First up though, we had Mobberley. The good news is Mobberley has its own train station, bad news, it is 35 minutes walk to the pub. Good news, the weather was great. Bad news, the sun was shining on my phone screen and I only had one bar of signal, so it took me ten minutes to work out that I was walking in a pubwardly direction.
Pavements all the way despite the country lanes, now that is what we like to see. You know what else I like to see? An owl. Mobberley had a fine example of one to raise the spirits half way through the walk. I called it Chris.
England had a weird atmosphere about it on this particular Saturday lunchtime. We had a Royal Wedding imminent, and an FA Cup Final in the offing. Makes no difference to BRAPA, but there were so few people out & about, it almost made you feel you should be somewhere else. A man on a bike with Oliver Cromwell's jawline said 'Good Morning', but that was about it.
I'd had a heavy Friday night in dirty L**ds, so I wasn't as prepared as usual. No snacks, no drink, I assumed Mobberley would have some kind of shop, but if it did, I never saw it. All I did see was a Brewery Tap, a cattery and two pubs, one of which I HAD to go inside ......
1360 / 2106. Bull's Head, Mobberley
Mid-Cheshire, they call this part of the world, and this pub was about as quintessentially GBG Cheshire pub as I've so far witnessed. An obviously old building which has kept a foot in the past, but has also modernised to such an extent that although I wanted to love it, the Charge Sheet is fairly damning. Unisex toilets being the biggest culprit, terrified every second I was in there. Kale hand lotion, a wicker basket of logs doing nothing, a gin blackboard obsession and plenty of scatter cushions were the kind of features I needed to turn a blind eye to. At the bar, I was greeted in friendly fashion, but my Storm beer needed more top-ups than any other beer I've had all year! "A lively one this" said the young bar dude. It was time to dust off my manual of 'inane bar pleasantries' so I told him that 'is probably a good sign' and 'good things come to those who wait'. Despite hating myself inside, the beer was so welcome when it arrived. Shame it was freezing, fizzy and boring. I wish I'd brought my stirrer to knock out the bubbles. I bet Nick in Erlangen would have brought his temperature gauge (to use in the beer, not to shove up a barman) - that was just one of many thoughts I had. A barmaid downloaded the new work rota (I remember when these things were pinned to walls) and everyone gathered around excitedly to learn their fate. "Ooh, I wonder if I'll be going to my own barbecue tomorrow?" said the guy who'd served me. "Um, no you're not!" replied a barmaid who'd read ahead. Everyone laughed. He looked tearful, and then spent the next 20 minutes trying to swap shifts with people. Poor guy. I was sat in the 'whisky snug' (where dogs are allowed) but can you really call something a 'snug' if the front door opens onto it? The quirky landlord then strode into the pub and boomed "Good to see a few anti-royalists in today, rarrrrr!" like he was playing Blackpool's Rebellion Punk Festival. We all nodded reverently, if that's what punx do. He then slagged off Didsbury which he'd just driven through for resembling a scene from the end of the Second World War, keeping up Didsbury's uncanny record of always being mentioned wherever I go in the North West.
It was time for the hot 35 minute trek back to the station, had it really been worth it? Well yes of course in BRAPA terms, but would a casual visitor do the walk just because they love the pub so much? Hell no!
A couple of stops down the line, I reached Northwich, scene of my first ever Cheshire pub tick, the Penny Black Wetherspoons, which I actually loved! I'd also been recommended a pre-emptive called Salty Dog, but didn't quite have time to fit it in, which means it'll definitely get into the next edition now that I've forsaken it.
No, the real reason for my visit was a village called Marston with no bus service, but at only a 21 minute walk, a lot easier to get to than the Mobberley pub! The quirks of this country eh?
The walk was frenetic along a busy main road with thin pavement, but it didn't take long, and even passed the home of Witton Albion F.C., where Hull City once won an FA Cup replay away to Runcorn, which makes no sense at all!
The pub soon came into focus, just as I'd seen a load of American pensioners with cowboy hats, flowery frocks and sandals vacating the town. Was this a post-royal-wedding buggering off? It sure looked like it. An amusing scene, a bit like something from an episode of Eerie Indiana.
The pub came into sight, and didn't look like the gastro-hell I'm sure I'd seen from their website, although randomly, I could've been looking at the Falmouth Packet in Rosudgeon ........
1361 / 2107. Salt Barge, Marston
So as you can imagine, it came as a total brilliant surprise to find myself in a dark old fashioned pub, full of side rooms, warped beams, pictures of old salt mines with a sweaty grumpy landlord presiding over things with classic gallows humour i.e. he probably wanted to hang me for giving him more work to do. I ordered a beer inspired by the band Charlatans, which was funny cos I had 'North Country Boy' in my head all morning, but something rings a bell they are from Northwich? I was into them back in the day, but the ale excited me about as much as the Brains Steroephonics one and plenty of others - should be a lesson to me, not even been a big fan of Trooper and most people love that one! I sat near two knights on some nice bench seating facing a screen of FA Cup build up. A couple asked which ciders were on. Mine host seemed to be a cider fan, and gave them tasters of a few unusual ones. Then the wife says "don't they have Strongbow?" to her hubbie, and I could feel my toes curl with embarrassment. Speaking of which, some 'lively' (i.e. annoying) locals came in armed with their own snooker cues, and had a session of pool which sounded like a pack of wildebeest rutting in the front room. Is so much grunting and groaning really necessary for pool? Mine-host was on the topic of the Royal Wedding. "I had two blokes knocking my door down at 11:50am asking when I was opening and if I was showing it on my screens .... well I'd already told the wife if she wants to watch it, she's on her own!" Proper pub this, an unlikely gem.
I now had to walk back into Northwich (proper!) where the bus stands are to take me to Davenham, home of the Cricket Club which wouldn't serve me last month at 4pm because they were having a beer festival (which started 6pm, on a Saturday, for FFS!)
A bus was waiting at Stand G (obviously the furthest one away) and I hopped on and remembered to correctly pronounce it 'Dave-un-um'. "Oooh am not stopping right in the centre mate" warns the amusing bus driver, but do any buses? He was stopping Green Lane, good enough for me!
So a real sense of deja vu, this next bit. The main purpose of this bus seems to be to meander around Leftwich, a sort of broken Britain housing estate. Everyone on my bus got off there, all were wheezy and obese, and I was the only one who made it to the top deck of the bus. They should rename it Sandwich, really.
Finally I was there, ten minutes delayed, but good because it was now about 3:55pm, just like last time. Of course, the cricket season had started by now, and the 2nd XI were at home to Heaton Chapel 2nds. So you'd think extended opening hours, but the website still said "core" hours of 4pm .... so I couldn't take anything for granted on the walk up to the club.
1362 / 2108. Davenham Cricket Club, Davenham
Plenty of people were milling around, doors were open, and we were between innings', the home side had just declared on 260/3, a tough ask for Heaton Chapel. I found a bar, and tried to mask my delight at having made it. Time to 'set my face' to that of a local, nonchalant if you like. As if to say "I come here every week!" as I didn't wanna get embroiled in the whole 'showing my GBG card, guide itself, signing guest books, paying nominal fees' if I could help it. I like that there are Clubs in the Good Beer Guide because despite the peril of 'getting in' and the more family based atmosphere, which inevitably leads to more twildery, such negatives are usually over-written by the warmth and humour of the folk. But not in Davenham. Miserable from the outset, and that was just the barman's face. And just the constant moaning about everything, jeez, I don't mind if it is done with humour but this was just misery for misery's sake. One ray of light was when a twild wandered in, saw the BBC News showing highlights of the Royal Wedding and just went "Uggggh Dad, WHAT IS THAT?!" before jumping up on a bar stool, and tapping on the drip tray/mat until he got his can of Dr Pepper Zero. A #PubMan of the future in the making there. Then the Cup Final got the slating it probably deserved. "It'll be 0-0, extra time, penalties, no shots on goal, nothing!" A man came into the bar, slammed his glass down, and just said "REPEAT!" I've heard people say "same again" but this was ridiculous. Try as I might to smile at any given local, no one did apart from one lady. Utterly charmless bunch (really good pint I should add for balance!), and I left with Heaton Chapel 4/0 off 2 overs, praying they'd win. They didn't.
|Quavers bloke enjoyed Gary Lineker's quips (not crisps) more than most. Walkers fan?|
|Woman on right only one who smiled, so she wins|
"Ohhhhh, Heaton Chapel,
You are good at Cricket Battles,
You might just be second eleveny
But your batting skills are heavenly
And you've got the Chiverton Tap
Which is better than this crap".
And there you have it. SAME bus driver came to take me back to Northwich. We recognised each other and smiled .... "You weren't long there lad!" he exclaimed. "Long enough to see the Cricket Club" I replied.
But with the day still young, I had time for three more pubs. All of which would be just over that Greater Mancunian border. I'll write that up next time, but for now, have a nice Sunday .....