Monday 23 April 2018

BRAPA - Heaton Flops & Another Cheshire Tale of Woe

Just to re-cap from my previous blog, it was mid afternoon last Saturday and I'd just 'enjoyed' a productive first three pubs of the day, one in Sandbach and two in Winsford.

The fact that I'd enjoyed the Wetherspoons more than the micropub or euro style bar was not a cause for concern.

Now, it was time for today's 'key' pub, or cricket club to be precise, in Davenham, which alphabetically is next in line in the GBG after recent Culcheth and Daresbury ticks.  Davenham is a 4pm opener, so I kind of had to plan the whole day around it to reach this point.

On the bus out of Winsford, I asked the typically arrogant bus driver (why aren't they generally a nicer breed of person?) for a return to DAV-enham.  "DAVE-nham?" he replies.  But then, during the awkward silence as I search for the elusive ten pence piece to make up the exact change, he comments "I don't think there's a right or wrong way of saying it!" SO WHY CORRECT ME THEN DICKHEAD?

Things were unravelling.

Approaching the Cricket Club
It was approx 3:45pm when I saw the edge of the cricket pitch, and walked along the boundary rope where I saw a chap coming out of a building that probably contained a bar, with a bucket.  He looked at me in a confused manner.  "Are you open?  Or opening at 4?" I asked him.  But he told me they had a beer festival on today so are opening at 6pm!"  And he walked out onto the cricket pitch with a roller before I could really process this body blow.

After all, wouldn't you think a beer festival would mean 'extended' opening hours, and not more limited ones?  I learnt after the event that the cricket season is starting next week, where opening hours often are extended.  I could've timed it better.  I also discovered there facebook page, and on the following day, they announced they were opening at 3pm as there was still festival ale to be drunk!  Talk about rubbing it in.  I'll be back, STILL unaware how to pronounce it! 

All I could do was head back to Northwich, home of my debut Wetherspoons experience back in 2001.  The original plan had been to get out to the Salt Barge at Marston, a short walk north of the centre, but now I was 'one pub down', I decided to get straight back up the train line where Knutsford and Mobberley were en route back to Manchester.

Knutsford for me is everything that is bad about Cheshire.  A little poncy narrow streeted pretentious hellhole of boutiques, crafty craft shops and artisan cafes with French names.   And when I reached the pub (Tap & Bottle) after much dodging of wheelchairs, walking sticks, buggys and tiny handbag sized dogs, it was only bloody CLOSED!

Didn't look like a pub of the year contender anyway to be honest

I went into the lame looking Angel@KingStreet opposite to find out the truth, getting a rather limp half of Holt's Bitter in the process.  People were queuing at the bar for no reason, so I joined the old man down below, who had the filthiest hands and spent ages faffing with his change.  Blood was boiling by now.

The barmaids were lovely, and the one who'd rolled her eyes with me over the change faffing, seemed the best one to ask about the Tap & Bottles.  "Rick has sold up and left, but Mobberley Brewery are reopening in next couple of months..... yayyyyy.  Mega Lolz!" she squeaked.  (She didn't actually say mega lolz, but it was heavily implied).  Her enthusiasm on the future of this pub didn't chime with BRAPA.

As I sat down opposite two posey lads with my desultory half of bitter, putting a black cross through the GBG entry was the only satisfying moment of my time here.

Piss off Knutsford!

Under normal BRAPA Saturday circs, I'd have definitely given the Bull's Head at Mobberley a go next.  But I needed to be back in L**ds to watch a Pearl Jam tribute band for 8:30pm and time was ticking on, the pub being a 33 minute walk from Mobberley station.

But there was somewhere else on the train line with a nearby pub I'd not been to before, this one being across the imaginary border in Greater Manchester.

Heaton Chapel was no Knutsford, a bit of a grade A shitehole from what I could make out.  On the long grim road down to the pub, every property was either boarded up, defaced with rubbish graffiti, had shutters down, or two of the three!  

Thank goodness then I avoided an unwanted hat-trick and the pub was open.  Reminiscent of the No. 4 Bar in Winsford (which now seemed like a VERY long time ago!), people were basking outside in the spring warmth (but not trusting the weather enough not to wear plenty of layers!) which always makes the outdoor photo a bit more awkward.

Yoo hoo Heaton Massive!

1322 / 2068.  Heaton Hops, Heaton Chapel

I battled my way through the massive into the postage stamp of a square box room, really putting the 'micro' into micropub.  Getting served was a trauma, to my right there were some young 'flakes who seemed insistent on forming a queue, which just minimised the available space further.  Just as I was wondering how improper it'd be to make a beeline for the left hand side of the bar counter, a shaved head bloke did just that, and I cursed my slowness.  In the middle, I still got served before the idiotic queue of three despite encouraging them to go first as they'd been stood there longer.  I was served by a classic P.I.S.S. barmaid, which I believe the kids refer to as R.B.F. (Resting Bitch Face) in this day and age.  I later heard a man ask her if she was feeling any better?, she snapped "NO!" so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt if she was ill.  There was no space inside, so I joined the 'massive' outside, and got two F.C. United blokes to shuffle across a bench (actually a flimsy piece of plywood supported by beer barrels).  Listening to their conversations didn't brighten my mood, calling the championship 'division one' like they were lost in 1993 Endsleigh vintage.  Funny are F.C. Utd fans, managing to somehow combine supporting a shit team with pure arrogance.  A special combination.  Neither was my mood helped by being able to see this grand old Greene King pub across the road.  Why wasn't this in the GBG instead?  Well, 'beer' obviously but you know what I mean don't you?  A little bulldog ended up under my part of the bench, licking the back of my knee (people pay for that sort of thing in Burnley) and I was about to put it forward as a 'BRAPA pet of the year' contender, when the owner declared himself a L**ds United fan.  Automatic disqualification, sorry doggie.  A wanker then whistled to a wankee he knew across the street, stopping the entire conversation in the pub, which he was mildly abused for.  Then our PISS barmaid returned, and stroked the L**ds dog, I wasn't going to win in this place.  Difficult circs, and a mood already blackened by earlier events!

In other circs, I'd have found out how a Stockport pasty differs from a normal one

The constant fear of 'will these flimsy benches collapse sending everyone flying?' was with me the whole time

Looking out towards the grand GK pub across the street

View of the indoors.
So, the day had started well and not finished well at all.  As Russ commented in the errrm comments section (obviously), it is becoming a theme like me not knowing my its from it's, after the Ely debacle recently!!  

But on the slight plus side, though I need a return trip to Davenham (in the cricket season, so can I expect an early opening if a home fixture?), it can be combined with Marston, Mobberley and a pre-emptive that nice fellow in Sandbach gave me, which is the Salty Dog in Northwich (which I'll do if time allows),  with something Mancy to finish of the day.  And that can be done in late May some time.


Looked at the CAMRA website the other day.  I should've done it sooner.  On 10th April (4 days before my visit), it had been reported Tap & Bottle in Knutsford closed.  Silly me!  But in the same update, Royal Oak in Runcorn is also de-guided due to change of licensee.  That reason doesn't always mean I'll cross it off, but considering they didn't open as advertised over Easter when I walked all that way, I'm binning it off.

So the end is nigh for Cheshire, and I can't say I'll be too sad to have finished this hit & miss county.

'Proper Pearl Jam' were great though, playing in the Grove, one of L**ds best pubs, to make the experience all the better and make up for an annoying afternoon.

I did TEN new pubs during Manchester Punk Festival (I didn't see ten bands, priorities you see!), which I'll write about in three blogs coming soon.



  1. You do Heaton Chapel a disservice there - it's actually quite smart, although maybe not at its best on Saturday teatime when many of the shops will be closed and shuttered.

    The beer may be nothing much to write home about, but there's certainly far more pub atmosphere in the George & Dragon than in Heaton Hops. And more room!

    1. Glad to hear HC is better than I thought. It honestly felt like East Germany before the Berlin Wall was pulled down, only with fewer happy faces, on my visit.

      I wonder if anyone has ever taken Heaton Hops ale across road and enjoyed it in comfort of G&D, as I used to do on busy Birmingham matchdays, buying great ale in Wellington, but talking it to pub just behind as more room to enjoy it in peace!

    2. Reports coming up on the Chinese takeaways either side of Heaton Hops #LifeOnTheEdge

  2. "I'll be back, STILL unaware how to pronounce it! "

    Right now my guess would be along the lines of 'buggerit'. :)

    "All I could do was head back to Northwich,"

    I suppose it would be churlish of me to inquire as to how "Northwich" is pronounced? ;)

    ""Rick has sold up and left, but Mobberley Brewery are reopening in next couple of months."

    Good lord. Not much one can add to that. :(

    "putting a black cross through the GBG entry was the only satisfying moment of my time here."

    (snicker) :)

    "A special combination."

    My brother in law is a United fan... and that's a perfect description. (LOL)

    "Well, 'beer' obviously but you know what I mean don't you?"

    Indubitably. On a day like the one you had today you have to consider saying "sod it" and find someplace to lower the stress level. The George and Dragon fits that bill.

    "And that can be done in late May some time."

    There's always a plus side if you look hard enough. :)

    "playing in the Grove, one of L**ds best pubs, to make the experience all the better and make up for an annoying afternoon."

    And there's the 'cherry on top' of a bad day. :)


    PS "I also discovered there facebook page"

    Their dear boy. :)

    1. *THEIR of course, thanks Russ, what would i do without you? (rhetorical question of course!)

      Yes, I seriously think if I hadn't been pushed for time, I may have gone to G&D as a sort of tonic to the H.Hops. Sounds like Salt Barge in Marston may have been closed anyway, I really hope I get Cheshire finished soon and it stops being awkward cos Derbyshire is calling my name!


  3. Nah, you're right. The Heatons are a crap hole, populated by the type of people that care too much about house prices and don't want to admit it.

    1. Glad you say that, I didn't actually realise Heaton Chapel had houses. I just thought people lived in boxes and sheds. Is Holmes Chapel related? I went there once and there was this Ember Inn, and gosh, even by Ember Inn standards, it was rubbish. Then everyone said "why not go to the Sam Smiths, it is ace" but I was already on train back. So annoying is pub ticking.

    2. I know the Swan (the Sam's in Holmes Chapel) has this hold on your imagination but AIUI (it was the end of a long night) it's now given up on cask altogether. Funny place, they spent a lot of money on the refurb and there's bits that they have done brilliantly well, but there's also bits that feel like Scottish country hotel. Handy for the station though. If you want decent beer in Holmes Chapel then the Beer Emporium's new baby would be the obvious place.

  4. I've never heard it called anything other than "Dave-un-um". By saying "there's not a right or wrong way to say it" he was just trying to be nice to the ignorant stranger and paying customer. What he meant was "of course there's a right way to say it, but I'm too polite to call you a DICKHEAD for saying it wrong".

    I think you're being a bit unfair on Knutsford - Alderley Edge is "everything that is bad about Cheshire", Alderley only exists as a place for startled Oompah-Loompahs to drink prosecco whereas at least Knutsford has an element of proper market town to it.

    Just as a warning, the Salt Barge lease is currently up for sale, so you may want to check whether it's closed or not before visiting.

    Mobberley are a thoroughly average trad microbrewery who have recently embraced the New England thing with more enthusiasm than skill so I would share your scepticism but at least in their own bar you could get their beer on draught rather than have to put up with their amateur attempts at canning.

    @Russ - it's pretty much said how you see it - NORTH-witch. Although -wich is mostly associated with Anglo-Saxon trading posts like Greenwich and Sandwich, it has a second meaning as a brine spring, Cheshire has been a centre of the salt trade since Roman times. Northwich is a strange mix, half of it has been very industrial, mixed with bits that are wanting to be Chester. The council has recently filled in a lot of the salt caverns which were preventing redevelopment and built a shiny new shopping centre just as everyone is using Amazon instead of shopping centres, but there's bits down by the rivers which are quite nice. And now is a better time to be being redeveloped than in the 60s - Winsford was once similar, but almost all the pretty old bits got obliterated by 1960s redevelopment.

    1. Thanks PP, 'Dave-un-um' it is then for my return trip! Maybe as I was trying to use exact change for bus, he warmed to me and didn't want me to feel bad!

      Never been to Alderley Edge but I believe you, I didn't much care for Wilmslow though, I think Knutsford may have been suffering from sunny summery Saturday afternoon people.

      Thanks re Salt Barge, what with Tap & Bottle and Royal Oak, all my remaining Cheshire's are dropping like flies suddenly!

      Hmm, I'll look out for Mobberley beers then. Had one a couple of years back in Dukinfield(?) which was nice and trad so presumably before they got all experimental!

    2. Oh, Alderley is distilled essence of all the worst bits of Wilmslow apart from the architecture. It's where Wayne Rooney goes to meet ladies who are not his wife - nuff said.

      One thing about Knutsford is that it's good for train beers - you've got Dexter & Jones in the centre which is another Cheshire bottle+keg shop (one of the better ones) and then across the dual carriageway is Booths which has the best selection of beer of any supermarket by far (particularly if you like trad and Lancashire/Cumbria) - as well as essentials like tinned partridge. You don't get that in Waitrose...

  5. Thanks for the info pp. That explains the Salt Barge thing. :)

    As for how to pronounce Northwich, I must admit I was being a bit of a wanker. What with Gloucester and Leicester (and partly due to the whole Davenham thing Si was going on about) I was half expecting it to be pronounced Norich! (LOL)


    1. Well it's not entirely unreasonable given Norwich and Greenwich - but it's not in the South with their fancy ways....

      I've never really thought about it, presumably Norwich was once Northwich (in the non-salt sense) but was contracted. I guess there may have been something in the way the salt wich was pronounced, or just the fact that there's a bunch of them locally and the likes of Middlewich, Leftwich and Nantwich meant that the hard W was preserved.

    2. @pp

      Okay, now you're making my head spin (but in a good way as I'd never considered the hard W being preserved). :)

      Appreciate the info, but now I need a beer!*


      * If I ever make it over there we can continue this conversation over a pint. (thumbs up) :)

    3. Would you like a sandwich with your beer...?

    4. "Would you like a sandwich with your beer...?"


      I blame the (current) beer I'm having for not getting that at first. :)


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  7. Over time, there's a tendency for old forms of pronunciation to be replaced by more phonetic speak-as-you-see ones. Who now, for example, pronouncees "Cirencester" to rhyme with "Sister"? (The locals just tend to call it "Ciren", btw)

    As a Cheshire native, I can confirm that the traditional pronunciation is "Dave-en-'am", but on first sight you would imagine it to be the same as Davenport and Daventry.

    Likewise, you recently visited the Ring O'Bells in Daresbury. I grew up pronouncing the first syllable as "Darrs", but most people now seem to say it as "Dares".

  8. Another way of looking at it is if there are two pronunciations in general circulation, then the phonetic one is likely to be the "new" one that comes from incomers to the area reading the name off a map, whereas the non-obvious one will be the traditional way to say it. There can often be a class or geographical element as well.

    Perhaps the best example of that is Shrewsbury - working-class folk in the town itself generally call it Shroos-berry, whereas traditionalists from the Shropshire hinterland still call it Shrose-bree. Another example is Bearsted in Kent, where the traditional "Bur-stid" is being displaced by "Bare-sted". Oh, and I'd be with you on "Darrs".

    It's interesting that aside from Droitwich (another salt town) the only hard-w -wiches I can think of are in the old Jutish bits of Kent, like Sandwich and Fordwich. It makes me wonder if Aldwych was the Jute trading post on the Thames, whereas Woolwich, Dulwich and Greenwich were all Saxon.