Thursday 23 April 2020

BRAPA presents ....... #WANKYPUBS (Walks At Night 'Kross York Photographed Unprofessionally By Si)

Dusk, the chosen time for my government approved daily exercise.  With the clocks now full sprang forwards, I like the way that the different blues hang in the sky at this time of year - from about 8-9pm in mid April.  Combined with this lockdown life, it gives York a serenity you very rarely witness.

So in this new series, with the reopening of pubs unlikely to happen anytime soon, let's go an evening walk shall we?  And the great thing about York, we'll see some pubs along the way.  You don't even have to seek them out, there are that many, you just happen to stumble upon them.

It is Friday evening last week, I should really have set off at 20:11 as that is when dusk set in York tonight, but I'm faffing about with my green gilet (the best a man can errrm, gay?) and my 'training belt' in case I break out into an impromptu jog, so it isn't until 20:30 when I leave my flat. 

This early part of the walk is the 'flashpoint' for encountering undesirables (AKA fellow human beings) as it is quite a narrow walk way, 50% bike lane, 50% pedestrians.

Along here this week, I've encountered dog walkers aplenty.  They seem to treat dog ownership as a free pass in these lockdown times.  We also have awkward students with bad teeth and Slayer tee shirts.  What's their game?  And most frequently, old blokes having a good ole' chinwag, standing so close together that they could practically lick the covid spittle off each others cheeks.  And no, I haven't specified which cheeks for a reason.

Tonight, I see no one on this stretch, which is perhaps due to the much cooler temperature than previous days.  To our right, we have York's Crown Green Bowling Club .......

To the left, the fabulous Hogwartsian old Victorian School, 'retaining many of the original features', as us serious pub bloggers might say ........

Straight across the road at the end, we start ascending Scarcroft Hill with the beautiful old terraced houses.  This week I've seen an old couple watching Family Guy, a girl getting piano lessons, two men having beer in their driveways from behind a giant (talking:?)  plant, and best of all,  a family playing charades in the most wholesome of lockdown scenes yet.

I finally see someone, I'm walking in the middle of the road confident of no traffic, and he shouts 'hello' and tells his dog to stop at the corner, which has a stick in its mouth so huge, it can't see where it is going!  I wasn't quick enough to get a photo, out of practice you see.

It has been very noticeable how much more friendly passers by have become in this last month.  I often accuse York residents of being amongst the most miserable I encounter anywhere in the UK, but that 'spirit of togetherness' has had people shouting 'HELLO!' left, right and centre.  It's like being in Todmorden, and I'm loving that aspect of life.  You have to find the upsides in these peculiar times!

At the end of Scarcroft Hill, we swing a left and walk for five minutes with the park/cricket/pitch/green space to our right, and more grand old terraced houses to our right.

On the corner at the bottom, is a pub I'd criminally forgotten until I spied it by chance during a previous lockdown walk.  I'd no idea I lived this close to it.

It looks more open than most West Dorset pubs did last year, but sadly it isn't, and is called The Knavesmire being the closest pub to York racecourse, as this rather battered sign indicates just around the corner ......

Ashamed to say I've only been to the Knavesmire pub once, March 2005 to be precise, and only because we needed a pub beginning with 'K' to complete a York Pub A-Z!  It was okay from memory, they had Tetley Cask or Tetley Smooth so you had to specify 'cask', else the landlord's default was to give you the smooth flow.  It was quite sporty, a bit chainy, and a bit too far out of town (or so I thought until tonight) to make part of my Tuesday night York pub crawls with friends.

About 5-10 years ago, it started getting mentions in local CAMRA circles as having really upped its game on the real ale front, we said we'd go, never did, and then people quickly stopped talking about it again.  One of my first post-lockdown pub trips is to give it a try.  Ten mins walk from my flat?  Can't ignore it really.

I'd roll a barrel home if I knew it had ale in

Anyway, no time to linger, might get arrested, so we renter to the 'park with no name' from the bottom, which host Ovington Cricket Club in the centre, but has football (Hamilton Panthers FC) and lots of green space.  I came down here on Easter weekend in the middle of the day, and an old bloke was just booting a football up in the air over and over again.  He said hi, and nearly passed to me, but I strode on quickly.

The only time I usually come out this way is each September, when York Beer Festival is on, just over to my left, wonder if that'll happen this year?  You've gotta hope so.

Time for a quick selfie to remind me my hair is getting very long on the top ........

At the top end of the park, we come to Hamilton Panthers clubhouse which looks a bit like a Cumbrian micropub in this light.

I assume Duncan Mackay has seen them play away to a Latvian Electricians youth team in a pre-season friendly, but has he ever been to a home game?

"You're getting mauled by the panthers"

We carry on up to the top of Knavesmire Road and turn right, immediately crossing to avoid an oncoming bald jogger who looks full of snot and spit from this angle but I might be paranoid.

We are on the home straight now as we ascend Mount Vale back towards the City Centre.  It is here where the lockdown really hits home, as this road would normally be fairly chocker even at this time on a Friday, but amongst the posh boutique hotels and B&B's, all you can hear is the rustle of the leaves on the trees and you can smell fresh air rather than traffic fumes.  It isn't all bad is it?

We reach the Mount five minutes later, and come to a pub, unimaginatively also called The Mount .......

The Mount was a pub I was told to avoid on the grounds of it being 'rough' when I started visiting York pubs 'properly' (i.e trying to do them all) circa 2005, but I've never found it in the least bit threatening, even when I actually walked through a darts game and nearly got an arrow in the back of my skull (but I mean seriously, who puts the dartboard right across the walkway to the bar?)   I almost found it quite hospitable on my last few visits, that was until my 2019 visit when it had no ale on at all, but with no one remotely looking like they wanted to serve us, it was easy to walk straight back out!   You'd think Marston's pubs would at least have a couple of ales on, even if they aren't that amazing, wouldn't you?

In 1902, one of my all time heroes, York's Chief Constable, went on an epic crawl of every pub in the city, the BRAPA of his day, and tells us it used to be called The Saddle til 1892, and when he popped in, he just really listed each room which was a bit boring of him, but sounds like he liked the two smoke rooms, and trust me, he did have his moments.  And here's a photo of it from a 1935 pub ticker for comparison cos I know you like that sort of thing .....

If today was a 'shopping day', I'd stay on this side of the road to visit Sainsburys but I've got enough in, despite my milk anxieties, so I cross over easily and am less happy with my final pub photo because there's  load of people parked outside the neighbouring takeaways for some reason and it psyches me out ........

Classic BRAPA end of night photo that one!  Disappointed in myself, not on a Newark/Drunk in Burton scale, but a mild 3/10 disappointment, a bit like the time my electro-pop concept band "The Gravitational Pull of David Boon" failed to chart with the track 'Lager Clout' including the line "Get on the premiums, cos they are premi-yummy, gotta have Grolsch and Stella in my tummy" (the B52's were my lyrical inspirations at the time).

But the Bay Horse is an incredibly frustrating pub.  It feels like it should and could be good (carpets, beams, small and cosy), but rarely gets close.  On my last visit, 22:15 on a Friday night after a gig over the road with my sister, she tells us they've rang last orders already and 'taken the till off'.  22:15 on a Friday.  Amazing.  Still, it can have a nice 'locals' feel which is rare for York, and once we witnessed a game of bingo where, in the absence of knowing any bingo caller terms (you know, legs 11 and all that jazz), he just says stuff like 'no.24, oh that is Audrey's house number', and '64, last two digits of Ted's credit card'.  Was quite wonderful, even if my pint of Black Sheep tasted like sweaty salty bitter old farts.  Some might say it's supposed to taste like that.  I couldn't possibly comment.

Better photo from 1935 - frontage remarkably similar now, but you'll have to take my word
Anyway, our old mate the Chief Const said it was a neat clean house suitable for purpose, and he didn't hold back when he thought a pub was proper shite, so we have to take that as a plus.  It is Grade II listed and was named after Lord Rockingham's horse (not a rocking horse, haha! Sorry)  and in 1969, John Smith's architects (!) restored it. So now you know.  Bring back BRAPA and put me back in my comfort zone is what I say.

As I looked longingly at my chippy which might be open for all those iUberJustFood things ......

..... 'twas time to head home n call it a night.  Was hoping to show you my one constant of this lockdown, 'Hissing Sid' , the neighbour's cat, but he wasn't out tonight.  31 minutes that walk had taken me, and back for a cuppa before bed.

I might do another one next week from a different angle, as I might need to change my shopping habits if Blossom Street Sainsbury's can't get their milk situation sorted out, so we'll see.

Have a good week, and thanks for reading/skimming/getting to the bottom of the page.



  1. Consider yourself fortunate. My workplace has issued us all with a gilet rose which we have to wear when the shop is open so people can see us. And, by god, seen we are.

    1. Incredible, do you have a pic? More noticeable than your trademark paisley? Sounds like kind of thing I'd probably wear by choice,

  2. Fantastic stuff. Thanks for this. Can we find out more about the 1902 chief constable, please?

    1. Thanks Martin! I used to always quote his thoughts on York pubs to my friends on nights out. I'd love to know his actual name, maybe some research awaits. Me in a past life perhaps?

  3. Really enjoyed this. Played along with the walk on google maps.

    1. Thanks Dave! I was actually hoping someone would do that when I was writing the blog. Stopped just short of telling everyone where I lived ..... gotta be careful not to get too excited havent you? Haha.

  4. Do you think we could track Simon live next time on TikTok/WhatsApp/whatever and shout out "Turn left BRAPA", "Buy chips BRAPA" ETC ETC

    1. I like it. We vote on what choices he makes. Better than rolling the dice.

    2. Wee on a passing police car BRAPA??

    3. Hahaha, saw a police car on tonight's walk but would need a few pints inside me before we go down that road, so to speak.

      I thought if I ever do get into vlogging like I keep half mentioning, this would be a good start (the closed pub walk, not the weeing on police car, but you know what'd get more page views).

  5. Love the "last pub" blackboard with the fingers indicating how much froth there is on the John Smith's.

    1. Haha, hadn't thought of it like that Dad, but very true! Think that blackboard looks like it has been there longer than any micropub in existence, and not cleaned once.