the ELR, it was a joy.  And even the staunchest Somerset fan would have to admit it is prettier than Taunton as a place!

It was a bit of a trek to the pub, not too far in truth, but we did end up walking 9 miles today so you can see it soon adds up.  After a quick morale boosting call home to Mummy BRAPA to tell her we were actually still alive, the pub was found up an unlikely side road.

Yes, you do get to go to plenty of Cricketers and a few Rugby Taverns, but I think this might be my first pub with the name Footballers (1642 / 2611).

A welcoming barmaid and a busy pub full of burly jocular Lancastrians was just the tonic after a few lame experiences today in this respect.  I bet the much more clearly advertised gastro pub directly opposite wasn't doing the same roaring trade, proof all people want at the end of the day is a proper pub.  The Bowland Hen Harrier was glorious, competing with the Pedigree in Edenfield for ale of the day, and Dad took a 'Mini Cheddar Medley' from his bag to help wash it down, which was very welcome as we sat in a nicely dark corner by a big screen showing more World Cup Cricket.  The locals pretended to be interested, and from what I could ascertain, they thought that if they showed an interest in live sporting events on TV, it made them more 'active'.  Some even hopped around one one leg and jogged on the spot as the batsman got ready to face each ball.  Some looked dangerously ruddy faced, and I was glad when one wheezing man finally sat down before he collapsed.  Oh, the 'beer mystery' of Ramsbottom was solved as they had on a Robinsons' beer called 'Right Beer : Right Now' which now I look at the blackboard from the Major, makes perfect sense!

Wonder if it is brewed with the Parklife festival in mind

Some good lacings
Inevitably delayed to the point we were wondering if we were stranded in Summerseat for good, the last ELR train of the day finally chugged into view and we could get back to civilisation.  Well, Bury, but close enough. 

It was a toss up for final pub of the day between the 'Spoons I required .....

Art Picture House, Bury, still on the 'to do' list (but its okay cos I still have other pubs to do in this area)
.... or Prestwich which was on the Metro line back to Manchester.  A tram arrived quicker than advertised, so we went with the latter option.  

It looked a good decision as we approached, it was called the Church Inn (1643 / 2612) and had a nice bottom of the street quiet setting where Dad decided it'd be nice to get a pic of pub and church together ......

And on entering the pub, my first thoughts were 'wow, pub of the day!' as you entered into one of those classically northern central bar areas with separate rooms coming off at all angles, reminding me a bit of the Swan in York so quite a compliment.  Dad had spied Boondoggle so he did his current thing of asking if it was a Marston's pub when he sees a beer they'd sell, but I don't think it is, after all Marston's pubs don't look this characterful outside of perhaps a couple (Dobcross, Chester-le-Street perhaps?)  We sat in the quietest room which wasn't guarded by an angry Twog, and I confess we were slow on the uptake (had drunk plenty, palate a bit mashed?!) when I says to Dad 'this beer is off innit?' of our Brightside Odin and he agrees (I've had Odin before more than once, usually an above average pale).  First thought is to suffer in silence but then I hear the breath of Pub Curmudgeon on the back of my neck (phwoar) telling me bad beer is never acceptable and I must return it.  So I go back to the bar, not a staff member in sight.  "They are in the cellar changing a beer" says a quirky lady barfly.  "Oh, is it the Odin, ours is off?" I ask.  But she says it isn't the Odin they are changing.  "Do you work here?" I ask.  But she says she doesn't.  Yet she pulls out her mobile phone, and rings them in the cellar and tells them there's a gentleman here who says his Odin's gone!  Wow, love this lady!  Without complaint, a bloke appears and changes my Odin for the Boondoggle.    He doesn't look too convinced so I hover briefly behind a pillar to see what they are saying.  But phone lady grabs the pint off him and says, holding it up to the light "look 'ere, you can tell it ain't right just by looking at it, you shouldn't be serving that!" I just wish they'd smelled or tasted it too!  Mind at rest, I return to our seat and fair to say, when Boondoggle tastes like a Bass from the Teet of an 19th century Staffordshire Miner in comparison, you know you've made the right call!  Thanks voice of Mudgie.  Sadly, on the way out, Dad notes they haven't turned the Odin clip around.  Hopefully they'd already gone back to the cellar and changed that one too.  We can hope!  

Dog says you ain't comin' in!

Mystery red room

The room we sat in, I think

The Odin of contention, long before I knew it was dodge
So that was a bit of a 'sour' end to a difficult but epic day, one you can look back on and laugh about but at the time, is all a bit too much of a struggle.  Let us hope Cornwall can be more kind (it won't be).  See you in a week or two!


Monday, 10 June 2019

BRAPA - Johnny Rawtenstall : Never Mind the Weather, Here's The Pub (Pt 1/2)

Last Saturday, Dad drove me around rural Derbyshire, dodging cyclists, potholes and sheep, taking in such delights as Wardlow Mires, Crowdecote and Litton, to help me achieve my pubby aims. 

So this weekend, the plan was for something much more sedate.  Hop on the ELR (East Lancs Railway) at Bury to mop up the pubs I needed on each stop on the line.  It'd be my third time on this line, but 'new' pubs keep appearing. 

But just like Chapel-en-le-Frith the previous night, every step of the way would be a battle and I feel sorry for Dad having to suffer with me, though he said he enjoyed it looking back.

We set off from York to Manchester Piccadilly where I'd got off a train less than 12 hours earlier, and you could be forgiven for thinking this would be the easy part of the day.  Wrong! 

Geordie teens high on Strongbow Dark Fruits and god knows that else with glittery outfits that even put BRAPA to shame were filling every sinew of every carriage, bound for a music festival called Parklife at a place called Heaton Park which must be near Manchester.  We had to stand in the aisle.

Our initial thoughts were to get off and catch a later train, but this wouldn't help our cause, so we stuck with it all the way, they were a decent bunch actually, and I asked four young ladies if any good bands were on?  Well, they looked confused and Dad interjects "Simon, it isn't about the bands these days ..... it is all about the DJ's" and the girls look approvingly at him. 

Time to escape the crowds at Manchester Piccadilly and hop on the Metro, but to my horror, on the Bury line, is the stop Heaton Park!  You couldn't make it up.  Furthermore, I could've saved us time and hassle by jumping off earlier at Manc Victoria where the Metro went through anyway!  Never mind.

As a station guard told the revellers to ditch the last of their Dark Fruits and gear, one face painted lass blew up an inflatable alien the same colour as my highlighter pen, Dad said I should ask her for a BRAPA picture.  Richard Coldwell would've done, but I chickened out. 

Finally at Bury, delays had meant we had 10 minutes to run across to the ELR in the rain and buy a ticket.  An old lady was complaining in front of us, slowing us down further, but as we rushed down to the platform, everything was delayed anyway.  Panic over ..... for now .....

City of Wells.  Looks more like a train to me.  Sorry.

The other one

Selling off craft cans cos little demand for Peaches & Cream in Bury means going out of date?  Surely not!

After a nice restorative station coffee and scone (much nicer than a Costa), we finally hopped on the steam train up to Rawtenstall.  

The rain was bouncing down sideways as we powered the 10 mins walk to the GBG entry.  We had an hour to do two micropubs.  It was all very Chapel-en-le-Frith deja vu from last night! 

Despite the flooded pavements, cheek to jowl traffic and Saturday hustle and bustle, you could still tell that Rawtenstall was a beautiful and incredibly Lancastrian little town.  And what a relief to finally get inside our first pub .......

Okay, so the Hop Micro Pub (1639 / 2608) didn't really do much for me.  Ale was a bit warm and average (first of day pulled through despite having been open two hours?), locals and barmaid jolly if a bit insular, as we gathered in the busy but rather bland downstairs bar.  As I carefully selected an ale 'cos it had a frog on the pump clip', an old couple left and barmaid asked if they were going for a 'chippy tea' later.  Before you could say Hotpots, Dad had discovered a quiet upstairs retreat where a Hipster man taught his three twild folk the art of chess, though they had little appetite for it in truth. 

Closer to the station, a pre-emptive tick that a nice bloke on Twitter had suggested to me back in January.  Being pre-emptive, I could exercise 'BRAPA rules' and just have a half, and if we weren't 25 mins in the pub, it didn't matter, which could be quite useful under the rushed circumstances!

Dad poses under the funky frontage

From the moment an old bloke appeared from the doorway as Dad posed, nearly photobombing us just so he could say "Grrrrowl, when will this rain ever end?", you just knew that Casked, Rawtenstall was going to be a step up from the Hop.  It's all in the detail, and with Dad's glasses steamed up, the lovely long haired gangly bloke and wife pass him kitchen roll to wipe them.  A little thing, but indicative of the touch of class and warmth you could feel in this surprisingly cosy micro.  Quite why I chose us Marshmallow Milk Stouts when we had to neck them, I don't know, and miscommunication (i.e. Dad's deafness) meant we did end up with pints AND staying 25 mins after all that!  A few too many dogs were fawned over, but a lady let us sit in her husbands seat because "he's just spreading himself out" she says rolling her eyes.   Random Welsh beermats an added bonus, and the stout slipped down easily like milky nectar! I can REALLY see this getting in the next GBG, if ya know what I mean.

We made the train easily, and one step later, we were 'alighting' (as they say in the trade) at Irwell Vale where the GBG claimed the pub at Edenfield was an easy walk.  Pffffttt.

Dad doing some top level alighting

More heavy rain, muddy paths, A roads and railway bridges were negotiated, and about half an hour later, our third pub finally came into view.......

You shouldn't judge a pub by its cover, but the big Sky Sports banners, many letters missing from the sign of Rostron Arms, Edenfield (1640 / 2609), and '2016 Good Beer Guide' sign on the door made me wonder if this place was to be a bit of a shithole.  Still, you'll note the flowers above look pretty healthy, and how can you not enjoy a good estate style pub - though on a main road rather than in an estate, if you know what I mean.  Not an obvious inclusion for the GBG you might say, but that is no bad thing.  Another downside was the barmaid, a proper miseryguts with no people skills.  I ordered us two pints of Pedigree, but she couldn't get the till open.  As I waited patiently for my change, I glanced up at the Sky Sports screen above the bar and saw the breaking news that Hull City manager Nigel Adkins had resigned.  Considering a huge reason for this will have been the very mean transfer kitty, the locked till incident as a means of discovering this news felt very apt indeed!  Finally, I located £6.60 in change in the depths of my pockets and put her out of her misery.  Well, not really, cos she remained miserable, but you know what I mean.  But time for two huge plus points, a glorious roaring wood burner to warm ourselves up on (is it really June?) and best of all, the Pedigree was absolutely splendid quality, so THAT is why it is in the GBG!  Pint of the day, and quite frankly, I hadn't been expecting it.   We knew we had a long walk back to the station, so we didn't dawdle, but this pub had won me over after a shaky start. 

Waiting for my change

Plus pub points for pool table and proper carpet

Dad enjoys the woodburner

So there we were, about half way through the day, but things were just about to get even more traumatic!  Join me for tales of that one in part two, released later tonight cos gotta bang these blogs out before my holiday .......